Croatian Tourism Provides Desperately Needed Cash Injection for Economy

Lauren Simmonds

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As Poslovni Dnevnik/Radmila Kovacevic/VL writes, 2021’s summer tourist season was above all expectations. While summer might well be over now, Croatian tourism for this year is not over yet. About 13,000 guests are currently staying in the country, among them certainly some digital nomads, who additionally marked the unexpectedly successful 2021 for Croatian tourism and the economy as a whole.

All of this is, of course, in the shadow of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, but the issues caused by that were far less problematic than we feared before the arrival of the summer months and almost negligible in relation to the damage suffered by some other countries in the rest of the Mediterranean, ie Croatia’s competition.

Let’s just mention the southern European tourist superpower, Spain, which before the pandemic hosted up to 48 million tourists a year, this year in the first eight months had to settle for a meager 30 percent of the traffic they enjoyed back in 2019. Croatia, on the other hand, concludes the eleven-month period of 2021 with 13.5 million guests who spent 83.5 million nights in the country. All of this is primarily thanks to an exceptionally favourable epidemiological picture which lasted and lasted. That has now, of course, changed quite a lot.

From the beginning of the year to November the 29th, Croatian tourism managed to ”grab” 67 percent of arrivals from the best tourist year ever, 2019, and measured by overnight stays, things were even better – the country reached as many as 77 percent of those recorded back in pre-pandemic, record 2019. It should also be noted that some destinations across the country in the peak summer weeks even surpassed the traffic from that record year.

Croatian tourists with 2.2 million arrivals were second, following the Germans, and with 12 million overnight stays, they reached 89 percent of the results from 2019. Slovenians and Austrians with 1.1 million arrivals share third place, and the Poles, with a million arrivals, set new records. Tourist successes are unfortunately not evenly distributed along the coast. The season was simpler and more successful for places and regions accessible by car, while air destinations in the south such as Dubrovnik still struggled with minuses in air traffic, and then with a greater shortage of guests.

However, it turned out that the tourists who managed to arrive in Croatia during the coronavirus pandemic remained on holiday for a few days longer than they typically did before, and they filled the best and most expensive Croatian Adriatic accommodation without any real problems. This was the cass even with higher prices than last year, which is a luxury that some hotels could afford thanks to good demand. This was made all the easier because some wealthy tourists, who used to choose either exotic destinations in Asia or Central America, or, if they wanted to stay in Europe – Tuscany, Provence, South Tyrol zbog, finally discovered the Croatian coast this summer, primarily heading to beautiful Istria.

However, Croatian hosts from the north to the south of the country were convinced that quality and safety are much more important to guests during the pandemic than pricing. We will have to wait a few more months for the data on foreign exchange earnings from tourism to see whether or not that’s true, but it was already clear in the first half of the summer from the fiscalised receipts and invoices issued that we’ve had some generous guests visiting in 2021.

Minister of Finance Zdravko Maric announced on August the 1st that with the last day of July, the value of all purchased goods and services across Croatia since the beginning of the year exceeded that of the first seven months of the record year of 2019. August was even better, with 93 percent of the overnight stays from back in 2019 realised, which is especially important because in that month, the country’s hosts achieved practically the highest prices of the entire year. The value of fiscalised invoices in Croatian tourism’s economic activities during the month of August exceeded the amount from August 2019 by 21 percent.

At the annual level, their value at that time was almost 18 billion kuna (84 percent of the results from 2019). It gives all the right to those who expect that foreign exchange tourist revenues this year may exceed the figure of eight billion euros.

In the record-breaking year of 2019, that figure stood at ten billion, and in the first pandemic tourist season of 2020, less than five. Whatever the final data for 2021 turns out to be, it is clear that Croatian tourism this year provided a welcome and handsome injection into the Croatian economy. That was undoubtedly more necessary than ever given the unprecedented situation with the global pandemic.

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