Struggling Croatian Travel Agencies Seek Urgent State Support

Lauren Simmonds

NP Plitvice, Croatia
NP Plitvice, Croatia

December the 9th, 2020 – Croatian travel agencies are struggling in a way that has never been experienced before as a result of the economic woes caused by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. As a result of that, they are urgently seeking state measures to help them keep their heads above water during this unprecedented and difficult time.

As Novac/Jozo Vrdoljak writes, Croatian travel agencies that have actually managed to do something, engage in some work and as such finally make some money since September now don’t have any income whatsoever.

The Association of Croatian Travel Agencies is currently conducting a survey among its members on how their business operations looked during the first eleven months of this extremely challenging pandemic-dominated year. According to the estimates of Tomislav Fain, the president of UHPA, the drop in income for these hard-hit agencies could be between 88 and 92 percent when compared to the same period last year.

UHPA members, of which there are more than 240, generated a total revenue of around three billion kuna last year and employed around 3,000 permanent and 2,800 seasonal workers.

”These are our first projections of the collapse in income and I think that these percentages are a realistic reflection of this situation. This year, we’re the most affected activity of all. For some of our Croatian travel agencies, and especially those that specialise in distant markets, the lockdown has gone on ever since March the 1st, 2020. Croatian travel agencies which have managed to succeed in doing something this summer have been without revenue since September, despite being open. As of September the 1st,, we can say that 90 percent of our members have been left without any income, and utility fees, utilities and interest on loans on which a moratorium has been declared are now all due. Some employees, however, continue to receive the rest of their salaries, ie the difference of 4,000 kuna, which is provided by the state as a measure to preserve jobs. We’re in negotiations with the Ministry of Tourism and Sport regarding compensation for Croatian travel agencies and travel organisers in order to survive until the beginning of the season,” explained a concerned Tomislav Fain.

Speaking of bookings for the winter, Fain says there was a hint of optimism back in early October and it was a somewhat promising situation.

”There were inquiries about Advent and skiing, but now there is none or it’s negligible at best. We’re still optimistic and hope that the epidemiological situation will improve so that we can do something for the winter season. Admittedly, the snow season wasn’t ever significant for us in terms of total revenues, but in this situation, anything is a step forward for us. In some surrounding countries, the opening of ski resorts has been announced, but, let’s be honest, people from here who ski mostly book directly for those countries,” noted Fain.

As for the Croatian Government’s measures, Fain believes that the economic measures to preserve jobs will last until the beginning of the season.

”At the moment, we don’t know whether our first guests will come on May the 1st or June the 1st, but until then we must somehow try to survive. In addition to job preservation measures, Croatian travel agencies need help to at least mitigate and compensate for their losses in the way that other European countries have made sure has happened. I’m thinking of similar measures given to caterers that cover rents and utilities when I say that,” concluded the president of the Association of Travel Agencies.

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