Continental Croatian Tourism Doing Well, Investments Desired

Lauren Simmonds

continental croatian tourism

August the 14th, 2023 – Continental Croatian tourism is on the up, but further investments and cash from one very important programme are needed.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Marija Crnjak writes, tourist traffic has continued to grow throughout 2023 (so far) in comparison to last year. For the most part, it has exceeded the number of overnight stays realised compared to pre-pandemic 2019. Continental Croatian tourism has continued to collectively achieve an average of 2-5% of the country’s total tourist traffic, depending on which month we’re looking at.

Continental Croatian tourism saw around 1.4 million overnight stays realised by the end of July 2023

By the end of July this year, this country’s continental counties recorded a total of about 1.4 million overnight stays, which is about 5% of the total of 29.5 million overnight stays recorded across the entire country. It’s worth noting that these figures for continental Croatian tourism so far don’t include the City of Zagreb, which recorded 1.4 million overnight stays. Karlovac County, Krapina-Zagorje County, Zagreb County, Osijek-Baranja County, and Varaždin and Međimurje counties have all achieved the highest tourist traffic in the continental part of Croatia.

By the end of July this year, they’d all recorded an increase in overnight stays when compared to last year. These are all still relatively small numbers when lumped in with the big picture, but it’s worth noting that this particular segment of tourism shouldn’t be viewed in terms of the number of overnight stays realised, but as an activity that can contribute to the overall economic development of given destinations and increase the quality of life of the locals. Therefore, a lot is expected from new public investments in health tourism in the interior from the NPOO. Meanwhile, spas remain the continent’s most profitable segment.

The popular Terme Tuhelj revealed that in the first months of 2023, they achieved 95,000 overnight stays, which is 26% more compared to 2019 and 8% more compared to the same period in 2022. Of this, 83,500 overnight stays were achieved in the Well hotel.

“Our guests are primarily looking for a summer family holiday with swimming at the pools and individual trips. If we look at the entire period up until the end of July, the average stay lasts for 2.5 days, which results in shorter stays during the winter and spring periods. There are also many one-day overnight stays in the MICE segment and when it comes to weekend wellness packages. If we look only at July, the average stay is four days because it’s mostly foreign guests coming, and they usually stay for a week or ten days”, they explained from Terme Tuhelj.

In the first seven months of 2023, Croatian guests accounted for 49% of the total number of overnight stays realised, followed by guests from neighbouring Slovenia with 23%, and then guests from Germany with 4.5%. Looking at the summer season itself, the total structure is made up of 4% Danes, 3.7% Poles and 2.5% Dutch tourists. In July, the proportion of foreign tourists stands at 85%. The summer season at Terme Tuhelj lasts as long as the weather remains warm and it can even extend into September. Announcements for autumn and the rest of the summer are good for them. There has also been a 13% increase in announcements in the field of business tourism than in 2019 and 2022.

New investments

New investments were recently presented at Terme Jezerčica, where 8 million euros were invested in the arrangement of the accommodation part of the facility, catering facilities, mobile homes and the first phase of the water park. In the next phase, their plan is to expand their accommodation capacities in the hotel part by an additional 126 rooms, their camping capacities on an unused part of the plot, and a water park, which should be the largest in the continental part of Croatia. The second part of the investment cycle should be completed by 2027 and amount to 66 million euros. Terme Jezerčica also applied for support from the NPOO for its sustainability and energy efficiency concept.

As is already fairly well known, 61.7 million euros is available from the NPOO budget for health tourism. Although no details have been revealed yet, it’s somewhat common knowledge that all fifteen special hospitals in the Republic of Croatia have applied for the tender. As calculated by the Economic Institute, these investments in the short term alone could generate an additional 1.13 billion euros of investments, which represents 9.8% of the total investments made by the Croatian economy in 2021.

As a result, the development of other activities in addition to continental Croatian tourism is expected. Various experts have been warning for a considerable amount of time now that investments in hotels in Croatia’s interior will simply not happen without investment in public infrastructure, especially healthcare facilities, and this could eventually change the structure of the offer as well as the structure of the tourists themselves. Namely, while the coast lives on foreign tourists, domestic guests predominate on the continent. Rujana Srpak, a consultant for continental Croatian tourism who spent a decent chunk of her career at the head of the tourist board of Vukovar-Srijem County, believes that continental Croatian tourism is now clearly moving towards quality and content.

Sava River cruises

“The tourism history of continental Croatia is actually a short history packed full of numerous crises. A concrete, market-functional and dynamic tourism sector has developed in all of them, and the numbers are clearly growing, with the fact that our goal isn’t to simply sit and count overnight stays,” stated Srpak, who helps various entities in continental Croatia, from tourist offices to local government units, to develop competitive tourism products.

“There’s work and projects that also have good financial resources, from EU funds and so on, but there are often no personnel who will systematically work on the content and its implementation, and that’s where I decided to continue my career”, said Srpak.

Overlooked Slavonia has been trying to promote itself for years as a tourist region that has great potential not only to develop tourism, but also to connect it with agriculture and related activities. Vukovar-Srijem County recorded the largest increase in arrivals in the entire continental part of the country. They saw an increase of around 38%, as well as an increase in overnight stays of around 32%. Most of the guests visiting the area are domestic tourists, as is the case in Brod-Posavina County, which had almost the same growth, but on a smaller scale. In Slavonski Brod, they expect the additional development of their tourism with the opening of the Park business hotel with 60 rooms in the centre of the city. Work is also underway on a new river pier that will revitalise cruising on the Sava River.


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