June 19, 2018 – Although nothing has been built for a decade, there has been a flurry of activity at the Croatian National Tourism Board this month regarding golf tourism. Will the Ministry of Tourism’s 7-year strategic plan see 30 new golf courses after all?
June 2018 will go down as the busiest month in the history of golf tourism in Croatia.
After pledging to build no less than 30 golf courses in its 7-year strategic plan from 2013-2020, the Ministry of Tourism confirmed earlier this year that there were just two golf courses in all Croatia, including one (in Porec) which they later conceded did not in fact exist. As things stand, five years into the plan, not one golf course construction has actually started, and the only tangible result in the first five years of the strategy – apart from three workshops and a strategy document – has been a 500 million euro lawsuit against Croatia from a foreign investor with a planned golf course near Dubrovnik. Impressive stuff after five years of hard work putting the strategy into practice…
While the Ministry of Tourism and its two golf courses (one of which does not exist) ponders perhaps another seminar to discuss how to build 30 golf courses over the next two years, over at the Croatian National Tourist Board, golf tourism has had its most dynamic month ever. At the beginning of June, there were four golf courses on the national tourist board website – see above.
One of them was an 18-hole golf course, rather conveniently located in a residential street in central Zagreb. How is that for tourism-friendliness. Simply finish your morning coffee and then head off for a round tackling the historic apartment blocks of the capital.
So intrigued was I that I wrote an article called The Insanity of Croatian Golf Tourism Promotion: Monty Python Counting, in which I pointed out that it was rather strange to see a golf course in a residential street in Zagreb being promoted by the national tourism board, even more so because not only was it located elsewhere but it went bust 6 years ago, as you can see from this drone tour of Dolina Kardinala last year.
I am not for a minute suggesting that anyone read my article, but a rather curious thing happened a couple of days later. The map of central Zagreb was changed to its true location somewhere near Karlovac, where it had been a golf course until 2012. Now bankrupt, the Croatian National Tourism Board continued to promote it as one of its four star courses.
And then, suddenly, around June 12, a huge setback to the Ministry of Tourism’s plans for its rapid golf expansion – the Croatian golf offer was decimated (or rather halved) just like that. Now there were only two golf courses in the whole country.
In a ray of hope for Croatia’s glorious golfing future, a new course appeared in the middle of June, LifeClass Terme Sveti Martin. But the golf course of Tito’s beloved Brijuni was nowhere to be found. As I pointed out in another article, Whatever Happened to Jack Nicklaus’ Croatian Golf Course, Approved by Prime Minister Sanader, Tito would have been a little surprised that the golf course on his beloved Brijuni no longer officially existed.
And then, just like that, on June 19, up pops Brijuni into the Croatian National Tourist Board offer. Quite splendid! In 17 days, we have lost have of the golf courses in Croatia, but we have managed to find others to make up for it. With two courses appearing in the last week, perhaps there is time for the Ministry of Tourism to hit their target of 30 new golf courses by 2020 after all. We will be watching the Croatian National Tourism Board golf page with interest – the most dynamic page on their entire website this month for sure.
In case you thought that Croatia’s golf tourism strategy was in some kind of disarray, you could not be further from the truth. Some 12 years after Jack Nicklaus announced his plans to build a golf resort in Croatia, with Prime Ministerial approval, and five years into the seven-year plan to build 30 courses, where nothing has been – and nothing will be – built, Assistant Minister Robert Pende announced to the world:
“With the existing investor interest, I think we have created preconditions for getting several golf projects in the next two to three years,” Pende said, noting that Istria County was leading in that regard.
“Golf is additional content which all our competitors have. Croatia is very suitable for the development of golf tourism because of the proximity of outbound travel markets and the possibility of playing golf along the coast all year round. We must seize that opportunity,” Pende said.
We reached out to Assistant Minister Pende to ask him to elaborate on the preconditions he referred to, when nothing has happened in the sector for a decade, and not one of the 30 courses planned will be built. No reply yet, but while we wait, we will refresh the Croatian National Tourism Board’s golf page – it remains Croatia’s best hope for implementing its golf tourism strategy. How many courses will we find tomorrow?