Why are There No Winter Budget Flights to Split? Shall We Try?

Total Croatia News

February 4, 2020 – Croatian tourism chiefs keep talking about 12-month tourism, and the Dalmatian capital has enough content to support it, so why are there no budget winter flights to Split? Shall we try? 

When I first moved to Dalmatia back in 2003, I found Split in winter a little creepy. 

Walking through Diocletian’s Palace after dark was a depressing experience, nothing was open, and I had the feeling that I might get mugged on some occasions. I remember the fabulous ladies from Zinfandel and B7 telling me that when they opened the first licenced hostel around the same time, things were so bad that they had to take their winter guests to a bar at the bus station to party. 

How times have changed! 

Tourism has really boomed in Split since I arrived, and it was known back then as the Gateway to the Dalmatian Islands, whereas now it is known as one of the hottest destinations in Europe. In the summer and shoulder months. But once those budget airlines wind up for the season, things change considerably from November to early April. And yet the content is there if people came. Events such as Advent in Split are great additions to the winter scene (as those who remember the pre-Advent days will confirm). But adventure tourism, gourmet tourism, cultural tourism – these have all progressed considerably in the last decade, and the tourism providers stand ready to greet their winter guests. 

And yet – despite the explosion of budget air travel in recent years – the airports on the Adriatic are mostly idle. Does it really have to be that way?

I recently received a message from a tourism business owner in Split:

So the reason for this message is to get businesses in Dalmatia thriving (specifically Split) from 1st of November to April 1st. We are dying!!! Literally!! 

I’ve just been away and coming back made me realise how dead this city ACTUALLY is!!! I was too busy being a boring mum, ? and I didn’t realise what a ghost town it actually was. Sure there a few local places that do well and manage to survive, but the overall situation is horrific! And if foreigners, even just Europeans were to fly here for short city breaks then it will motivate the locals to come out of there houses. It will create a chain reaction!!

Dalmatia is the Florida of Europe and all we have is sunshine and a bunch of pensioners!!! I even invested in a marketing agency over winter to help with winter businesses. But we have achieved nothing!! 

It’s great that we are getting more flights over summer, but we desperately NEEEEEEEED to be connected to Europe over winter. 

Dalmatia is no better off than Slavonia over winter, I’m telling you. We may have the finances left from summer to get us through, but the lack of people and moral3 is so demoralising.

The email got me thinking – surely it was worth testing the market to see if there was enough of a market? I have heard SO many people complain over the years that Split and Dalmatia is so inaccessible over the years. If we made it more accessible, would they actually come and support such an initiative. Perhaps, perhaps not, but the only way to find out would be to try. 

Should we try or just keep on talking about it and complaining? 

The Croatian National Tourist Board had some kind of programme for providing financial assistance to airlines. I had thought that this was in the form of a subsidy, but as I found out when I contacted them (see below), it isn’t actually a subsidy: 


  1. I know that HTZ subsidises some flights. Is it possible to give me more information, please? A statement on the strategy, as well as details of which flights/airlines are subsidised. 
  1. Has there ever been a plan to experiment with subsiding a year-round flight to Split to see if the interest was there?


The Croatian National Tourist Board offers the opportunity for interested partners from the tourism industry to propose activities related to programs for Croatia via public calls for proposals, with the aim of realizing common interests, actively promoting the domestic tourist offer and attracting more guests.

All interested travel industry partners (tour operators and carriers) with all forms of organized programs for Croatia (air, bus and nautical) that are introducing or looking to enhance their programs or extend the period of operations in the pre-season and post-season with a tendency to further grow in the 3 years following the introduction of the program are eligible to submit to the public call.

Interested partners submit their proposals for cooperation to the CNTB representative office in the relevant market (CNTB Head Office for other markets depending on the partner’s programs and headquarters), and when selecting a partner, the compatibility of the partner’s program with the main strategic goals of the CNTB is taken into account. The proposal submitted, as well as the submitting partner’s market position, openness to cooperation and the possibility of establishing a viable partnership are all taken into account. A final decision on the selection of partners for the implementation of the CNTBs strategic promotional campaigns (affiliate marketing campaigns) is made by the CNTB Tourism Council.

It is important to note that this is not a subsidy, but a marketing cooperation, because in consultation with the chosen partners, advertising is carried out in all types of media, depending on the final agreement. While a portion of the agreed activities certainly include some related to year-round flight routes of interest to individual Croatian regions.

I am not sure I am much wiser in terms of my questions answered, but perhaps there is something that we can take from this. Assuming that the Croatian National Tourist Board is interested strategically in 12-month tourism and would support marketing cooperation to make that happen, and with the excellent connections the tourism chiefs must have with the airlines that they deal with, can we not package a deal to make it sufficiently attractive to a low-cost airline to dip a toe in the water and see what the interest? Even if that deal means giving the airline better summer landing slots, for example? Surely Split Airport would be flexible on fees to allow this seed to grow.

A couple of flights a week from London, Oslo, Berlin and Rome, for example. 

Would local businesses like to be involved to see if it could work, either through financially supporting or offering special discounts? 

Isn’t it worth a try?

To follow the latest from Split, check out Total Split


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