Foreign Tourists Spend More in Continental Croatia Than on Coast

Lauren Simmonds

Copyright Romulic and Stojcic
Zagreb, Croatia
Zagreb, Croatia

Just how much do foreign tourists spend in Croatia? It might surprise many to learn that visitors to the country spend more money in continental Croatia then they do along the sparkling Adriatic coastline.

As Marija Crnjak/Poslovni Dnevnik writes on the 5th of October, 2020, in the highly successful year 2019, which boasted the highest number of guests and the best levels of income so far until coronavirus-dominated 2020, Croatia had an increase in consumption per tourist.

When it comes to just how much those deeper-pocketed guests spend in Croatia, 2019 shows that there was a larger number of guests with higher incomes who spent more on catering and hospitality services, but not on other facilities, and surprisingly there was higher spending in continental Croatia than there was on the Adriatic coast.

Croatia remained primarily a holiday destination with a small share of business guests, the destination of families and couples who came mostly because of the sun and the sea, as well as the beautiful nature on the continent.

With the exception of Dubrovnik, Croatia still mostly enjoys “repeat” guests, with a small share of new ones. Half of the guests received information on Croatia through social networks, traditional media has very little significance for tourists, and guests staying in continental Croatia appear to have a stronger intention to recommend a trip to Croatia to others than those who have visited the Adriatic. In this coronavirus year, on the other hand, for at least some time, there was a considerable loss of those guests who typically have more cash to spend in Croatia, such as guests from distant markets like Asia and America.

“In order to get a clearer picture of the needs and habits of Croatian tourists, the Ministry of Tourism and Sport undertook a survey in 2019 called TOMAS. Although the time of the pandemic (2020) isn’t covered, the research indicates trends and provides guidelines. It was this year that we saw how domestic tourists played an important role. Croatian tourists primarily appreciate the natural beauty, personal safety, atmosphere and hospitality of the local population. By further encouraging the quality of the offer, combining green and blue Croatia, gastro-tourism and active holidays, in a pandemic-laden year, we’re starting with an action intended for domestic tourists. The offer is about halved prices – from tickets to national parks, museums, through to transport and accommodation,” stated the Minister of Tourism, Nikolina Brnjac.

Poslovni Dnevnik was the first to detail the research on the attitudes and consumption of tourists in Croatia, the findings of which, although seemingly irrelevant in the current circumstances of the pandemic, can be useful for all tourism decision makers, from strategists to public and private sector marketers. The ongoing coronavirus crisis also partially thwarted the implementation of the first such survey, which was supposed to last from May 2019 to May 2020, and was completed two months earlier.

Through personal interviews among guests, the survey was conducted on a sample of 13,582 respondents in hotels, hostels, camps and family accommodation, in 143 places, among domestic guests and guests from 24 emitting markets.

Tomas 2019 showed that the average age of a Croatian tourist is 43 years, 43 percent of guests have a university degree, and 48 percent of guests have a monthly income at the household level of more than 3,000 euros. The sea (81%) and nature (56%) are the most important motives for coming to the Adriatic coast, followed by city breaks (24%), touring (21%) and sport and recreation (15%), while guests come to the continent primarily for nature (32%), touring (26%), city breaks (26%), sports and recreation (24%), and for work (22%).

The average of the continent also includes Zagreb, which has the highest rate of business travel, the most hotels and guests arriving by plane. At the bottom of the scale of interests of Croatian guests are culture, art and gastronomy, and only 4 percent of all guests come for work.

Slavonia is still mostly visited by resident families. Croatian tourists stay on average for 7.3 nights. In continental Croatia, the main activities are going out to restaurants, sightseeing, visits to national parks, historic buildings, museums and galleries.

The TOMAS research showed that the average daily expenditure of tourists on the Adriatic during the summer months of 2019 increased by 18 percent when compared to 2017, when the last summer survey was conducted. Expenditures for catering/hospitality services, ie accommodation services and food and beverages, increased by as much as 28 percent, while expenditures for other destination services decreased by 2 percent.

With regard to the type of accommodation, the growth of average expenses in hotels stands at 11 percent, in camps 19 percent and in family accommodation 17 percent.

In total spending, guests spend 54 percent of their money on accommodation, and 17 percent is spent on food and beverages outside of the accommodation facility. Guests with the highest average incomes come from the Republic of Korea, followed by Switzerland, the Scandinavian countries, the Netherlands and the United States. Those with deeper pockets are more interested in rural areas and sightseeing. In addition to guests from Japan who spend 206 euros a day in Croatia, guests from the USA (174 euros), the Republic of Korea (157 euros), China (150 euros) and other Asian countries (155 euros). Much closer to home here in Europe, tourists from the United Kingdom also spend an average of 143 euros.

Tourism in continental Croatia, in addition to attracting guests with deeper pockets than the Adriatic does, also has a higher share of guests discovering Croatia for the first time – the share of loyal guests is significantly higher down on the Adriatic (52 percent) when compared to continental Croatia (33 percent). The counties of Istria and Primorje-Gorski Kotar, as well as Zagreb, Slavonia and Northern Croatia, have the largest share of repeated visits during the last five years. Camp guests are more loyal than average, and among them, 74 percent have been to Croatia three or more times. Camp guests are extremely loyal to their chosen destination, and 52 percent of them have stayed three or more times in the destination where they were interviewed.

The differences between the Adriatic and continental Croatia can also be seen in how booking is carried out – guests in continental Croatia often book accommodation directly with the accommodation facility, which makes up half of the guests, and a little more than half book up to a month in advance, unlike 24 percent in Slavonia and Northern Croatia book who at the last minute, usually less than a week before their actual arrival.

Among the surveyed guests, only 8.3 percent came through package deals, and even the Chinese, in 65 percent of cases, come individually.

The biggest source of information for guests on Croatia is the Internet, half of them use social media, and fairs, television and newspapers make up a small share of informing tourists. Lika has the largest share of guests who are informed about the region online.

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