May 3, 2020 – From June 1, CRO cards will be in circulation, where employers will be able to pay their employees 2500 kuna to be used at physical retail outlets of restaurants and accommodation in Croatia, the Ministry of Tourism has revealed.
“The project was approved by the government last year, the process with the banks is now complete, and the cards will be ready for use from the beginning of June. Contracts were signed with seven banks (Agram Bank Zagreb, PBZ, Erste, RBA, OTP, HPB and Podravska). Since this is a card that should control the use of money exclusively in Croatia, those who receive the card can pay with it through the POS devices of these banks. Payment will be possible at points of sale in accommodation and food and beverage service activities. Online use will not be possible,” Tourism Ministry spokeswoman Sladjana Vignjevic told Index.
She claims that many interested companies would introduce CRO cards for their employees.
“This amount is non-taxable to employers. According to the survey we conducted, every other employer expressed interest and a lot of big companies want to introduce it, and 63 percent of them prefer the amount of 1000 to 3000 kuna, but we determined it to be 2500 kuna. The card will certainly affect domestic tourism,” Vignjevic said.
Already at the end of 2016, the introduction of CRO cards was mentioned to the public, on which employers would pay a certain amount, which would be non-taxable, thus honoring their employees with summer holidays in Croatia. Initially, this was intended to intensify the preseason and postseason, that domestic tourists at that time go to the Adriatic and only then can use this amount from the card. Although it was announced for 2017, the project has not yet started, but on June 1, as stated by the Ministry of Tourism, everything will be ready and citizens will be able to pick up these cards at the mentioned banks.
As the arrival of foreigners to the Adriatic is questionable due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Ministry of Tourism wants to encourage local guests to come during the season, not just in the preseason and postseason, as mentioned in previous years.
Hrvoje Bujas from the Voice of Entrepreneurs Association thinks that in the current situation, when companies have fallen and have started cutting salaries and laying off workers, it is unrealistic for employers to provide workers with 2500 kuna for a vacation simultaneously. No matter what, as the Ministry states, it is a non-taxable amount.
“It is crazy that anyone will pay a single kuna on that card. Now, whether the state pays the public sector or its public sector employees certain funds on the card, that is their job. However, it is clear that employees in the private sector will not receive this card. I also find that it is unusable, cannot be used online, and thus prevents online travel agencies in Croatia, which are hit hard by the crisis, from selling hotels in Croatia,” Bujas told Index.
He states that he discussed the issue with Tourism Minister Gary Cappelli via video call.
“We pointed to this problem and suggested that it be technically resolved and a module added to allow online use in Croatia. In principle, we have nothing against CRO cards, indeed, if it will help tourism, and some of our members are satisfied, but I’m sure they will not be used in the private sector,” Bujas says.
“Plus, as I said, the big problem is that online agencies will not be able to use that card and that in the digital age they are not included in the market, these agencies are put up against a wall. And they are counting on some part, when it will already help hotels and restaurants, and in addition, it would help small renters who go through agencies to guests,” Bujas added.
“In the end, it is quite clear that this will only be of service to the public and state sectors,” Bujas said.
Veljko Ostojic, director of the Croatian Association of Tourism, believes that any boost in tourism is welcome, including CRO cards, but states that they are timed wrong.
“The question is how many entities will be able to afford this opportunity to use the CRO card in this framework. The timing is not the best. As far as I understand, the one who can give, will, but no spectacle will happen,” Ostojic told Index.
He said that he felt that any boost for domestic tourism was welcome.
“I’m not looking at this project as a one-year project, but as a long-term one that will last for many years. The project should be looked at in its entirety. If it doesn’t work the first year, ok, we do not need to find defects immediately. I think the project is good, but yes, timing is not the luckiest,” Ostojic concluded.
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