Croatian Camping Sector Has Potential, Yet Season Remains Uncertain

Lauren Simmonds

The Croatian camping sector has a lot of potential, but much like with many other things in Croatia, is it really being taken advantage of properly? The short answer is of course, no.

As Marija Crnjak/Poslovni Dnevnik writes on the 11th of July, 2019, a new law should provide for the high-quality planning and preparation of a long-term development strategy in Croatian camps, which should result in the growth of not only quality, but also in the opening up of new, high-quality employment opportunities.

The adoption of the new Law on Tourism Land is of crucial importance for Croatian tourism as it abandons the old model and foresees fifty-year leasing, which offers the ability to release all of the investment potential of the Croatian tourism sector, which is estimated to stand somewhere between three and five billion euros.

If this new law becomes operational and developed, then the Croatian camping sector will finally be able to secure the solid place that it deserves with its remarkable potential – which is to become a leader in the Mediterranean and to position Croatia as a country for camping, as was stated by Adriano Palman, (CCU).

Otherwise, Croatian camping makes up about 25 percent of the total tourist accommodation capacity in Croatia, and in terms of overall quality, it’s one of the strongest segments of Croatian tourism according to German ADAC ratings, which results in competitive prices compared to other countries in the Mediterranean.

Poslovni Dnevnik talked to Palman after an unfavourable pre-season in which the heavy amount of rain drove would-be camping tourists away, and at the beginning of a challenging season, which will require a lot of luck and skill to see results anything like those of last year reached again.

What are the results of camps for the first half of this year like, what are the reservations for the rest of the season like? What sort of year do Croatian camps expect?

From the opening until the end of June, campsites cumulatively generated 4.55 million overnight stays, or 1.7 percent less than in the same period last year. It’s unfortunate, but it’s expected.

Due to the scheduling of school holidays, the first two weeks of July will be worse than those same two weeks were last year, too, from the 1st of July to the 7th of July, for example, cumulative overnight stays were down by 8 percent. The rest of the season will be marked by uncertainty and nobody can really predict the final results of that right now. On the other hand, it should be said that this is the same picture that’s coming from all of our Mediterranean competitors, as it reflects certain market events, the return to the market of certain eastern Mediterranean countries, as well as favourable weather opportunities in Northern Europe, the Netherlands, and Germany.

A good weather forecast in the north can contribute to last year’s trend when campers in those countries decided to spend their holidays there at home and therefore their camps achieved historical record numbers.

Can you expect to have to cut prices due to the bookings being down?

The average cost of family camping in Croatia (two adults and one child, one night on a plot) is around 38.66 euros, and the European average is 37.56 euros. Compared to other countries, we’re ranked sixth in terms of prices, the Netherlands, Spain, Denmark, and Switzerland are all more expensive than Croatia, and the most expensive is Italy.

We don’t think this price is all that high given the level of quality we offer. The same trend is present in the camping sector across the entire Mediterranean, which is also visible in other forms of accommodation in Croatia. Quality facilities, in which there has been investment and an expansion of an offer, as well as increased the quality, are accepted by the market and are well filled, while unfortunately more and more problems occur in the business of facilities where the raising of the prices didn’t result in the raising of the quality. Those issues also exist for those who didn’t invest enough.

That’s why more and more, they are constantly implementing complete reconstructions and renovations that are aimed towards raising the quality of the camps by two or three stars, up to five stars. There were three such complete renovations in the last couple of years, one in Dalmatia, Kvarner, and Istria, and more are planned in the future.

What is the current picture of Croatian campsites like when compared to its competitors?

Croatia has a total of 785 camps, of which 66 are in the category of 4 or 5 stars, and their capacity covers up to 40.5 percent of the total capacity of Croatian camps.

According to the German ADAC, which is the guide to the camps of Europe and still considered the most relevant and complete camp rating system, in 2019, Croatia is ranked second in the European Union behind the Netherlands. In terms of Croatia’s direct competition in the Mediterranean, France is the third, Italy is the fifth, and Spain is the seventh.

The average rating of camps in Croatia is 6.31, the Netherlands ranked first with 6.74, and the average rating of camps in Europe is 5.46.

In all the elements of this rating, Croatian camps are better than the European average, and we’re the best in terms of commercial and hospitality offers in the camps; we’re third in elements of quality, in the number and size of sanitary facilities and pitches within the camp, and the worst position we’re in, with fourth place, are the free time, entertainment and swimming offer, ie, the quality and the equipment of beaches, swimming pools and water centres within the camps.

How was the current law a barrier to investment? Because, we can see that there have been investments…

Although the capacity in 4 and 5 star camps has increased by as much as 2.8 times since 2010, when that law was passed, the realizstion of investments was significantly hampered.

A particular problem was highlighted in Croatian camps that had significant areas of so-called ”tourist land”. In those areas, because of the inadequate legal conclusions and the various limitations that were prescribed, investments were planned within a limited range in the areas of the camps where they could be realised, and not at locations where such investments (water centres, etc) from the point of view of the guests and the product concept, would have been ideal.

The new law should provide for the quality planning and preparation of a long-term development strategy in Croatian campsites, which will result in the enrichment of supply and quality growth, as well as the opening of new, high-quality job opportunities.

How does a modern camp look on the global market today? Do Croatian camps use modern technology, and what is their importance in this segment of tourism?

With the coming of the new generation of millennials, our camps are becoming more and more popular, and along with the advancement of technology, their diversity is growing as well. Croatian camps base their quality on the number and quality of the sanitary facilities, their equipment and the size of their plots, the commercial and hospitality offer in the camps, the leisure offer and entertainment, as well as the quality and amenities of the beach and other swimming related offers. Everything further depends on the positioning of the camp itself and the type of guests it wants to attract.

Accordingly, there are two main developmental routes for camps, the first are large camps which have all of the facilities and are positioned as real holiday resorts where a variety of accommodation options are available, from mobile homes to glamping. Other smaller or small family camps, which are, as opposed to the variety of content offered, more oriented to the very hospitable and close relationship with the host and their highlight is the intimate atmosphere inside the camp.

Apart from these two major developmental routines, there are many other features of special positioning and finding the right traveller and market, from the simple form of an adventure camp, camps on islands, near towns, camps for lovers of special interests (horse riding, bird watching, cycling, kayaking…), up to the most glamorous modern glamping camps.

Which is currently the largest investment in Croatian camps, are mobile homes still the biggest hit?

When talking about investments, in recent years, the trend of investment, the majority of which is in mobile home bidding, has changed considerably, and has become more balanced.

In the last two to three years, Croatian camps have been invested in with the aim to equalise and raise the overall offer and content of the facilities to a higher level, thus obtaining a balanced product that corresponds to the camp quality standards in all elements and doesn’t have large jumps between the overall quality of the offer and the product. This includes investments in new water centres and swimming pools and beaches (the swimming offer), investments in the context of the wealth and quality of the shopping offer within the camp, entertainment, investments in equipping and increasing the plot areas as basic accommodation units within the camp, and sanitation facilities.

In addition, a new type of accommodation offer has appeared on campsites, which is the luxurious glamping tent, and currently glamping has the highest growth rate in relation to other capacities, and it is predicted that this trend will continue for the next few years.

How do we stand with the range of Croatian campsites that are open all year round?

Contrary to the general belief, compared with just one decade ago, the trend and the possibility of year-round camps in Croatia has been done well, and today we can boast of fourteen camps all over the country, two on the continent, six in Dalmatia, three in Kvarner and three in Istria.

Nowadays, Croatia has a high quality network of camps that provide winter campers with quality round trips between different destinations and parts of the country, and according to the information from these camps, more and more visitors from all over the world recognise this product and position the Croatian camps not only as a seasonal option, but as a year-long option.

Make sure to follow our dedicated travel page for more information on Croatian tourism, Croatian campsites and much more.


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