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Photo: Slobodan Kadic

Finally, a more aggressive approach towards the Russian tourist market.

“Croatia expects a 10 percent increase in the number of Russian tourists this year”, said Gari Cappelli, Croatian Tourism Minister who visited Russia’s largest tourism fair MITT in Moscow, which will stay open until Thursday. It is one of the five largest and most important international tourist fairs and brings together more than 3,000 travel agencies (1,700 international), 70 national tourist boards, hotels, internet agencies and airlines. The arrival of Minister Cappelli sent a clear positive message about a more aggressive approach towards the large Russian market, given the fact that in the last three years none of Croatian Tourism Ministers visited MITT.


“We want to demonstrate that Russian guests are very important to us. In recent years, we had about 200,000 Russian tourists a year. They come during four to five months of the year and not just during the tourist high season, and stay on average for two days longer than other guests”, said Cappelli, expressing his hope that this year the number of Russian tourists could reach 220,000, which would certainly bring another dimension to the Croatian tourism.

It is well-known that Russian visitors are good tourists who spend more than others, but they also demand a higher quality of service. However, in addition to a lack of five star hotels, Croatia has a permanent problem with the visa system which is still rather strict. Before Croatia entered the European Union, Russia had a visa-free regime with Croatia on the basis of tourist vouchers…


“Visas represent a problem for the Russians. We are part of the EU system and cannot avoid it. The only thing we can do is speed up the procedures and do better work at all 19 visa points in Russia and at the consulate. Visas are issued within five days, and I came here to listen to travel agencies and tour operators to hear their experiences and how we could make the procedures even faster. The meeting will be attended by the consul as well”, added Cappelli.

There were good reactions to the minister’s remark that Croatia needed to show Russians that it is a friendly country. Such approach has been used for years by some of the neighbouring countries such as Slovenia and Montenegro, and it represents a great move in Croatian tourism plans for this market. It is the right time for more aggressive plans because, in addition to Russia, booking for Croatia has been also on the increase in Germany, Austria, Poland, Great Britain, South Korea and even in the United States.

Starting from the next year, the Tourism Ministry will work on a special programme of health tourism. Russians love culture, sports, outings, gastronomy, hunting and fishing. “We will offer them high-quality programmes and talk with interested airlines, including Croatia Airlines, in order to give them some extra support that might be welcomed, because 90 percent of visitors arrive by air. We are ready for additional investments in terms of marketing and Russian tour operators and airlines”, explained Cappelli, pointing out that this is Croatia’s big chance.


Last year, Croatia Airlines started with a direct line Zagreb-St. Petersburg, and this year it plans to expand the network to Berlin, which has so far been neglected. Moscow and Zagreb are connected by direct flights of Russia’s Aeroflot.

During this year’s Vinkovci Autumn Festival, the Tourism Ministry is preparing a special programme which will host the tour operators and journalists from Austria and put emphasis on stronger promotion of inland tourism. They are preparing programmes for cyclists and lovers of gastronomy, and they will invest five million kuna in the promotion of Slavonia, inviting Russian tourists to visit that part of Croatia. as well.

Among Croatian companies, Plava Laguna, Jadranka Hotels, the Zagreb Tourist Board, Marina Frapa and Atlantis Travel have been represented in Moscow. Last year, during four days the fair was visited by 27,659 visitors, of which 66 percent were tourism professionals. This year, the seven halls and pavilions of Expocentre include representatives from the Middle East, Asia, America, Africa and the islands, Europe and the Mediterranean, Russia and neighbouring countries, InterMed (health tourism), Turkey and tourism IT sector. The partner-country is Spain while, due to the economic sanctions, tourist boards from Great Britain, Germany, and the United States are not present. However, their offer will be presented through various travel agencies. Stands of Bulgaria, Greece, Spain and Italy have drawn considerable interest, and Turkey presented its offer in all its glory as a returnee to the Russian tourist market.


Russians and Russia are our friends!

“I did not come here to walk the Moscow streets, but rather to face important and specific problems and to make clear to Russian tourists and politicians that Croatia considers the Russian tourists and Russia as friends, as a very important Slavic people who are well-known to us. We are sending a signal that they are important to us and that we want to expand our already strong friendship. I will propose to the state secretary at the Ministry of Culture to launch a “month of culture and tourism” event, which could take place next year in Moscow and which would present Croatia in an even better way through exhibitions and gastronomy.”

Russians mostly visit Istria

Among Croatian regions, Russians mostly visit Istria. Poreč is the most important destination for them, which is helped by good and cheap charter connections to Pula. The programmes are the best in that region, and Russians like to stay in villas with pools in inland Istria. This year, about 40 new or renovated hotels with four and five stars will be opened in Croatia, and the total investments amount to around 800 million euros. Next year, additional 600 to 650 million euros will be invested in the accommodation of similar category.

“Last year, for the first time after three years, we have interrupted the negative trend and recorded an increase in the number of Russian guests. This year, we have worked intensively on this positive wave in all larger cities across Russia. We have already recorded an improvement and I hope that the number of Russian guests will be increasing, especially after the scheduled meeting of the minister with representatives of ATOR, the Association of Russian Tour Operators”, said Rajko Ružička, director of the Croatian National Tourist Board representative office in Moscow.

**All photos by Slobodan Kadic



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