July 11, 2019 – Official statistics show a strong season in Split, but apartment owners complain of poor bookings. So who is right? Both, and here is the shocking reason why.
I have been writing about tourism in Croatia for 9 years now, but I rarely track statistics on how things change each year. In retrospect, I wish I had.
But there is one thing I check each year, and it is a true barometer of one of the discussions of the moment – tourism in Split. The official tourism statistics tell us that this is another bumper year – the best ever for the first half of 2019, as TCN reported a couple of days ago.
And yet many apartment owners are complaining that the season is terrible and they are having less bookings.
Both sides can’t be right, can they? Well, in this case, yes they can.
This has been a very strange season in general – and not just the weather. The tourism chiefs tell us that tourism in Croatia is up yet again for another year. This obsession with numbers and overnights will hopefully mature into something more meaningful such as the quality of the experience in time, but numbers we have to deal with.
My impression of this season is that Istria seems to be doing fine, but Dalmatia – and particularly the islands are down. One island tourist board director told me this month that if the islands are 10% down on last year, they will be happy. The empty roads, lack of waiting times at toll roads, borders and ferries all point to this. But things are busy in the big cities such as Split and Dubrovnik.
But back to tracking those statistics.
Back in 2013, when Ultra Europe began, there was a lot of media attention. I was curious how the addition of such a major event in peak season, attracting tens of thousands of tourists into the heart of the peak season would affect accommodation availability and prices. On the first day of Ultra in Split in 2013, I checked Booking.com to see how many places were available. If you weren’t full during Ultra in July, when would you be?
There were only two places available in all Split on Booking. Cheapest place was 200 euro a night.
I checked again last year on the first day of Ultra – 441 apartments available that night, with the cheapest place starting at 27 euro. Quite a difference.
Was Split less full in 2018 in July than in July 2013? Not at all – way busier. So the only explanation could be that there were more beds on the market.
I checked again this morning on the first day of Ultra. Some 474 properties for rent, with the cheapest again at 27 euro.
About the same as last year then, or is it? I had read news articles about lots of new beds coming onto the Split market for this season. So if the availability today was about the same as last year, then that should mean that with those extra beds, there are MORE tourists than last year in the city, not less.
I went in search of the official statistics, and my jaw hit the floor. Not only does it explain why Split is full but apartments are empty, but it also shows just what an impact tourism has had on the city once known as the Gateway to the Islands in less than a decade. Take a look for yourself and draw your own conclusions.
In 2010, there were just 4,454 private accommodation units in the Split area. The total number of beds was 7,490 (including hostels and hotels etc).
In 2019, there were 24,002 private accommodation units in the Split area. The total number of the beds in the city was 32,576 (including hostels and hotels etc).
I just hope not too many owners of the 24,002 units took out expensive loans to be paid off by bumper rentals.
Oversupply? I think so.
By contrast, hotel beds increased from just 2,073 to 3,689 in the same period, less than double. Hostel beds went from 554 to 1,317, less than triple.
So looking at the Booking availability in this context, it would seem that Split is busier than it has ever been, and more apartments than ever ar empty.
Thinking of converting your property into tourism rentals in Split this winter? Unless you have something REALLY special, perhaps time to think again.
To learn more about the Dalmatian capital, check out the Total Croatia Split in a Page guide.