Tourism Statistics Chaos: How Many Tourists Really Visit Croatia?

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Depending on the source, the number of tourists who visit Croatia differs by a million and the number of overnight stays by incredible 16 million.

According to data which tourism industry leaders like to quote, Croatia was last year visited by as many as 18.5 million tourists, while the number of overnight stays has reached record-breaking 102 million. However, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics, the numbers are quite different: 17.4 million tourists and 86.2 million overnight stays, reports Večernji List on February 21, 2018.

“Whom should we believe,” “they rounded it up a little,” “a larger number sounds better,” “you can adjust statistics as you see fit”… These are just some of the comments on social networks which compared the data from the eVisitors system with the official state statistics.

Why is there the difference of one million guests and almost 16 million overnight stays? The explanation sounds simple and, apparently, no one is lying. eVisitor, an electronic system of recording tourism data which was introduced in 2016, monitors in real time all tourism arrivals in the country, including people on yachts and those in non-commercial types of accommodation. The eVistor system covers all those who pay daily tourism tax, including those who spend their holidays in second homes, at friends or with relatives.

Last year, there were half a million people on vacation who did not pay for the accommodation (a bit more than 12 million overnights), while 470,000 guests on yachts realised 3.2 million overnight stays. If these two categories are deducted from the figures announced by the Ministry of Tourism and the Croatian National Tourist Board, the final number is close to what the statistical office says. The deviation between the results of the eVisitor system and the state statistics is then just negligible 0.43 and 0.68 percent.

The Central Bureau of Statistics also separately monitors guests and overnight stays in the second homes, with friends and relatives, so it only a matter of deciding which figures will be put in the media spotlight. Tourist officials apparently cannot resist the temptation to boast with higher numbers and brilliant results of their efforts. And, no one can say that the numbers are not accurate. Also, it is clear that even those who do not pay for accommodation must be considered to be tourists: they travelled from their towns and villages, spent money on transportation, in markets, restaurants, cafes, maybe they went to an excursion…

The Main Office of the Croatian National Tourist Board (HTZ) says there is no confusion since they always clearly emphasise that the eVisitor data includes non-commercial guests and overnight stays and that detailed reports on tourism are available on their web pages. Also, according to the HTZ, the State Bureau of Statistics collects data on guests and accommodation capacities from the eVisitor system as well.

Still, many consider it improper that two institutions communicate different figures about the same issue. Nedo Pinezić, an expert for family accommodation facilities, says there are two problems.

“First, we create a wrong impression and mislead partners, foreign organisations that follow our tourism and, ultimately, the public. How can we know which numbers we should take into account? Secondly, the number of overnight stays in second homes is counted as part of tourism activity, but the owners, unlike private rental owners, have no obligations, the daily tourist tax is significantly lower for them, they do not pay membership fees to tourist boards, and no income tax. I will not even start to debate the issue whether these so-called non-commercial overnights were perhaps actually paid or not. But, there are about one million beds in second homes, and we cannot be certain there is no grey economy there,” warns Pinezić.

However, while tourism numbers are rising, regardless of the methodology, no one seems to care about a few million here or there.

Translated from Večernji List (reported by Radmila Kovačević).


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