Vir Island Welcomed Most Guests in Croatia Last Month

Daniela Rogulj

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June 15, 2020 – In May, the island of Vir boasted the most guests in Croatia, more than Rovinj, Medulin, Mali Losinj and Krk. Despite all the limiting factors, Vir recorded 13.4 percent fewer overnight stays and only 1.1 percent fewer tourist arrivals compared to last year!

Slobodna Dalmacija reports that according to the eVisitor system, a total of 49,566 overnight stays were recorded in Vir in May (57,208 last year) and 2,877 arrivals (2,909 last year), of which Croats achieved 37,252 overnight stays (75.1 percent) with an increase of 26.9 and foreign guests 12,314 (24.9 percent) with a drop of 55.8 percent. Most of them were Slovenes and Germans, Hungarians and Austrians.

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Now, you might be wondering… HOW?

“How’s that? It’s nice! We quarantined the guests,” says Kristijan Kapović, the mayor of Vir municipality.

Kapović was in the company of an ‘expert council’, the director of the municipal tourist board Srđan Liverić, the head of the tourist agency Vir Turizam Mate Čulina, and his deputy Antonio Vučetić. The theme at the table was the tourist figures of this unusually popular island.

“From January 1 to June 1 this year, we have 53 percent in arrivals of foreign guests compared to the same period last year, or a decrease of 39 percent in overnight stays. In the same period, we have an increase of 15 percent in arrivals and as much as 39 percent in overnight stays of domestic guests compared to last year,” said Kapović.

Of foreigners, mostly Slovenians came, only two percent less, followed by Germans (-54 percent), BiH (-52 percent), Hungarians (-60 percent), Austrians (-72 percent). I emphasize that these are the numbers while the lockdown for Austria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia was still ongoing,” said Kapović. 

“At the time when we closed our borders and declared quarantine, there were about 700 guests in Vir, mostly Croats, Slovenes, and Hungarians. Some found themselves there, and some escaped the coronavirus here. These are mostly our weekenders, as we call them, who come to us all year round because they have their real estate here. But now they find themselves in a situation where they have to stay by force.

Their overnight stays were reflected in the statistics and hence ours, I would say a minimal drop in the number of arrivals and overnight stays for the first five months, given the general circumstances,” the mayor explains.

Vir survived the pandemic without a single infection, which further convinced its regular guests that it is a safe holiday destination. 

Namely, out of almost twelve thousand registered facilities on the island, as many as ten thousand are intended for occasional housing. The owners of more than half of such facilities are foreign citizens, and most of them are from Slovenia, Hungary, Slovakia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Czech Republic, Germany, Austria, and Poland. 

“Vir had recorded 154,096 arrivals and 2,635,664 overnight stays last year, of which 110,258 were foreign tourists who made 1,159,908 overnight stays. We were the eighth destination in the country. We achieved these figures thanks to the arrivals of foreign and weekend visitors. Foreigners and weekenders come all year round and spend an average of fifteen days on the island, while domestic guests stay for almost forty days.

They say that we are a destination of apartments and non-commercial tourism. I claim to you, and this crisis has confirmed this, that our tourism is more resilient and sustainable long-term than the tourism of large hotel complexes that have been insisted on for years. This is due to the influence of certain lobbies, and not a well-designed development tourism policy,” claims Kapović, who emphasized again that Vir was the eighth destination in the country.

“Out of the total number of overnight stays from last year, almost 1.2 million are foreign guests,” said the director of the Tourist Board, Srđan Liverić.

“Our main season lasts from June 15 to September 15, and in that period, we achieve 80 percent of tourist numbers. The other 20 percent is equally divided into pre-season and post-season,” he explains.

The head of the Vir Turizam agency Mate Čulina joined in: “In addition to these cottages and holiday homes owned by foreigners, there are 2,500 registered renters with fifteen thousand beds on offer. Landlords alone make about 800,000 overnight stays a year,” says Čulina, adding that the municipal agency works with mostly Croatian landlords.

“Provisions for this year are about 30 percent weaker than last year. For example, some who had provisions worth 140,000 euros for the season in January has now dropped to 30,000. But not everything is so black; a lot is on hold. People have lowered prices from 20 to 30 and even more for all summer months. However, they hope that after the opening of the borders, which will surely happen by the end of June, they could achieve a positive season in July, August and September.

Of course, what worries them the most is what will happen with the pandemic, but also what will happen with the now traditional events on the island, which are a great magnet for guests and weekenders.

Guests and weekenders are mostly interested in whether there will be a Vir Summer,” continues Čulina.

“Once a local event for the entertainment of domestic tourists, over the years has become the largest, most interesting and most spectacular summer program in Zadar County. When you compare only the number and quality of concerts and performers who parade through the Vir Summer, Vir seems like Las Vegas compared to Zadar.

But this is no accident. One million euros are allocated annually for the programs, organization and promotion of the Vir Summer program, and the number of entertainment and cultural events has risen from the former ten to more than seventy over the years. When sports programs that start in April and end in October are added to that, with numerous international activities, such as jet ski competitions, Vir brings guests practically all year round and fills its capacities,” explains Čulina.

“So I say if the borders open, and they will right after Corpus Christi, we will get our weekenders, our regular foreign and domestic guests, the property owners on the island. If there are about 150 thousand of them this year, by all indications, we will have a good tourist season,” points out Mayor Kapović.

You can read the full interview on Slobodna Dalmacija HERE.


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