October 17, 2020 – Zagreb tourism is suffering considerable losses due to the coronavirus pandemic and the consequences of the earthquake back in March. Tourist arrivals and overnight stays are around 30 percent of last year, and Zagreb Advent 2020 is uncertain, the Zagreb Tourist Board revealed.
“Conditions and possibilities of holding certain events have changed significantly this year, even for those outdoors in the autumn and wintertime. We are currently completing preparations for several autumn projects through which Zagreb will once again be confirmed as the most important cultural and tourist destination in Croatia. We are also developing possible scenarios for Advent,” said Martina Bienenfeld, director of the Zagreb Tourist Board, as reported by Index.hr.
She emphasizes that health and safety are taken into account first, and then everything else that makes up a particular event.
“We are in contact with the competent authorities of the City of Zagreb, the national and city civil protection headquarters. We are working on measures and organization, and if it takes place, we will respect and insist on all the guidelines that will be recommended,” says Bienenfeld.
She also commented on the recently published list of the 15 safest Christmas destinations in Europe by the European Best Destinations (EBD), in which Zagreb is in 8th place. They also mention the date of this year’s Advent (from November 27, 2020, to January 3, 2021), though the Tourist Board emphasizes they did not participate in this or communicate anything to the EBD, not even the dates they stated.
“EBD has been promoting sustainable European tourism for years in collaboration with the European Commission and other institutions and has compiled the list according to its own criteria, which, according to explanations we received from its director, were the number of cases per million inhabitants and hospital beds per capita, proximity to airports, the establishment of sanitary measures and others. According to the online voting in the EBD organization, Zagreb Advent was named the best in Europe three times. Croatia was among the countries with a relatively favorable epidemiological picture in September. Logically, they took us into account, and it is certainly positive that we are on that list,” says Bienenfeld.
Presenting data on the decline in physical tourist traffic for the first nine months of this year, she notes that this is expected and points out the increased average length of stay of tourists in Zagreb, to 2.21 nights, compared to last year’s 1.83.
By the end of September this year, almost 283 thousand tourists came to Zagreb, who realized 624.3 thousand overnight stays, or 26 and 31 percent of last year’s results. Most tourists were from Croatia, followed by Germany, Italy, Bosnia, and Herzegovina, and Poland, while, in addition to locals and tourists from Germany, most overnight stays were achieved by tourists from Italy, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the USA.
In the first 15 days of October, 15.7 thousand tourists visited or 22 percent of last year’s number in the same days, while 33 percent was reached with just over 41 thousand overnight stays, with a further extension of the average stay to 2.61 nights.
Most tourists stay in hotels, about 50 percent, then in private accommodation – about 40 percent. Bienenfeld reveals that due to the pandemic and the aftermath of the earthquake, seven hotels and 11 hostels are currently operating in Zagreb, and about 135 private accommodations closed just because of the earthquake.
Due to the damage caused by the earthquake, 15 museums and seven galleries and art collections are currently closed, which significantly reduces the offer. She also points out that changes in the behavior of those who travel are noticeable in the pandemic.
“Individual and smaller family and business trips have completely prevailed in Zagreb. Tourists are favoring individual rather than group city tours, visiting Zagreb attractions on their own, and spending more time outdoors and exploring the Zagreb area, which is thanks to our first destination campaign in cooperation with the Zagreb County Tourist Board “Near the city, close to the heart,” says the director of the Zagreb Tourist Board.
Because of the coronavirus situation, the Zagreb Tourist Board changed the work program for this year and reduced expenditures by 35 percent, primarily the cost for promotional activities, appearances at fairs and international workshops, event support, materials and souvenirs, and offline advertising, and reduced the number of employees to five people.
“Circumstances have changed significantly, and existing employees are engaged in jobs caused by pandemics and earthquakes that do not represent an additional financial burden. We developed four promotional campaigns from March to October, organized ‘hybrid’ activities with live broadcasts on our online channels. We also do online presentations and marketing projects for further positioning in the international market, as well as virtual meetings and workshops in targeted markets from which we expect the return of guests as soon as the situation is more favorable,” says Bienenfeld.
She believes that careful planning is now needed, with quick and ad hoc reactions and flexibility in decision-making, and, like others in tourism, estimates 2021 as uncertain, emphasizing that everything will depend on the situation and they will need to further adapt and innovate in all spheres of tourist activity.
“The focus should be on sustainable tourism through an adequate strategy for the development of health aspects of staying in the destination, and more than ever, cooperation, support and mutual trust of all tourism stakeholders are needed, especially since it is estimated that there will be no normalization before 2022. Given the importance and share of tourism in GDP, both in Europe and Croatia, it is imperative in these difficult times to encourage the creation of joint solutions by all levels of government to get out of this crisis,” Bienenfeld concludes.