Zagreb Tourism Cautiously Returning After Over One Year of Difficulties

Lauren Simmonds

Updated on:

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Marija Crnjak writes, after a break of over a year in tourist traffic, which in addition to the pandemic was largely due to the Zagreb and Sisak earthquakes and their obvious consequences, Zagreb tourism is slowly returning to “shape”, with an increase in overnight stays and reservations noted, especially for late summer and going into autumn.

Individual guests still predominate when it comes to this current trend in tourist traffic, but leisure and business groups are slowly returning too, and it is interesting that in some hotels most of the guests are Americans.

Those working in the sector have noted their cautious optimism and that their positive feelings increased significantly about one month ago, when the vaccination programme against the novel coronavirus both outside of Croatia and within the country intensified, bringing with it a much more favourable epidemiological picture and a slow easing of anti-epidemic measures.

Croatia’s eVisitor statistics

The statistics are so far still modest, but growth is already visible. According to eVisitor, from the beginning of the year to June the 9th, the number of registered overnight stays in Zagreb amounted to almost 363 thousand, which is an increase of 3 percent when compared to last year’s tourist traffic. Most overnight stays were realised from other parts of Croatia, followed by Italy, the USA, Germany and neighbouring Bosnia and Herzegovina.

At the same time, out of the total number of realised overnight stays, foreign tourists realised the majority, ie 62 percent of overnight stays on the Zagreb tourism scene. The average number of days of stay is also increasing and amounted to 2.65 overnight stays, the Tourist Board of the City of Zagreb revealed.

As for the share of specific locations, 49 percent of all overnight stays in Zagreb tourism were realised in hotels, 42 percent in private/family accommodation, and the rest in hostels and other types of accommodation.

Compared to the same period back in record, pre-pandemic 2019, the results are currently at the level of 37 percent in overnight stays. Zagreb is also the destination with the highest number of overnight stays realised in the first five months of 2021 compared to other destinations in Croatia.

The statistics for the month of June so far are significantly better than they were back during the same comparable period last year, with an increase in the number of overnight stays of 124 percent being realised during the first 13 days of June, although so far these are low numbers of barely 41 thousand overnight stays. In June, we had about 3,200 guests a day in Zagreb, mostly staying in hotels.

As noted above, so far in June this year, most overnight stays were from other parts of Croatia, followed by the USA, Italy, Germany and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Of foreign visitors, guests from the US took first place in overnight stays in both May and June, which shows a positive recovery trend and the interest of guests from that market, the Tourist Board pointed out.

Representatives of the Zagreb Tourist Board participated in last week’s conference of the American Association of Travel Advisers ASTA in Dubrovnik, and noted the great interest American tourists have for Zagreb, which will host about fifty American agents this weekend as part of a study trip to Croatia. The guests from the USA are the most numerous in the Esplanade Hotel, whose numbers are significantly better than the average, revealed the hotel’s director Ivica Max Krizmanic.

“There’s a growing sense of optimism when it comes to our reservations as well. We expect to end June with an average occupancy rate of 45 percent (just this week we’re at 85 percent), and July and August will be at 50 percent occupancy. We expect higher growth in overnight stays in September and October.

As for restaurants and events, we’re mostly full, events are returning, there are some business groups here and there. Most of the guests are individual guests, but this is a trend that started even before the pandemic struck and is desirable because these are guests who tend to spend more,” explained the director of the much loved Esplanade Hotel. Current predictions are that Zagreb’s beautiful Hotel Esplanade will end 2021 with 50 percent of the revenue it generated back in 2019.

Josipa Jutt Ferlan, the director of Zagreb City Hotels and the cluster general manager for Hilton in Zagreb, who is also the president of the Hotel Association of the Croatian Chamber of Commerce, pointed out that there is a positive atmosphere in the sector.

”Aside from that short period last spring, despite the low traffic, Canopy (Hilton) remained open all the time for restaurant guests who settled in and came to us regularly for breakfast and coffee, and we introduced delivery at a time when hotels had to be closed to guests. The decision to stay open proved to be the right one, and we’re glad that we didn’t take away the habits that were important to our fellow citizens,” pointed out Jutt Ferlan.

In addition to the increased interest of individuals in the leisure and business segment, since the vaccination programme was intensified, including mass vaccinations in companies, interest in various events has increased in Hilton’s hotels in Zagreb, adding to the spring put back in the step of the Zagreb tourism sector.

“People are hungry for a bit of everything, especially socialising in person again, and we can see this in the increased number of inquiries for conferences and business events, and the decline in interest in hybrid events. Although technology allows us to do this, and we’ve accelerated the development and use of digital platforms during the pandemic, we mustn’t forget that humans are social beings and that rallies have survived much greater crises than this pandemic, including wars.

It turned out that nothing could replace live meetings, and that when it comes to online events, a large proportion of participants get involved only technically, and actually do something else. Therefore, I believe that the event segment of our business will return very soon,” concluded Jutt Ferlan.

For more on Zagreb tourism and all you need to know about the Croatian capital in 2021, check out Zagreb in a Page.


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