On March 31st, the Croatian Minister of Tourism and Sports, Nikolina Brnjac, declared that Croatia is fully prepared for the upcoming tourism season: “Croatia is fully ready to start tourist movements and that is the message we are sending to our emitting markets.” When looking at the preparations made by the Croatian Ministry of Tourism and Sports and the tourist industry itself, we find that the Minister’s statement turns out to be mostly true.
According to the Croatian National Tourist Board, tourism contributes a large share of almost 20% to Croatian GDP which is one of the highest percentages in Europe. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that so much effort is invested in a successful tourist season as tourism is one of the most important branches of the Croatian economy. As a result of the global pandemic crisis, in the period from January to April 2021, Croatia recorded a decline in tourist traffic from most of the important emitting markets. On the bright side, in the first weekend of May there have already been more than 157.000 overnight stays registered in Croatia, of which 112.000 were booked by foreign tourists. Among the foreign tourists, the largest number of visitors come from Germany, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Austria and Italy. Therefore, the measures taken by Croatia for the purpose of a successful tourist season are “carefully monitored” in neighbouring and other countries.
The Safe Stay in Croatia project
In terms of Croatia being fully ready for tourists, the first key point of the country’s preparations for the 2021 tourist season is the “Safe Stay in Croatia” project. Through the project, business and customer treatment protocols have been designed in all tourism and tourism-related activities. The label “Safe Stay in Croatia” is awarded free of charge to participants from the Croatian tourism sector and to others who are part of the travel chain, such as carriers, airports, stations, nautical ports and marinas. To get the label, they need to log into the Government’s system and fill out an application form in which they guarantee compliance with and implementation of current health and safety recommendations of the Croatian Institute of Public Health. The project also introduces three levels of control for the facilities with a “Safe Stay in Croatia” label: the Ministry of Tourism and Sports, the professional associations and the guests themselves who will be able to scan a QR code in order to get information about the facility where they are staying at (about the protocols and standards) and send comments via the Impressions section.
Vaccination of tourism sector workers
Furthermore, as part of the tourist season preparations, the Ministry of Tourism and Sports has launched a Vaccination Program. The program prioritizes the vaccination of tourism sector workers. According to a study conducted by the Croatian Chamber of Commerce and the Croatian Tourism Association, two third of the tourist workers expressed a desire to be vaccinated. A vaccination program started in second half of April and is taking place throughout the country. The program started with vaccinating permanent and seasonal workers in the tourism sector and continues with the vaccination of 90,000 private accommodation providers. In addition, the authorities will establish additional locations for testing tourists, especially in tourist destinations.
Islands as COVID free zones
Moreover, the Ministry of Tourism and Sports has also launched the action “Croatian Islands – COVID free zones”. Even though most of Croatian islands have a low number of daily cases, in official statistics they were considered part of the mainland counties which had a higher number of daily cases. For this reason, the Government plans to present the epidemiological situation on islands as separate so tourists can better estimate the real risk of infection in these places.
German interest to travel (and visit Croatia)
Despite the joint efforts for the preparation of the tourist season, it is still hard to predict its success. The tourist workers in Croatia follow what is going on in Germany, which is the largest emitting market in Europe and therefore very important for Croatian tourism. According to a study of trends and expectations of tourist demand in Germany in 2021 by the German FUR Institute, there is reason for optimism regarding tourism on the German market. Vacation trips are currently in second place in terms of consumption priorities. Almost half of the population certainly intends to travel in 2021 and they prefer destinations closer to the beach or mountains, which is positive news for Croatia, a preferred destination for Germans for years and the Mediterranean country closest to them. In collaboration with the Hochschule der Medien in Stuttgart, we researched how much interest tourists really have, especially from Germany, to visit Croatia. For more in-depth information about the interest by tourists to visit Croatia, we recommend checking out the following fact-check by our German colleagues Maren Krämer and Jule Müller.
In conclusion, we assess the Minister’s statement about Croatia being ready for tourist movements as mostly true. Some preparations are still ongoing and unfinished, such as the total vaccination of workers in the tourism industry, even though the vaccination has begun. The “Safe Stay in Croatia” project, which enables guests to easily identify destinations, accommodation providers, transport, tourist attractions, etc. that have adopted national and world standards of health and hygiene care is the key point of Croatia’s preparations for the upcoming tourist season. Even though the concept of “tourist movements“ could be considered a bit vague, our research shows that significant steps have been taken to ensure a safe stay for tourists who decide to come to Croatia. Therefore, this claim is considered as mostly true.
RESEARCH | ARTICLE © Kristina Kalea & Benjamin Mihoci, Faculty of Political Science, University of Zagreb, HR
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