At the end of March, the Croatian Minister of Tourism and Sports, Nikolina Brnjac, when asked about tourism in Croatia, stated that “there are fewer bookings than in previous years, even for Easter, but more is expected from the end of May and in June, for which there is more interest by tourists.” Even though this claim may be true, we find it to be uncheckable.
In order to enable tourists, who are responsible for a big part of the Croatian economy, to spend a safe holiday in Croatia, Brnjac’s Ministry recently introduced the “Safe stay in Croatia” label. The health and safety measurements of this campaign and what role they play in Croatia’s preparations for tourists are explained further in another fact-check, done by our Croatian colleagues from the University of Zagreb.
“Fewer bookings” over Easter 2021 than in previous years
Though the Ministry wants the tourists to feel safe, the current Corona situation is rather critical. Countries like Germany have placed Croatia on their list of high-risk countries. But despite the high incidence of Covid-19 in Croatia, the number of tourists during the Easter holidays 2021 has been a bit higher than last year, as this line chart shows.
As many countries were in a lockdown in the beginning of 2021, the number of tourist arrivals, issued by the Croatian National Tourist Board, was lower than in January and February of the previous years. But the number started rising in small steps until in April 2021, over the Easter holidays, more tourists came to Croatia than in the year before. Therefore, Brnjac’s statement that over Easter this year, there were fewer bookings than in previous years, is only partly true.
“More is expected from the end of May and in June”
The Minister’s claim that there is more interest by tourists for the end of May and June isn’t as easy to check as the first part of her statement – though it is possible to find some hints. The line chart shows that the number of tourist arrivals in 2020 started increasing in May, but to know for sure whether the same will be happening this year, hard data is needed. Numbers provided by the Croatian Bureau of Statistics show that in previous years tourists (apart from locals) mostly originated from Germany, Slovenia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Italy and Austria (see bar chart). Therefore, our research concentrates on these countries.
We asked almost 30 companies and associations about bookings from Germans for the mentioned period, but travel agencies and airlines won’t disclose the data due to the competition on the market. While there are surveys about people’s opinion on travelling in the pandemic, there are none conducted on a European level and none focusing on travelling to Croatia. In order to gain at least some insight in people’s interests, we evaluated German surveys. Since those aren’t focused on holidays in Croatia, we can’t say for sure whether the results can be applied to our specific destination. But considering the current epidemiological situation and the measurements the country established through the “Safe Stay in Croatia” label, it is possible to make an assumption about the German’s interest in spending the holidays in Croatia.
Reasons for travelling to Croatia
According to data provided by the German search engine for holiday homes “Home To Go”, 6.2 % of all people using the engine searched for houses in Croatia for the period of Pentecost (May 22nd until June 5th), only topped by Italy (8.6%) and Germany itself (69.6%). A survey of the German consultancy “PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC)” shows that most Germans prefer to stay in holiday homes (53%), even though 45% can also imagine staying in a hotel. Because there are about 90,000 private landlords offering holiday homes in Croatia, this preference could be an argument for spending the holidays there. In addition to that, the “PwC”-Survey states that the preferred method of transportation is the car (own or rental; 68%). The fact that even people from the most northern point of Germany can reach Zagreb within 15 hours by car (from the south it’s only 8 hours) also speaks for Croatia as a holiday destination. Furthermore, half of the participants were in favor of official certifications displaying the hygiene and health status of a destination and 43% set more value on health and hygiene than before the pandemic. Croatia’s “Safe stay” campaign meets these demands.
Reasons against travelling to Croatia
When it comes to the general interest in travelling this year, the participants of the “PwC”-Survey conducted in April 2021 are quite divided. While 42% had already booked a holiday or are planning to do so, 28% did not want to book something at all because of Covid-19. Not only do most of the Germans want to stay in Germany for their Pentecost holidays, according to “Home To Go” it’s almost twice as many as last year (2020: 38,1% → 2021: 69.6%). Although there is some interest in travelling for Pentecost, the majority (60%) wants to go on holidays in July or August. Furthermore, Lufthansa and Condor have announced flights from Germany to Croatia not before summer. Even though Eurowings will start flying to Croatia in May, announcements like the ones from Lufthansa and Condor are usually prompted by tourist demand, meaning that there probably isn’t as much interest in going to Croatia for Pentecost. Almost half of the “PwC” participants would cancel their trip if they had to put themselves under quarantine when coming back (47%) or if the destination was a high risk area (44%). Croatia is labelled as a high-risk country and therefore the Germans would have to go into quarantine after returning. Another reason for cancelling would be not being vaccinated (32%). But up until now only 11.2 percent of the German population have the necessary dose(s) of vaccine.
When trying to use the German results as an example for tourists in general, the current travel measurements in the other top countries of origin should be considered. The regulations for Slovenia, Italy and Austria are almost the same as in Germany. Vacationers returning from Croatia have to be tested negatively with a PCR test and/or have to go into quarantine for five to ten days. Austria has announced new rules for May 19th. Tourists coming back from Croatia will have to be tested, vaccinated or recovered from Covid-19 to enter the country, but do not have to go into quarantine anymore. In contrast, citizens of Bosnia-Herzegovina do not need a negative test nor a quarantine when returning.
Considering all this information, it is not possible to determine whether the statement is true or false. While we can make assumptions about the German’s interest in a holiday in Croatia, we can not confirm the Minister’s claim concerning all tourists. Additionally, we couldn’t find out on which source Brnjac based her prediction, which is why we have to classify the statement as uncheckable.
At the end of her statement, Minister Nikolina Brnjac concludes: “…and that is why we should have the best epidemiological situation possible.” She also claims that Croatia is fully prepared to welcome tourists. What it means to be prepared and whether the country fulfils those requirements is part of another fact-check, done by our Croatian colleagues Kristina Kalea and Benjamin Mihoci.
Date of data in the text: May 17th, 2021
RESEARCH | ARTICLE | INFOGRAPHICS © Jule Müller & Maren Krämer, Hochschule der Medien, Stuttgart, Germany
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