CROATIA: Bumper Rise in Tourist Arrivals
Croatia expects tourism revenues to rise up to 10 percent this year compared to 2004 to record levels, the state secretary for tourism said this week. The country relies heavily on the tourist industry to fill the state coffers and cover a foreign trade gap which last year amounted to $8.6 billion.
'The tourist industry is showing record results, and we expect to earn some six billion euros ($7.42 billion) in that sector this year. It is a rise of 10 percent which is far above our projections of two percent growth this year,' Zdenko Micic said in an interview.
In the first seven months of 2005, eight percent more people visited Croatia than in the same period a year ago. Micic said there was a substantial rise in the number of visitors from Scandinavian and Benelux countries, France, the United Kingdom and Ireland. Holidaymakers in Croatia have in recent years mostly been from Germany, Austria, Slovenia and other central European countries.
Last year Croatian tourism earned 5.4 billion euros. The country suffered a huge decline in tourism revenues in early 1990s when it fought a four-year independence war.
It has been gradually recovering ever since but its main problems remain a lack of accommodation capacity and a relatively short season which is mostly based around three summer months. Micic said Croatia would now focus on tackling those weak points. 'We see that interest for spending holidays in Croatia outside the regular summer season is rising each year. In order to take advantage of that trend weâ€™ll have to keep the tourist offer alive also outside the summer months,' Micic said.
While praising the maritime landscape, foreign tourists often complain about the lack of entertainment facilities on the Croatian coast. Another frequent objection is an insufficient number of luxury hotels to meet the demands of well-off guests. 'Weâ€™re well aware of accommodation problems in Croatia. Hence, we plan to tackle it in two ways in the coming years. We have to revitalize hoteliers which do not run businesses properly and in that context complete the sale of those still in state hands,' Micic said.
Another effort must be made to attract people willing to engage in the tourist industry as greenfield investors, he added.