Hungarians flock to Croatia's Adriatic coast
Monday August 15, 2005
By Patricia Fischer
The most popular foreign holiday destinations for Hungarians lie along the Croatian coast, according to current surveys. More and more Hungarians are visiting Croatia; the number of visitors last year was over 400,000, and a 10% growth has been registered in the first six months of 2005.
The Adriatic’s popularity is due not only to its spectacular natural scenery, but also to its accessibility. Once across the border, the coast is easily within reach via newly built, high-quality toll motorways.
But despite the increasing numbers of Hungarians visiting the Mediterranean country, tourism experts stress that there is no need to worry about Croatia distracting tourists from Lake Balaton.
'I don’t think Croatia is our real competitor,' said KornÃ©lia Kiss, head of the research department at Hungarian Tourism Rt. 'It’s quite far away, and travelers have to pay highway tolls.'
Marin SkenderoviÄ‡, head of the local representation of the Croatian National Tourist Board, agrees that Lake Balaton and the Adriatic Sea are not comparable.
'We’re talking about two different products. They are aimed at different target groups,' said SkenderoviÄ‡. 'Those who prefer seaside holidays do not present a significant demand for the Balaton region.'
Croatia’s government has realized the importance of developing the country’s highway network – especially in those areas favored by tourists. Croatia now has a highway and motorway system stretching more than 900 kilometers – 100 kilometers of which has been completed this year. Once the decade-long highway construction program is completed in 2008, the network will be more than 1,500 kilometers in length.
SkenderoviÄ‡ is certain that the latest highway construction efforts will increase the number of Hungarians traveling to Croatia.
'Even though the tolls are not cheap,' he said, 'the speed and convenience by which Hungarians can now travel is prompting many people to make weekend getaways, in addition to typical week-long visits.'
Among Hungarians, Croatia has been the second most popular holiday destination in recent years, according to the Central Statistics Office (KSH). Hungary is the sixth largest source market for tourism in Croatia, and the number of Hungarian visitors was 13% higher in 2004 than the year before.
'Germans, of course, are on top, but the growth rate of German visitors is much slower than that of Hungarians. I’m expecting approximately one million Hungarian visitors to Croatia in 5–6 years’ time,' SkenderoviÄ‡ predicted.
Hungarian travel habits have not changed significantly over the last few years.
'The most favored accommodation types among Hungarians are apartment houses and campsites, but there is increasing demand for hotel accommodation,' SkenderoviÄ‡ said.
Prices are at nearly the same level as they are at Lake Balaton, though a Hungarian traveler also has to factor petrol and tollway costs into the equation. Nevertheless, Hungarians are still among the top spenders in Croatia.
'Hungarians rank sixth in terms of average spending on a Croatian holiday. A Hungarian spends €47 a day on average, which is close to Austrian and Dutch spending,' SkenderoviÄ‡ said.
The Croatian Tourist Board spends around Ft 50 million (about €200,000) a year to operate its Hungarian representation. The amount includes promotion costs, but this year another Ft 20 million is being spent on marketing.
'We had a television campaign, and billboards were placed all over the country, but we are also spending on study tours,' SkenderoviÄ‡ noted.
This year, the Croatian Tourist Board decided to introduce a strong promotion program in Hungary. As SkenderoviÄ‡ claimed, the program is based upon the success of a previous large-scale campaign.
'We carried out a similar campaign in 1999,' he said. 'Back then, Croatian authorities registered a 3% increase in the number of border crossings from Hungary, which shows the effectiveness of our campaign.'
SkenderoviÄ‡ put Croatia’s planned income from tourism at €6 billion this year, 5%–6% higher than in 2004.
'Last year, nearly 5% of tourism industry income came from Hungarian travelers. That’s a high share, considering that Germany, as the main source market, generated a 20% share of last year’s income in the sector,' SkenderoviÄ‡ concluded.