It’s a great challenge to record strong tourism growth year-on-year, but we think that we can succeed in that. Although Croatia is a relatively small country, we offer a lot of diversity and that’s our advantage. Along with a stronger promotion and the synergy between public and private sector, we are confident that we can succeed.
Croatia has all the prerequisites to be one of the top tourist countries in the world, says Kristijan Staničić, director of the Croatian Tourist Board (HTZ). But to make that happen, the country has to constantly improve its tourist offer because the times when tourists only wanted a comfortable bed, good food and beautiful sea have long passed.
Are you satisfied with this year’s tourist season?
We base our satisfaction with this year’s tourist season on the facts which undoubtedly confirm the importance of tourism for the entire economy of our country. This year, in the segment of tourist traffic, we have been growing at a 5-7 percent rate, which is an excellent result, as growth forecasts for the whole of Europe were set at about 2-3 percent. Outstanding results are also recorded in the revenue segment, i.e. the foreign tourist consumption, which amounted to 3 billion euro in the first six months of this year, which is a 10 percent growth, or 276 million euro more than in the same period last year. Many good investments have also been realized, and we expect their growth next year too, when over 1 billion euro worth of investments should be realized. In the Croatian tourist community, we are continuing to implement key promotional activities and strategies to further bolster the Croatian tourist brand.
2. Could you describe for us an average foreign tourist in Croatia? Do they fit your desirable tourist profile?
A few years back, it was middle-aged and senior tourists that were the most prevalent in the structure of our guests. Today the situation is significantly different, i.e. the Croatian destination offer has been increasingly attracting other tourist profiles as well. This is also validated by the data from the TOMAS research that we conducted in cooperation with the Tourism Institute. According to the collated data, most tourists, namely 54 percent of them, are between the ages of 30 and 49, 19 percent are under the age of 30, while 27 percent of the tourists are 50 or older. As our year-round offer is becoming more diversified, this attracts a much wider spectrum of guests. Perhaps this is best illustrated by the present status of Croatia as the host country of many prominent and globally famous festivals that mostly attract younger traveling enthusiasts. We will certainly continue to promote the various segments of our offer, from cultural, active, nautical and health tourism to eno-gastronomy and business travel.
3. You have already said that 2019 would be a challenging year for tourism. What are your biggest concerns?
Every new year is challenging, especially when you want to keep up the positive growth trends you’ve successfully realized over the past years. It is not easy to achieve tourism growth five or more years in a row. Nevertheless, we believe that we can do this because one of our main goals in the coming period will be to occupy new or strengthen the existing positions in distant markets such as China, Korea and America. We will have to face the competition with a much stronger promotion, and a stronger synergy between the private and public sectors. The key will be to achieve a higher level of tourist satisfaction, which is a prerequisite for positive references and continuing to build a stronger and more stable image of an attractive tourist destination that offers a number of reasons to visit it for the first time, or to return to one of our beautiful destinations.
4. Should Croatia maybe be a more exclusive destination, or more expensive, or cheaper, or maybe more appealing to a larger number of tourists?
Our country is known for a variety of accomodation types and a quite extensive and diverse offer of destinations where everyone can find something they like. Although Croatia is a relatively small country, we offer a lot of diversity and that’s our advantage. Luxury holidays are a very narrow market segment that is also quite demanding. We are very pleased with the fact that certain destinations like Dubrovnik, Rovinj, Zagreb, Split and even islands like Mali Lošinj and Hvar have an offer that is concomitant of the strictest market and luxury requirements.
6. How important is a strong diversification and growing number of tourists from what used to be uncharacteristic countries for Croatia’s promotion and its image? What is your approach to promotion in such markets?
Most of the tourist traffic in Croatia, close to 90 percent, is generated by tourists from Europe. The USA is our strongest, non-European market, and so far this year, we had close to 600,000 arrivals and 1.6 million overnight stays of American tourists with the USA occupying the 14th place on the list of our top tourist markets in terms of traffic. Our long-term strategic goal is to bolster the traffic generated by tourists from distant markets and there are several reasons for this.
Firstly, these are tourists who travel most often in the pre- and post-season, which excellently ties in with one of the key goals of Croatian tourism – extending the tourist season. Secondly, these tourists are very good consumers. According to the relevant data, American tourists spend about 168 euro a day which makes them the top spenders. Thirdly, countries like the United States, China or Korea have a large number of people willing to travel to faraway Europe, and that is where we see an opportunity for us. We opened our office in Shanghai, China, in early November this year. We are currently in the process of opening our office in Seoul, South Korea too, and we are planning to open an additional office in Los Angeles, the United States, in the first half of next year, which will, along with the existing office in New York, have the task of working on even better positioning of our country as an attractive tourist destination.
7. Which factors determine the popularity of a tourist destination?
The best thing to do is to have a rounded-off offer and it all starts with a quality offer of destinations and services. Also, you have to have a good promotional strategy that has to closely follow the offer and the products that a particular destination can deliver to its guests. In all of these processes, it is important to properly address your target group, use contemporary promotional tools, and devise innovative and original activities. You can see and hear a plethora of various promotional messages and information today which is why it’s important for the message to stand out because it should be appealing enough to attract and keep the attention, i.e. to incite a potential consumer to action. Also, there are many segments that we cannot directly influence but also have a strong impact on the market status of a certain destination.
8. Your said that you would like to see Croatia in the top 20 tourist destinations in the world. Is that achievable?
I was referring to the Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report which includes a list of countries rated by different segments, and which, besides tourism, also include other sectors such as health, finance, infrastructure, security etc. In order to be better ranked on this list, we must maintain a strong interdepartmental cooperation and jointly improve those rating segments that we can. Croatia has all the prerequisites to be one of the top tourist countries in the world and we are approaching that goal.
5. Young people are described today as digital nomads that are constantly on the move. How much has the tourist profile changed and how different are the young tourists that come to Croatia today from those in the past?
Global trends point to the need for continous monitoring of the needs of the Generation Y, born in 1981 and later. It is important for the Croatian tourism that the Generation Y tourist segment keeps growing with the current share of 38 percent.
These are young people who like to explore, travel to destinations they have not visited before, and during their stay in a country, they often visit several cities and towns. Also, they are good consumers who know exactly what they want to experience during their stay, they are very well informed, and share their experiences and advice with others. In general, we can conclude that the times, when all that tourists wanted was good accommodation in a hotel, camp or an apartment, and a good place on the beach for swimming and sunbathing, have long since passed. Today, emphasis is on content, experience and quality. Our guests want and look for more, and all the results so far have shown that Croatian tourism is keeping up with all current trends.