Kristjan Staničić, Director of the Croatian Tourist Board: Croatia – quality and safe tourist destination

The global coronavirus pandemic brought many changes to the lives of people worldwide, and it was also reflected in all the areas of activity, among which one of the most impacted fields is precisely tourism. Until two months ago, it was hard to imagine that there would be any tourist traffic in the country, and today we have over half a million tourist stays in the country every day, which makes us one of the few countries in the Mediterranean that currently has tourist traffic, and it’s getting more intense by the week, stated the Director of the umbrella tourist institution in the country, Kristjan Staničić, for our magazine.

1. We are living with COVID 19 and it seems to me that we are adjusting to new circumstances. We also know that tourism was impacted by the crisis the most. According to the latest data you have, even though they are changing on a daily basis, how many arrivals and overnight stays were recorded by now in Croatia?

From the beginning of the year to the middle of July, there were about 2.6 million arrivals in Croatia and more than 14 million overnight stays, which is about 37 percent of last year’s result measured by overnight stays in the same period. When we talk about foreign markets, most of our guests come from Germany, Slovenia, Austria, the Czech Republic, Poland and Italy, and we also notice an increase in the share of domestic guests in the total result. Given the circumstances, we can be satisfied with the current tourist traffic, which is in line with our estimates and forecasts.

2. How many arrivals and what income do you expect in these key summer months and how big of a drop would it be compared to last year?

Since the global epidemiological situation is changing every day, it is rather ungrateful to give forecasts about tourist trends in the upcoming period. However, the fact is that tourist flows have started and that people have started to travel in accordance with the new circumstances. From the very beginning of the global pandemic, we emphasized that the overall tourist result this year will mostly depend on the results we achieve in this main part of the season, i.e. in July, August and September. This is the period of the year when most tourists stay in Croatian destinations, i.e. when we record about 60 percent of the total tourist traffic. We will remain within the estimates from the beginning of the year of achieving about 30 percent of last year’s record-breaking result, which would be a great success. We hope that we will achieve good results in the off-season, especially in the second half of September and October, during which we could achieve a result much better than a third of the turnover from the same period last year. Of course, everything will depend on further development of the situation, both in Croatia and at the European and global level. For now, we are satisfied with the market position we have taken as a quality and safe tourist destination.

3. HTZ initiated several interesting campaigns in the new situation. What are these campaigns and for who are they intended?

From the very beginning of the pandemic, our communication was very intense, with different contents and messages. In the midst of the pandemic, when promotional campaigns and other activities were stopped, we maintained Croatia’s visibility in foreign markets primarily through activities on social networks, while at the moment some intensive promotional campaigns are underway in our key European inbound markets, and this will last until the end of August. In the markets that see Croatia as a road trip destination, we advertise through the campaign titled “The vacation you deserve is closer than you think”, and we can already see its results from the number of arrivals of guests from Germany, Slovenia, Austria, Czech Republic, Poland and others. In distant, primarily non-European markets, we promote our offer via the communication platform “Enjoy the view from Croatia“, which is based on content placement on Instagram platform and advertising of the same. Throughout the year, we will also maintain intensive advertising on Google search in a large number of foreign markets, given that the phase of searching for inspiration for travel is one of the key moments when we can provide the user with adequate information. We also initiated a brand campaign on the domestic market in order to encourage as many domestic guests as possible to spend a well-deserved vacation in Croatia, and in the fall we plan to launch a campaign titled “A week worth of vacation” (Tjedan odmora vrijedan) which refers to the domestic market, and its goal is to extend the tourist season through the placement of favourable offers for accommodation and other tourist services, which will make traveling around Croatia even more accessible and attractive to the local population.

4. How much more difficult is the work of local tourist boards and how much do they help each other out in the new circumstances? How big is the difference in the number of visits between different parts of the country?

Aware of the degree to which the global coronavirus pandemic has had an adverse effect on tourism, and thus on Croatian destinations and the system of tourist communities, as the a responsible institution in charge of promoting Croatian tourism worldwide, we initiated some the amendments to the Annual Work Program and Financial Plan, therefore, among other things, the new plan has provided funding for joint promotional activities that we will carry out in cooperation with tourist boards of the counties. We also regularly informed the entire system about the situation on the markets, and we also suggested certain financial changes on the expenditure side of the budget in order to provide liquidity for tourist boards. I believe that if we join forces, we can reach creative and adequate solutions aimed at promoting Croatian tourism and strengthening the entire tourism sector. Regarding the analysis of results by tourist regions, we notice that traffic is most intense in the regions of Istria and Kvarner during June and July, which was certainly contributed by the proximity of key European markets and good transport links by road. As the first more intensive airlines started operating in July, which will operate during August and September as well, we notice that tourist traffic in the destinations of central and southern Dalmatia is getting stronger as well.

5. Which branches of tourism industry do you see as the ones that will feel the crisis the least?

At this moment, most wanted on the market is the accommodation in rural tourist households and campsites, whose concept facilitates the compliance with epidemiological measures, and we also noticed a growth in demand for higher category hotels since we are at the peak of summer season. By looking at tourism products, for the same reasons, the most sought after are the products such as nautical and active tourism, precisely because they can provide guests with a much-needed sense of security in these times. Nautical tourism is even more important if we keep in mind the fact that the average consumption of yachtsmen is significantly higher than that of “other” guests. It is clear that this is a segment of Croatian tourist offer that should be intensively promoted and used as one of the basic image attributes within the framework of national communication strategy. For this reason, we put nautics, along with other tourist products, in the focus of our promotional activities, i.e. campaigns that we initiated in early June in seven key European markets, including, for example, Germany, Slovenia, Austria, Czech Republic, Poland and others, and we are conducting the campaign in additional markets such as Italy, France, the Netherlands, Belgium and others, until the end of August.

6. How do you estimate the competition’s offer in the Mediterranean, and what are the main trump cards of Croatian tourism compared to them?

In these market conditions, our greatest comparative advantage is Croatia’s availability for road trips from Europe’s large inbound markets, as well as the diverse structure of accommodation capacities, preserved nature and a satisfactory epidemiological situation. We have the upper hand against our competition, especially if we take a look at the situation in Italy, Spain, Portugal or France, but also against Greece or Turkey, which are primarily flight destinations.

7. What do you think are the challenges of the period ahead and what we should pay attention to in our plans for the next year, if they are possible?

The global coronavirus pandemic initiated an entirely new market game, and in further processes, the upcoming years will be crucial, with emphasis on the year 2021. We are already working on projects and activities that will ensure our visibility and good tourist results in the next year. For example, we appear intensively at online fairs with an emphasis on the Chinese market, which will definitely play an important role in global tourism trends in the future. Final negotiations are underway for us to become a partner country of one of the most important tourism fairs in Europe next year. We are ready for joint promotional activities with partners, agencies, tour operators and airlines, which we invite to cooperate with us this year and especially next year, and there is great interest in this. We will strongly focus our activities on digital marketing and targeted presentations, and since we expect the growth of domestic tourism in the overall result in the future, we also plan stronger promotion of tourism and special tourism projects intended for domestic guests.