The Croatian tourist industry is not heading towards mass tourism, but integral development, sustainability and quality, which is why there is growing demand for Croatia, Tourism Minister Gari Cappelli told Hina in an interview. "This year we expect a 7% increase in tourism turnover over 2017 and tourism investment to increase to nearly a billion euros. This will certainly further improve service quality, in which we have been making progress every year, especially with regard to high-category hotel accommodation," Cappelli said. He said that Croatia was becoming increasingly interesting to investors, so that about 40 new or newly-renovated hotels were expected to open this year, much like last year.
The minister noted that tourism was having a great impact on the economy as a whole, as indicated by the latest report by Standard and Poor's ratings agency, which upgraded the country's credit rating, and last year's article in The Financial Times which ranked Croatia seventh among destinations with the highest potential for tourism investment.
Speaking of booking for this year, Cappelli said that early booking and high early occupancy was yet another proof of how popular Croatia was as a destination. "We are improving our position in the world, including in remote markets from where more and more tourists are coming and where we have been increasing our promotional activities, especially in Japan, China, South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and elsewhere. These markets are offering the biggest opportunities for tourism turnover growth, which is why this year we are planning to open HTZ (Croatian Tourist Board) offices in Shanghai, Seoul and Los Angeles, and possibly a consulate in Abu Dhabi, as the first step towards opening an office."
Cappelli said he also saw possibilities for further tourist trade increases and development of year-round tourism in this year's expansion of flight services to Croatia, thanks to which tourist trade was increasing already in the pre-peak season and the airports recorded increases in the number of passengers of about 20 percent in the first months of this year compared with last year.
"We are following the trends and are trying to stay abreast, and I should say, immodestly perhaps, that we are leaders in some aspects. Our eVisitor system has been globally recognised as a technological innovation for more effective monitoring of tourist numbers, for which we have received an award from the World Tourism Organisation," the minister said.
Asked if, considering the excellent announcements from world markets, he expected the problem of over tourism, Cappelli said that Croatia was developing its tourist industry on the principles of sustainability. "We are planning and developing selective forms of tourism based on full quality and destination management involving all stakeholders," he said, citing gastronomic tourism, cycling tourism, health tourism and nautical tourism. "We are encouraging tourism businesses financially and logistically to innovate their services by creating additional attractions that will draw in visitors all year round," he added.
For the first time in ten years, the Tourism Ministry, in cooperation with the sector, has embarked on thoroughly changing the three key laws governing tourist boards, tourist tax and membership fees with a view to developing the tourist industry, professionalising the system and giving greater importance and autonomy to local government.
Cappelli says that these changes are not cosmetic but seek to ensure an effective legal framework for all those concerned. In this context he recalled that Croatia had launched an initiative to establish a Tourism Fund at EU level. "It may sound unbelievable, but tourism does not have its working body within the European Commission, unlike 20 or so other sectors, and therefore it is not directly financed," he said.
The Fund would provide finance for tourism infrastructure, small and medium enterprises in the tourist sector, and training. "We have already received support from many EU members for this and we expect a large number of member states to sign the declaration to this end. We have also received an encouragement in a recent recommendation from the European Parliament to open a financial line for tourism in the next multiannual financial framework," Cappelli said.