The “catastrophic state of bookings" and greatly exaggerated news that Croatia is facing a poor tourist season has dominated the front pages for the past few weeks. This pessimist mood has washed over the country, however according to a report on the specialised financial website novac.hr there is no cause for panic.
It’s true we have heard stories of lower tourist numbers and a supposed bad tourist season for years. And there is always some excuse, such as bad weather, rising competition, high prices and lack of organisation. However, these bombastic headlines are as fleeting as an ice-cream in the August sunshine, and when the time comes to count the numbers and the financial benefits the headlines die down as the real figures show another year of growth.
And whilst around 17 percent of Croatia’s GDP comes directly or indirectly from the tourism industry, that also means that 83 percent comes from other businesses. With more than four-fifths of Croatia’s economic income coming from other sources the tourism industry is of course important, but a little reality is also needed.
Crisis, what crisis!
And in spite of the predictions of a disastrous tourist season this year it is important to bear a few facts in mind before jumping to the wrong conclusions. Since 1995 Croatia’s tourism industry has pretty much recorded a growth in every year. Only twice, in 1999 due to the NATO bombings of Serbia, and then in 2009 thanks to the world recession, has the country actually seen a drop in tourism. And it has to be added that in 2009 the drop was only by 1.4 percent. This is clearly an industry that is very robust and strong and more than able to deal with bumps along the road.
And it isn’t only tourism numbers that have increased. More importantly revenue from tourism has also increased. Over the past 18 years’ revenue from tourism has increased by a massive 3.3 times, from 3 billion Euro in 2000 to 10 billion Euro in 2018.
And it’s the months outside of the main tourist season that are one of the driving forces for such growth. From 2013 to 2018 the number of overnight stays in Croatia jumped by 39 percent and the highest percentage increase in that period was achieved in the off-season.
So how is this year really progressing? According to data from the first six months of this year growth is continuing: tourist arrivals increased by six percent and overnight stays by three percent compared to the same period from last year.
So why the panic?
According to the article in novac.hr the main reason for the scratching of heads and cries of “it’s a terrible season” is the fact that the number of apartments has exploded in recent years. Figures from the Croatian Tourist Board show that from 2016 to 2019 an extra 650,000 beds have been added. Over the same time period the number of beds in hotels increased by less than six thousand. And this is basically the crux of the matter. These extra beds in private accommodation aren’t filling as quickly as their owners would like. Is that a crisis? Do all the apartments have to be filled, should everyone who has a private apartment be secure in receiving a guaranteed income?