Text: Žikica Milošević
When everything fails, call tourism for help. Of course, this is a mantra for countries that don’t have perfectly stable revenue sources like Greece or Turkey. Even Dubai or Qatar have nothing against making a buck for the state budget from the most propulsive global industry. In Croatia, tourism is experiencing a new dawn that is going to be even brighter.
It is not unusual that a country that has one of the longest and the most indented coasts in the warm Mediterranean, generates a huge amount of money for the state budget from tourism, especially the coastal one. With a myriad of historical cities, beautiful nature and nature parks, Croatia has a lot to offer. Zagreb is already positioning itself as a tourist destination as opposed to the overcrowded Prague, while INmusic Festival is becoming a fierce competitor to the Sziget Festival in Hungary or EXIT in Novi Sad. Thousands and thousands of people flock to the Croatian capital city in order to get to know it better.
FROM HUMBLE BEGINNINGS TO HIGH FLYERS
It all started with the Romans, of course, or rather when the Romans decided to slowly but surely move from Italy, i.e. from one long Adriatic coast to another. Some, who originated from this side of the Adriatic, became patrons of the Croatian coast like the Roman emperor Diocletian who built a palace here. Later on, the relics of the saints were worshiped here, and even Shakespeare placed his play the Twelfth Night in a land called Illyrium, igniting the imagination of the British readers about a distant land. Later, the British fell in love with Dalmatians, dogs from a faraway country, while the Austrians first started to visit Opatija and Istria, which they considered their “Austrian coast”, and later the rest of the country. Finally, after the mass Yugoslav socialist tourism, came the Czechs and the Germans, the Hungarians and the Italians, the Poles and the people from faraway lands, with the Serbs slowly returning too. Today, Croatia is one of the most visited countries in the Mediterranean after a sharp decline in visits to Islamic countries. The slogan, which Croatia uses to presents itself on the international tourism stage, is ‘Croatia, Full of Life’. And it really is!
Lonely Planet declared Croatia the best tourist destination in 2005, while National Geographic Adventure magazine declared the country the best destination in 2006. Reuters reported that Travel Leaders, the leading travel sales company in the United States, has declared Croatia a top international destination in Europe in 2012. According to the Google analytics data and the research conducted by the teflSearch website, where, in 2015, people from 80 countries voted for their holiday preferences, Croatia recorded the the highest percentage of searches (2.71%), making it the most desirable holiday country in the world in 2015 and 2016. We can assume that The Game of Thrones, which was partly filmed in Croatia, played a major role in this.
SMALL SCALE TOURISM
But tourism in Croatia is not as massive as it is in other countries, which is quite unintentional, but great for Croatia. Since contemporary tourist trends do not encourage staying at big hotels, like the ones that were built in the socialist era, but are rather promoting individualism, most of the accommodation now is in private facilities. Therefore, most of the overnight stays are spent in private accommodation (34%), followed by hotels (26%). The Mediterranean as it once was, to quote another slogan. The Mediterranean without accommodation on a massive scale, as it used to be.
NUMBERS, MORE NUMBERS!
Official websites say the following: according to the eVisitor system, which contains data on the number of tourist stays in commercial and non-commercial facilities, and the nautical charter (eCrew system), during the first six months of 2017, Croatia recorded 5.7 million arrivals and 22.9 million overnight stays. Compared to the same period in 2016, this is a 22 percent hike in arrivals and a 23 percent hike in overnight stays in 2017, which was a record year in the history of Croatian tourism. Although the Germans still frequent Croatia the most, particularly Istria and Kvarner, Slovenians and Austrians are right behind while the British take the fourth place, just ahead of the Poles. The number of tourists from non-traditional countries, such as Brazil, Iceland, South Korea, China, Turkey or Finland, is growing, which shows that the world is becoming increasingly globalized, and that financial power is transferred elsewhere.
All in all, year after year, Croatia has been breaking record after record. Some tourist magazines are warning that you should avoid going to Dubrovnik this year because it is going to be swarmed with millions of fans of The Game of Thrones. Hvar decided to raise the standard, so to speak, with a series of bans, which just tells us that Croatia has become a superstar of global tourism and that not only tourists pick Croatia, but now Croatia picks tourists too.