CROATIA-SPAIN TOURISM

Tourism

The development of tourism between Croatia and Spain has not only increased the earnings income exchange and enhanced our trade relations, but it is certainly one of the pillars of the bridge that gets together two seemingly different cultures but drenched by the Mediterranean Sea.

The development of tourism between Croatia and Spain has not only increased the earnings income exchange and enhanced our trade relations, but it is certainly one of the pillars of the bridge that gets together two seemingly different cultures but drenched by the Mediterranean Sea.

Regarding to economic performance, despite the current economic climate, the tourist business (which in 2008 supposed to Croatia 6,000 million €- 21% of its GDP) is set as one of the most profitable sectors. Since its origins, tourism in Croatia had a predominance of German, Italian and Slovenian travelers, but recent trends show a growing interest from the Spanish visitors, especially along the Adriatic coast.

Regarding to economic performance, despite the current economic climate, the tourist business (which in 2008 supposed to Croatia 6,000 million €- 21% of its GDP) is set as one of the most profitable sectors. Since its origins, tourism in Croatia had a predominance of German, Italian and Slovenian travelers, but recent trends show a growing interest from the Spanish visitors, especially along the Adriatic coast.

Zagreb, the little Vienna

Zagreb is the capital of barely a million inhabitants. The city has experienced in recent years a spectacular growth in structures and a significant upgrade. Today, this small metropolis considered by many as a “miniature Vienna”, has first class hotels, restaurants offering increasingly sophisticated dishes and a cosmopolitan cultural offer that has little to envy to others European cities.

One of the advantages and surprises that foreigners who visit Zagreb and the Croatian coast find is the ease of the Croats to make themselves understood in other languages.

Being aware of speaking a minority language, the Croats have learned to properly understand English, Italian, German and even Spanish. Another pleasant charm is the size of Zagreb, a city in which visitors can go walking practically anywhere.

The historical legacy of the remarkable Austro-Hungarian Empire heritage manifests itself in the old Viennese-style buildings (museums or art galleries). This style is combined with a somewhat decadent, but always attractive, “wrapped” in greenery and surrounded by trees along its avenues and leafy parks. Last generation trams, Croatian manufacturing, quietly trip across the city while the best international companies in technology, finance, fashion and cosmetics, are a constant highlight on the streets sidewalks.

In short, Croatia and Zagreb now broadcast the image of a society ready for the EU membership, a fact repeatedly postponed because of the aftermath and consequences of the war that ravaged the Balkans in 1991.

Natural beauty


The absence of sandy beaches on the Adriatic coast is, at first, a small disappointment for Spanish tourists (unless they visit the Makasrska Riviera, 60 kilometers from Split and 140 from Dubrovnik). This fact is compensated by the amazing beauty of the rest of the coast of Dalmatia, with an extraordinary historical legacy obvious in the rising towns on the islands, the pristine water only comparable to the Caribbean, and the favorable conditions for recreational boating. This activity is set in fifty ports for this type of vessels, although the number of yachts that concur (some are large) would need this number to be increased, especially considering mid-size ships, which dock at the fashion islands as Korcula, Hvar and Trogir or in cities like Split or Dubrovnik, sometimes becomes an adventure.

Another attraction of Croatia is the nature reserves that occupy almost 9 percent of the land and includes different types of environmental protection: nine National Parks and eight Nature Reserves. The National Parks of Paklenica, Velebit North and Risnjak are located in mountains and forest. The 16 Plitvice lakes interconnected by numerous and beautiful waterfalls were proclaimed Natural Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1979. Among the Nature Reserves of the islands, Brijuni islands of Kornati (in Istria) and the island of Mljet, are the most important ones.

Spain discovers Croatia

The positive effects of tourism boom and the interest for the Spanish tourists in Croatia started in 2006, establishing low cost flight lines between Barcelona and Dubrovnik. Later, in June 2008, a direct flight Madrid- Dubrovnik operated by Iberia was opened. Between June and September of that year the new line carried 13,000 passengers. Following this event, in 2009 Iberia not only renewed these flights, but, it also opened a new service between Madrid and Zagreb with two weekly flights, which was expected to carry 5,000 passengers.

These news were announced by officials of Iberia in Fitur (Tourism International Fair celebrated every year in Madrid) and which will undoubtedly improve the trade relations between both countries.

According to the Spanish embassy in Zagreb, Spanish investment in Croatia was 31.6 million euros until September 2007 and in the coming years will be increased. In the last decade, Spanish investments have grown considerably, and although the tourism sector led by the Sol Melia group (followed by the groups Riu, Iberostar and Marina D’Or) was the most important, it has also been joined by other economic sectors as the renewable energy Acciona Energía, which has spent seven years investing in projects in Croatia, mainly in wind farms. Clothing firms like Inditex (Zara), Mango, Cortefiel or Cristian Lay, and equipment as Rock or Egasa Group, have a significant presence as well.

Transmadrid, promoter of the Croatian tourist potential

Knowing the great opportunities offered by the Adriatic coast (natural beauty, opportunities for hotel management, practically virgin islands), and encouraged by the growth of touristic interest in Croatia, in 1988, Transmadrid organized a series of meetings and trips between major tour operators Croats and some Spanish businessmen to present the beauty of the Dalmatian coast.

However, awareness by the hotel and Spanish tourism companies to investment opportunities offered by the Adriatic coast do not crystallized until the war was ended and the disintegration of Yugoslavia happened (1996). In May 1997, the CEO of Transmadrid again emphasized the need and opportunities a collaboration between both countries would bring in the area of tourism and launches a report which develops the following:

  1. Croatia and Spain are two destinations with the same appeal: the Mediterranean.
  2. The geographical, cultural and traditions are complementary.
  3. The tendency to discover new destinations, meet new environments, but always looking for destinations that will make them feel at home, and the habit of spending, defines the Spanish touristic consumer profile.
  4. LThe policy of the major hotel chains and tour operators consist on expand its offering from Spain to new destinations, in order to preserve the share of tourists conquered and accustomed to a certain level.
  5. The Spanish great experience as a tourist destination.
  6. The interest the big chains like Sol Melia are showing, aiming to raise the level of services and address of the hotels on the Adriatic, to incorporate them into its global supply.
  7. From the Croatian perspective there is no doubt that for the full development of its tourism, as well as investment and good intentions other factors are needed. They are aware that they must raise their hotels, improve the quality of their services and make a strong and professional advertising investment.
  8. Spanish tourism is becoming increasingly international and the tendency for tour operators is to include more and more destinations including the Caribbean, Africa, North America, Central Europe and Russia. Not to mention the flow of more than 50 million tourists who visit Spain each year and receive information about other destinations as well.
  9. Inaugurating a regular Zagreb-Madrid line would mean a boost to the opening of Croatia not only as a destination for Spanish tourists, but as a possibility to host a Croatians abroad.
  10. Barcelona is emerging as a major airport also taking into account the ability of Catalonia as tourist sender and Dubrovnik as an emblem of the Croatian tourism.
  11. Regarding to the new line of Croatia Airlines as the many natural wealth of Croatia, great efforts should be made on investment and promotion.
  12. The promotional campaign has to be continuously and systematically articulated and not only occasionally because, otherwise, Croatia will not stand out in the variety of offers that appear on the market.
  13. Looking for links of interest and compensation with the relevant media, which includes invitations to stay to journalists to visit Croatia, as well as collaboration with the great Spanish tour operators, seemed the most successful way to promote this project.
  14. An emotional and romantic promotion about attractions of Croatia or waiting for the market to take into account the misfortunes of the post-war can only lead Croatia to the periphery of the tourism market.

These arguments were made by Transmadrid with concrete proposals to the Chamber of Commerce in Croatia, Croatia Airlines, the Croat Tourism Association and also to the Sol Meliá Group in the sense to enable them to build, invest and manage hotels on the Adriatic.

Dubrovnik

The latest estimations of all tourist destinations in Croatia point out Dubrovnik as still the preferred destination for all the tourists and also for the Spanish. The most beautiful city on the Adriatic receives 100,000 Spanish visitors. In cafes and bars dotted Stradun, the main street of Old Ragusa, lined with palaces Renaissance and Baroque, the most often heard language is Spanish.

Dubrovnik, the beautiful old city-state, practically independent from 1,205, is the eternal rival of Venetia. This beautiful city is surrounded by a wall of almost 2 km in circumference and 25 meters high which offers fantastic views of the emerald sea from its 16 towers defense, acting as a magnet to those who visit Croatia. Busy streets, restaurants with real Mediterranean cuisine, museums, concerts in palaces, and plays represented in its historical and summer festivals in unique outdoor settings, are complemented by the its people character, who are affable, theatrical and yet indifferent to the splendor of the city . An art practiced by dubrovnians for centuries: diplomacy.

According to the latest estimates of the WEF (World Economic Forum), Croatia is ranked 11 for its wealth and cultural heritage, descending, however, at 40, when it comes to assess its ability to exploit the environment.

Everybody knows that the star of Croatian destinations is Dubrovnik, as well as the advantages offered by this beautiful medieval city. It is necessary to correct the possible weaknesses that remain and can be summarized as: the unfinished process of privatization of hotel operations, inadequate infrastructure in roads and streets, too high prices and shortages of professional staff in the tourism sector. These, at least, were the conclusions of the Programme of development of the City of Dubrovnik until 2020, a study by a consortium of several companies and public institutions of Dubrovnik in Croatia.

In 2006, Transmadrid found a project funded by the BERD. The main purpose of the submission to the contest was to develop a feasibility study that could address the traffic problem that is seriously damaging the image of the city. Transmadrid organized a consortium of Spanish and Croatian partners. In autumn 2007, the consortium won the international competition with the proposal to develop a sustainable strategy for transport in Dubrovnik.

To achieve elite tourism, Dubrovnik should accelerate its infrastructure and, in addition to offering its internationally renowned Summer festivals and good food, the number of shipping lines, the problem of traffic, road, rail and air transport (probably building a new airport less dependent on weather conditions) and solve the lack of rail should be improved. The construction of a golf course whose project was presented in 2007 and includes a new luxury hotel complex with 1,800 beds is also needed.

Becoming a top destination in the tourism industry depends sometimes on fashions. To stay in this position requires effort and investment in new equipment, and humility to improve day by day according to international quality parameters. Dubrovnik deserves it and we hope it succeeds.