Croatian tourism in the times of pandemic. About the tourist season, assistance for the industry and plans for the future

dr Agnieszka Puszczewicz
translated by FISW

The unexpected COVID-19 pandemic caused chaos in all branches of the world economy. However, tourism is the one that has been most affected by it. For Croatia, which, according to estimates, about 18% of its GDP tourism, this was and still is a big challenge.

Split, Croatia. Source: Spencer Davis, Unsplash.

 

From the very beginning, the Croatian government has approached the topic very responsibly. Thanks to decisions  taken quickly in the epidemiological sphere and putting the health safety of the citizens first, the epidemic was successfully halted.

The measures for the economy was also quickly implemented. On 17th March 2020 the Government of the Republic of Croatia adopted a package of 63 measures for the economy. Their main goal was to preserve jobs and to pay wages. All solutions were agreed with trade associations and trade unions.

One of the instruments was the deferral of all charges to the State in the form of social security contributions and taxes for 3 months. As for the companies’ liquidity, the governmental aid was applied in the form of: a moratorium on liabilities towards the Croatian Bank for Reconstruction and Development (Croatian: HBOR). The next step was to mobilise HRK 114 million (around EUR 15 million) for trading capital for micro and small enterprises through the financial instrument “ESIF Microloans” (up to EUR 25 000). And thanks to the aid from European funds, the ‘Corona Credit’, a new financial instrument of HRK 380 million (about EUR 50 million), was also introduced, which was used by small and medium-sized enterprises to raise trading capital.

The introduction of interest-free loans to municipal districts, towns and counties, the Croatian Health Insurance Fund (HZZO) and the Croatian Pension Insurance Institute (HZMO) up to the amount of income taxes, allowances and contributions which has been deferred and/or instalments are approved was also announced.

As far as the tourism industry is concerned, along the above mentioned support for entrepreneurs, there was also:

  • Deferred payment of membership fees to tour operators and private tenants;
  • Deferment of payment of tourist tax for private tenants (inclusive rate);
  • Trading capital financing programmes and liquidity improvement for weaker tourist entrepreneurs were introduced;
  • The deadline for payment of the concession fee for tourist land in campsites has been postponed;
  • A number of minor solutions such as special transport charges and a reduction in the price of motorway tolls.

It is worth noting at this point that aid for tourism, as a strategic industry for the Croatian state, has been extended.

An important step was the introduction of a dynamic plan for lifting restrictions and opening borders. By decision of the National Civil Protection Headquarters of the Republic of Croatia, the state borders were partially opened on 9 May 2020. Persons coming to Croatia for business purposes, for work or for important personal reasons were entitled to cross the borders. In addition, a document confirming the purpose of entry had to be presented to the border services. Persons in these categories were exempt from quarantine, but had to comply with the epidemiological rules of the country. This was also the first stage of opening up to tourism.

The Croatian Government’s decision of 28 May 2020 introduced facilitations for 10 EU Member States, including Poland. This has really contributed to increasing the number of guests who wanted to spend their time in Croatia.

Out of concern of  comfort and safety of guests, the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Tourism of the Republic of Croatia have prepared a special online application EnterCroatia, which helps to collect epidemiological data from guests. Using it before departure is not obligatory, but it significantly speeds up border procedures. The application is also available in Polish.

The last weeks in the Croatian tourism industry have been a time of intensive preparations for the start of the 2020 tourism season, as well as adaptation to new circumstances. Croats are very responsible in this situation. The Croatian Institute of Public Health has published a number of guidelines and recommendations on epidemiological safety in public facilities as well as the entire infrastructure that will be used by visitors. These recommendations are mainly based on keeping a social distance and disinfection. However, special emphasis should be placed on social responsibility. Scientists predict that COVID-19 will stay with us for longer. It should be remembered that the development of the pandemic does not only depend on the measures introduced in Croatia, but also on the general epidemiological situation in Europe and worldwide.

According to the forecasts of the Ministry of Tourism of the Republic of Croatia, in the tourist season 2020 Croatia will be visited by about 30% of the number of visitors compared to 2019, which was a record year in this respect with almost 21 million tourists from around the world.

The Croatian National Tourist Board, as the institution responsible for the promotion of Croatian tourism in the world, maintained contact with Croatian well-wishers throughout the pandemic. In April it started a marketing campaign marked with the hastag #CroatiaLongDistanceLove. It was dedicated to millions of social media users in the world with a key message: “Croatia is now in your home!“. The message was addressed to all those who had already visited Croatia, as well as those who had not yet done so. The action included attractive video materials and photographs as well as various curiosities. Guests could virtually walk around Dubrovnik, take part in rafting on the Zrmanja River or take a cruise to Kornati National Park. They could also get acquainted with the offer of continental Croatia, see how traditional dishes are prepared, discover places where popular films and series were shot, and learn about intriguing Croatian legends. Thanks to this action, Croatia was available literally with one click. The Polish continuation of the #CroatiaLongDistanceLove campaign was attended by well-known and liked journalists who talked about their memories from Croatia.

At the end of May, the Croatian National Tourist Board launched a “call to action” campaign with the motto: “The Vacation You Deserve Is Closer Than You Think”, which started in key European markets. The platform “EnjoyTheViewFromCroatia” was also created, which can be used not only by our guests but also by the Croatian tourism industry representatives to promote their activities.

Croatia is waiting for its guests like every year. I sincerely hope that, as in previous years, Poles will again be happy to come to their favorite places by the Adriatic Sea. It remains for us to believe that the COVID-19 will not thwart these plans.

Warsaw, 30 June 2020