Crystal clear and clean seas, preserved nature, cultural heritage and delicious cuisine are the four aces that make Croatia a tourism hot spot. But, with trends changing in favour of modern cities and tech-developed places that can attract attention year-round, can Croatia (which always struggled outside of summer months) keep up?
This was the burning question at the third edition of 'Can Croatian tourism 365?' conference, which this year placed a special accent on creativity and new technologies. Nine international and local experts, which included representatives of leading global tourism industries such as Bruno Walter from ITB Advisory, and James Chappell from Horwath HTL London, gathered in Zagreb's Sheraton Hotel to address, discuss and offer solutions in making year-round tourism a reality.
‘The challenge is to find hidden treasures and champions in Croatia and combine them with experience and the individuality travellers search for today’, said Bruno Walter. He added that this may not be easy, but it will be rewarding. Not only for creating year-round tourism but to reduce over-tourism as well, which will allow the travel experience to be more pleasant for visitors.
James Chappel concluded from his personal experience as a tourist in Croatia that the country is beautiful and full of potential, but the biggest challenge standing in the way is finding investments and fullfiling investors expectations. ‘Destinations need to have an infrastructure to handle year-round tourism such as airlines, accommodation and constant promotions. It all needs to be financed and comes with a certain risk.'
Panels covered everything, from observing the most successful examples like the seductive architecture of industrial, yet beautiful Spanish city Bilbao and its Guggenheim Museum, plus discussions exploring the ways new practices and things like Artificial Intelligence can entice visitors. Caroline Couret from Creative Tourism Network said that creative tourism relies on human values and authenticity while AI is needed to process the data happening in tourism. ‘There has never been more information, contacts to establish and decisions to make as today. Artificial Intelligence is the only way to address these challenges’.
The conference was warm and friendly, with a lot of jokes from the panellists which were at the edge of controversy. But, they managed to catch the attention of the participants and get a reaction.
Stands in the lobby showcasing Croatian cosmetics, wines, and many more tourist products and offers, prove that big steps have already been taken and all that’s left to do is continue walking. ‘The goal is to extend the season on the coast and to develop new destinations in continental regions, as well as upgrade already developed sites’ said Ivana Kolar, who went on to say that achieving a high quality of service, new creative products, vision and unity are a must for the people in the industry.