Tourism plays a major role in the Croatian economy. In 2019, the direct contribution of tourism to GDP was estimated to be 11.8%, and tourism provided 91 608 direct jobs or 6.8% of total employment. Direct tourism employment was 11 385 jobs lower in 2021, seeing tourism’s share of employment fall to 5.9%.

In 2019, tourism contributed to over 68.5% of Croatia’s service exports, which decreased to 48% in 2021. Income from international tourism went from EUR 10.5 billion in 2019 to EUR 9.1 billion in 2021. This was due to a decline in international tourists, who usually contribute to 90% of visits and overnight stays in Croatia and 87% of tourism expenditure. International tourists declined 68% in 2020, and, despite a strong recovery, remained 38.7% below 2019 levels in 2021 (10.6 million tourists).

In 2020, Croatia recorded a 55.3% decline in total tourist overnight stays compared to 2019. Domestic tourism recorded 5.4 million nights in tourism-related accommodation, down 23.7%. In 2021, domestic tourism nights returned to pre-pandemic levels and international nights recovered significantly to remain just 25% below 2019 levels. 2022 preliminary results show a full recovery of the sector.

Tourism operates under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Tourism and Sport. The Ministry regularly co-operates with the Chamber of Economy, Chamber of Trades and Crafts and with professional associations in the tourism and hospitality sectors. The Croatian National Tourist Board (CNTB) reports to the Ministry and is in charge of tourism promotion.

At the regional level, 20 county administrative offices, and the city of Zagreb, have tourism departments responsible for accommodation classification and permits associated with services relating to tourism and hospitality. In addition, 280 local tourist offices in towns and municipalities develop tourist products and inform and distribute marketing materials under guidance from regional tourism offices.

The collaboration between the Ministry, other ministries, and state and private organisations in shaping common policies is extensive, including:

  • The Ministry of Finance: rights to reimbursement of fixed costs, various fees, and VAT payments.

  • The Ministry of Regional Development and EU Funds: loans and benefits for entrepreneurs and the implementation of EU operational programmes.

  • The Ministry of Labour and Pension System, Family and Social Policy: job preservation measures.

  • The Ministry of Maritime Affairs, Transport and Infrastructure: extending certificates in national navigation, concession fees and charges in ports.

  • The Ministry of Physical Planning, Construction and State Assets: renting business premises owned by Croatia.

  • Banks: loans rescheduling, liquidity and working capital loans and state guarantees.

  • The ACI Club (Croatia’s marine tourism company): fee payments in large marinas, including exemptions and instalments.

The budget of the Ministry increased from HRK 224.6 million in 2019 to HRK 399 million in 2020 and HRK 713 million in 2021. Compared to 2019, the total CNTB budget was cut by more than 50% in 2020, to HRK 150 million, and increased in 2021 to HRK 285 million. CNTB is financed through tourist taxes, membership fees and the state budget. The financial plan of the CNTB is linked to the Strategic Marketing and Operational Plan of Croatian Tourism for the period 2022-26.

Through the EU Recovery and Resilience Mechanism, EUR 292 million has been approved for Croatia. Within the sub-component of the National Recovery and Resilience Plan related to tourism, the Ministry of Tourism and Sports listed investments that contribute to the recovery, resilience and green and digital transition of tourism. 60% of the funds will be intended for entrepreneurs for direct investments in the private sector. The remaining part of the funds will be used for investments in public tourism infrastructure and strengthening human resources capacitates for resilient and sustainable tourism.

Following the impact of the pandemic, Croatia adopted a series of measures to help vulnerable sectors like tourism maintain liquidity and preserve jobs. The measures included: extending statutory deadlines; reducing and exempting payment of tourist taxes; reducing the rate for tourist board membership fees; postponing and exempting the payment of concession fees; simplifying conditions for accessing certain regulated professions in tourism (e.g. tourist guides and business agency managers); and grants, capital loans, subsidies and additional credit lines.

At the beginning of 2021, Croatia launched the national safety label Safe stay in Croatia for the tourism sector. Security protocols were prepared to meet the guidelines of the Croatian Institute of Public Health and the World Travel and Tourism Council. The website for the programme also offered information on testing points and border crossing conditions.

The pandemic recovery process is mapped out in the National Recovery and Resilience Plan (RRP) 2021-26, with HRK 2.2 billion allocated for tourism recovery.

The Plan aims to transform and modernise the tourism sector while increasing its competitiveness, sustainability and resilience by achieving the following overarching objectives:

  • Increase the resilience and sustainability of the tourism sector by supporting the green and digital transitions.

  • Contribute to the recovery of the tourism sector from the COVID-19 crisis by improving accommodation capacity and social and territorial cohesion.

  • Increase the circular economy in tourism, foster responsible consumption and increase the indirect effects of tourism.

    The RRP includes a comprehensive reform of tourism and three related investments. The envisaged reform aims to establish a comprehensive and efficient strategic, regulatory and institutional framework for managing the development of sustainable tourism.

Part of the reform is the new Sustainable Tourism Development Strategy until 2030 (see box below) and National Sustainable Tourism Development Plan until 2027, which are currently under preparation and are expected to be adopted by the end of 2022. Furthermore, a new tourism law to govern sustainable tourism development and the development of a tourism sustainable satellite account is expected by the end of 2023.

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