Dear Minister, how do you welcome tourists in Croatia?
Anton Kliman: Welcome to a Land Full of Wonders, Full of Beauties, Full of Life.
What is the special charm of Croatia?
Anton Kliman: Croatia is one of the rare destinations that can be commended for being so diverse and yet so small. It is at the same time a mediterranean and a continental destination. With rich cultural and historical heritage, so much natural beauty, places where you can enjoy yourself and get lost in a sea of people, but also beautiful places which you can enjoy by yourself in peace. And what is most interesting, all of this can be found within one, two or three hours driving distance and sometimes even less.
What are your favorite spots, beaches and festivals in Croatia?
Anton Kliman: There are so many interesting spots in Croatia that even I can sometimes get surprised of by how much interesting and beautiful things you can find in this country. But, if I would have to choose, it would be my home region of Istria. I have many fond memories of its beaches, towns, hidden spots and many different festivals.
What is your personal hint to the foreign visitors in Croatia? What should nobody miss when visiting your country?
Kliman: Croatia is not only a “sun, sea and beach” destination. Although Croatia is mostly visited during the summer months, I would also like to invite our guests to visit us during other periods of the year as there are so many things to see and experience in Croatia. Croatia has eight national parks, eleven nature parks, seven UNESCO world heritage sites, prehistorical sites, ancient and medieval towns and cities, rich and diverse gastronomy and much more. I would recommend any of our guests to explore and to find their own piece of paradise in Croatia.
How you say “Enjoy your meal!” in Croatian and what local dishes would you personally offer to a friend and visitor?
Anton Kliman: “Dobar tek”! Croatia during its rich history has been a crossroad for North and South, East and West. This shaped our culture, nature and traditions and is represented in our gastronomic variety, in a way that everyone can find something according to their liking. I am very glad to say as Croatia has been becoming globally more recognized and popular as a destination, so has our gastronomy been acknowledged and praised. If somebody was a fan of lighter cuisine I would definitely recommend our local and traditional Mediterranean dishes and wine on the coast. If somebody would like a richer meal, our continental cuisine can, I guarantee, satisfy every need.
When is the nicest time in a year to visit Croatia?
Anton Kliman: It depends on the preference of the visitor. Croatia is most lively from June to October, but there are also things to see during the whole year. Outside the peak season there are natural beauties you can explore more personally and enjoy it from a different perspective. You can embed yourself more easily with local life and culture. During the summer months there are numerous offers for all kinds of wishes and desires, and, of course, more than 1000 islands and one of the clearest and cleanest seas in the world.
How important is tourism in Croatia?
Anton Kliman: Tourism is one of the most important industries in Croatia, not only as an individual industry but for its influence and contribution to other industries such as the transport, construction and communication industry. But also for its potential to be connected with other industries such as agriculture. It is a very positive industry which maintained its stability and its force even during the recession period which started in 2008. Tourism in Croatia counts for about 18 % of the total GDP, which is a big contribution to the economy, yet we are confident that in the years to come the tourism income will continue to grow.
The majority of the 12,5 million foreign visitors in Croatia are from Germany and Austria. Generally, most of Croatia’s visitors come from the neighboring countries. What is the Croatian Tourism Minister doing in order to promote Croatia in other source markets, too?
Anton Kliman: Traditionally Croatia has always been a car destination, meaning most of our guests come from neighboring countries. Although as share of the guests that come from for example Austria and Germany approximately remains as before, trends on distant markets are definitely changing for the better. For example, the number of arrivals from the USA has increased almost by 150% during the last 5 years, with a total of 300 thousand guests. Also over 300 thousand guests from the Republic of Korea have visited us during the last year, which is an increase of 1800% in the last 5 years and there are much more distant markets where we have been growing rapidly. Furthermore, we have been making excellent results in some European markets, such as Great Britain. Promotional activities are made individually for specific markets as every market has their own trends and expectations for travel. We want to be proactive to both attract new customers but also provide all the necessary information and create new offers for our loyal guests. Our goal is to transform ourselves into a destination that is attractive during the whole year and attractive for various market segments. We are very pleased with the results so far as the preseason and postseason months have been making great results, with stable growth during the summer months and we will continue in this manner.
You mentioned that tourism has a very high contribution to the total economy. Are there still growth opportunities for tourism in Croatia? What is your strategy to utilize these opportunities?
Anton Kliman: Actually as mentioned before, Tourism in Croatia counts for about 18% of the total country’s GDP. While this is a high ratio, we believe that in the future other industries in Croatia will retain greater share through the growing income from tourism. Even as tourism has been growing on average more than 5 % per year, we know there is much more space to improve. We have our Strategy for Tourism Development till the year of 2020 and we are keeping with our current deadline goals. Last year around 25 new or renewed hotels were opened, this year more than 40. We want to keep excellent investment trends in Croatian tourism going and create a foundation for even better results. We have identified 10 tourism products which we emphasize and believe that have greatest potential. Both the private and public sector in Croatia has recognized this and every year there are more and more high quality new and different offers for our guests. We believe that the key for further development is to continuously improve and that is what will we continue to do.
What should a visitor in Croatia do that would make the local people smile? And what would the Croatians do, to make visitors smile?
Anton Kliman: I think everyone likes when you know something positive about the people and the country you visit. But also vice versa, I think that this always makes you smile whether you are the visitor or the host. Croatia is a tourist destination and we want to make our guests feel as much comfortable as possible, we want them to enjoy themselves, to be happy and to create great memories while they are in Croatia, that’s what it’s all about.