Croatia Beyond Overtourism

A holistic vision for all seasons

As a Croatian that grew up in Johannesburg, moving to Cape Town was, in a strange way, part of the journey back to my homeland.

Although I came to South Africa at the tender age of three, the Croatian culture was very much present throughout my upbringing. Speaking English at home was strictly forbidden by my parents.

Images implanted daily, throughout a childhood of bedtime stories, of a country I never lived in, I had early in life already created this imaginary world where I one day would walk its shores.

Moving to Cape Town I identified myself as more Croatian than South African although the dramatic landscapes around Chapman’s Peak began to remind me very much of the Dalmatian coastline, resting under the Biokovo mountain chain.

Left is Dalmatia (Brela) and right is the Cape (Camps Bay)
Left is Dalmatia (Brela) and right is the Cape (Camps Bay)

I first returned to my place of birth at the age of sixteen. My hometown of Šibenik on the Dalmatian Coast is my little paradise. Its people, the piazza, the cobblestone streets, St. James Cathedral, the simplicity of life.

It was taken for granted by my Father that I was able to remember details of the Dalmatian landscape. This resulted in an awkward silence when the topic arose at the dinner table (one of many tables, my parents had opened a Croatian / Italian restaurant in Johannesburg).

Fast forward to now, the strange times of 2020—2021, I find myself at the Turizam 365 Conference, trying to understand the complex challenges facing the tourism industry in Croatia.

Turizam 365, brought about by the Croatian Ministry of Tourism, is looking at ways to expand the seasons beyond the current 80 days to a more sustainable all-year-round industry.

I am there to see what plans lay ahead and where our initiatives might be relevant.

Croatia is, of course, the epitome of “sun and sea of tourism”, known for its crystal-clear waters and natural gifts, as it has been for decades, but until now limited to the summer season, with its peak in July and August.

Now the focus is changing and the possibilities of what the off-season has to offer is what is to be discussed.

From hiking around Plitvice Lakes, following the Adriatic trail, olive harvest on Hvar and experience wine making on Peljesac, the possibilities are endless, to say the least.

Health and Wellness Tourism has seen a rise worldwide. From yoga retreats to forest healing. Hiking and biking are growing in-land. People want to be outdoors, feel connected to nature and get a healing dose of adventure.

“Sustainability” is one of the key words connecting all the speakers at the Turizam 365 Conference (held on the 8th of October). Jelena Holenko Pric, owner of the travel agency, Lynx & Fox, joined a panel to remind us how much mindset matters. "Croatia can be available 365 days a year; I don't speak about seasonality but the tourist year", she said.

Jelena’s passion is to bring people to discover the abundant beauty present in the 63% forested surface of Gorski Kotar (the green lungs of Croatia) all year round. Gorski Kotar is not well known outside of Croatia and there is no doubt it is worth traversing.

This beckons further questions : what else do we not know about Croatia?

To get to the crux of the issue; there must be a crunching of the numbers.

With 2,2-billion Kuna from the National Recovery for the Green and Digital Economy in grants.

Approximately 60% is allocated to the public sector and 40% private sector. If no shift is seen in the seasonality; the possibility of new jobs and opportunities will be lost.

The stated aim is to increase the resilience and sustainability of the tourism sector through “green and digital transition”.

To contribute to the recovery of the tourism sector from the crisis caused by the COVID 19 pandemic, and to increase the added value and indirect effects of tourism on other industries.

Brnjac, the tourism minister, highlighted that the Chaos of Corona uncovered something unseen in years; how most of the touristic destinations in Europe look without mass tourism.

Minister Brnjac went on to say that the Ministry wants to focus primarily on solving the challenges faced in the coastal zone in summer, but also encourage the development of year-round forms of tourism with high added value throughout the Republic of Croatia.

Funding will be available to everyone, on the coast and the continent, micro, small, medium and large entrepreneurs, which we consider a great success and the right way to ensure the recovery and resilience of Croatian tourism.