As Filip Pavic/Novac writes on the 28th of June, 2020, the "green light" for the Croatian tourism industry arrived recently from the British market, which was assessed as a safe destination for receiving British tourists.
The British authorities have now announced the introduction of the so-called "traffic light" system which, according to the risk of coronavirus infection, will rank popular tourist destinations across the rest of Europe and the world with red, yellow and green labels.
The green label, which represents a minimal risk of infection, in addition to Croatia, as things stand now, should be given to Greece, Germany and Austria, among others. Greece, by the way, has already announced 70 percent discounts trying to lure Britons to its beaches.
According to that decision, which comes into force on July the 6th, when all air traffic opens, British tourists will not have to go into two-week quarantine when returning home from their holiday in Croatia, as has been the case so far.
In the yellow category, which represents a moderate risk, there were also some of Croatian tourism's competitors – Italy, Spain, Portugal, France and Austria. In their case, the quarantine obligation has also now been rendered invalid, but can be introduced if the epidemiological situation escalates in the meantime. On the other hand, countries like Argentina, Brazil and Egypt, all marked in red, carry with them the obligation of two weeks of self-isolation upon return to Britain.
''This is the news we expected, given that Croatia has shown the highest level of security and epidemiological preparedness throughout this time. The British market is important to us, one of the top ten, and it is also extremely important for air traffic,'' said Kristjan Stanicic, the director of the Croatian Tourist Board (HTZ/CNTB).
As expected, British tourists mostly travel to Croatia by plane, and the CNTB, says Stanicic, has already started negotiations with British tour operators and airlines, such as EasyJet, Jet2 and British Airways, and is conducting two marketing campaigns on the British market.
''We can expect an increase in air traffic to Split and Dubrovnik in July, which is certainly a good thing. I'd like to mention once again that the fact that we're talking about tourist traffic in general is a clear sign that we have managed the epidemiological situation well. And the current figures of 300 thousand guests in Croatia confirm this,'' underlined Stanicic.
After the British authorities officially confirm the opening of borders to summer destinations in the coming days, tourists from the UK can be expected here in Croatia in mid-July. Since 800,000 of them stayed in Croatia last year, and they also realised 4.2 million overnight stays, and Stanicic didn't want to speculate on how many British tourists the Croatian tourism sector could expect this year. He says that he is continuing to adhere to the general expectations of 30 percent when compared to last year.
A slightly more modest figure of 25 percent of tourist arrivals was stated by Boris Zgomba, the president of the management board of Uniline and the president of the Association of Travel Agencies of the Croatian Chamber of Commerce (HGK(. However, he noted that placing Croatia in the green category is a great promotion that we might never have been able to perform on our own without a helping hand from a powerful European country such as Britain.
''This is a status that no one has given us, but we've earned it by our own efforts, but this "traffic light" system is not something that is set in stone, it can always change,'' he warned.
Namely, although Croatian tourism's main European competitors are mostly, figuratively speaking, at the yellow light in terms of the UK's traffic light system, the British will correct these labels in accordance with the epidemiological situation of each country. This could mean that Italy, for example, ends up in the green category in July, as well as that Croatia falls one step below if the epidemiological situation worsens.
''Although at the moment we have a kind of growth in the number of positives, it isn't related to Croatian tourism, but rather to the relaxation of Croatian citizens. If, of course, we stay within the existing numbers I think we don’t have to worry about losing the green label. We still have a solid number of tourists in Croatia, without any of them being positive so far, and the situation hasn't escalated in that segment,'' Zgomba pointed out.
Asked if data on the number of Britons who booked accommodation might be available, or for those who hadn't cancelled their previous reservations, which would give us an insight into how much we can expect, the leader of Uniline answered that it is difficult to discuss such matters as this moment in time.
''At the moment, a very small number of Britons have booked accommodation through our agency, but the reason is that they didn't even know whether they would be able to travel or not, the rule of mandatory quarantine was valid. They're not guests who can just sit in their cars and come, they have to get organised, they need to know in advance how many airlines they will have available,'' he explained.
Calm and cool-headed, Veljko Ostojic, director of the Croatian Tourism Association (HUT), said we should be aware of everything that is happening and, as before, carefully balance things between opening borders and receiving guests.
''The British market is an extremely important market for us and, of course, every guest is important to us, but I think we should carefully weigh things up and keep in mind the epidemiological situation in the countries we're opening to, and we have done so successfully,'' said Ostojic. He added that there are other important markets for Croatian tourism that we shouldn't ignore. In Europe, it isn't only the Brits who realise many arrivals and overnight stays, there are other Northern European countries to think of, such as the Netherlands, whose guests in realised 2.6 million overnight stays back in 2018.
According to the BBC, the United Kingdom had just over 1,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus and about 180 deaths on Friday. They are recording a declining trend compared to April when they had more than a thousand deaths due to coronavirus per day.
For more on Croatian tourism in the coronavirus era, follow our dedicated travel page.