Croa­tia touts daz­zling coast to res­cue tourism

The coun­try’s coro­n­avirus-bat­tered travel in­dus­try is fight­ing back

Arab News - - Business News - AFP Pu­nat, Croa­tia

Croa­tia is tout­ing boat­ing and camp­ing on its azure 1,800-km Adri­atic coast­line to woo back vis­i­tors and re­vive its coro­n­avirus­bat­tered tourism sec­tor.

Af­ter travel re­stric­tions across the EU were re­laxed ear­lier this month, for­eign­ers are now slowly re­turn­ing as tourism op­er­a­tors try to sal­vage the sea­son.

Boats and tents might be the cure, of­fer­ing trav­el­ers built-in so­cial dis­tanc­ing as they re­lax on the idyl­lic pic­ture post­card coast. “Alone in a bay on your boat, there is no bet­ter dis­tanc­ing,” said Zeljko Cvetkovic, who owns a boat char­ter com­pany on the north­ern is­land of Krk. “Camp­ing is sim­i­lar,” he adds. The two sec­tors have tra­di­tion­ally ac­counted for an im­por­tant but smaller slice of the tourism pie, which ac­counts for around a fifth of Croa­tia’s GDP.

Its tourism in­dus­try is ex­pected to con­tract by 70 per­cent due to the pan­demic. This eco­nomic pain will be the first chal­lenge of the new gov­ern­ment to be elected in on July 5.

As the polls ap­proach, con­ser­va­tive PM An­drej Plenkovic is hop­ing to cap­i­tal­ize on his gov­ern­ment’s rel­a­tive suc­cess in com­bat­ing the virus. With some 107 deaths and nearly 2,500 known in­fec­tions in a pop­u­la­tion of 4.2 mil­lion, a frag­ile sense of nor­mal­ity is re­turn­ing as bor­ders re­open to the main mar­kets, in­clud­ing Austria, Ger­many and Slove­nia.

On the is­land of Krk, tourism op­er­a­tors such as Cvetkovic are fi­nally see­ing book­ings re­place can­ce­la­tions, spark­ing hope that he can achieve up to half of last year’s fig­ures. Af­ter months, the Ma­rina Pu­nat is com­ing back to life with sailors clean­ing their boats and sun­bathing on the decks. Home to some 1,000 is­lands and islets, Croa­tia is a dream desti­na­tion for those look­ing to is­land­hop, seek out se­cluded bays or sail from one restau­rant to an­other to taste fresh seafood.

“Peace and si­lence,” is how Man­fred Schwarz, 59, summed up his week on the sea with four other Aus­trian friends.

“At most places we were alone or there were only a few other boats,” his friend Jo­hann Wag­ner, 61, said. Some of their ini­tial fears from catch­ing COVID-19 have van­ished af­ter see­ing the lack of crowds.

The men were also only a six-hour drive from home. Croa­tia hopes this prox­im­ity of its main mar­kets, ac­ces­si­ble by car in a few hours, will be an­other draw for tourists weary of air­line travel. “De­spite ini­tial pes­simism . . . our ex­pec­ta­tions are slowly grow­ing,” said Re­nata Mare­vic, who over­sees Ma­rina Pu­nat.

Guests are also grad­u­ally fill­ing the nearby five-star Krk Pre­mium Camp­ing Re­sort, which opened in late May. It is one of the 800 camp­sites in the coun­try, most of which claim prime real es­tate on Croa­tia’s beaches.

Many of­fer vis­i­tors var­i­ous op­tions for their stay, from spa­ces for tents and camper vans to camp­ing huts or “glamp­ing” tents for a more high-end ex­pe­ri­ence. In the Krk re­sort, re­minders of the pan­demic are vis­i­ble but sub­tle, with signs warn­ing to “Please keep a dis­tance” at the re­cep­tion, while ta­bles and sun chairs are ar­ranged for the re­quired 1.5-me­ter dis­tance. Yet ex­perts warn that keep­ing the virus un­der con­trol is key. Af­ter reg­is­ter­ing only a few or no cases daily since mid-May, num­bers have now started to creep up again.

This week au­thor­i­ties re-im­posed 14-day quar­an­tines for vis­i­tors from neigh­bor­ing Balkan states, which have logged ris­ing in­fec­tion rates.

FASTFACT

Croa­tia has re-im­posed

14-day quar­an­tines for vis­i­tors from neigh­bor­ing Balkan states, which have logged ris­ing in­fec­tion rates.

AFP

Re­nata Mare­vic, di­rec­tor of Ma­rina Pu­nat in Krk. Re­lax­ation of travel re­stric­tions within most EU na­tions has en­abled the ar­rival of for­eign guests to Croa­tia.

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