LONDON -- At its "comeback" press conference here on Nov. 13 during
World Travel Market, Croatian tourism officials proved they had
plenty to celebrate, including a 60% increase in international
arrivals for 2000 and a commitment by Hilton to open a hotel in
Croatia's tourism minister, Pave Zupan Ruskovic, said that
nearly 8 million visitors came to Croatia so far this year.
"If you consider that we have 20% less capacity than before the
war [between Croatia and Yugoslavia from 1991-95], then our current
numbers are back at pre-war levels," she said. "Our goal was only a
35% increase, so we are really happy with this achievement."
Ruskovic has acknowledged in the past that a sticking point for
the development of foreign-run deluxe properties in Croatia was a
state-run economy and concerns about potential conflicts within
Both worries have been eliminated, as the 10-year dictatorship
of Franco Tudjman in Croatia ended and democratic elections were
held in February, followed by the more recent elections in
"For the first time in my very long career, I can honestly say
that there is a government in Croatia that has made tourism a
priority," said Ruskovic.
"[The government is] driving forcefully toward full
privatization of the tourism sector which should be achieved over
the next two years."
As an example, Ruskovic pointed to Hilton's takeover of the
Hotel Imperial in Dubrovnik as a reflection of the government's
efforts to attract foreign investors.
The Hilton management and ownership contract represents the
first time a foreign company will operate a hotel in Croatia's most
popular tourism destination.
The Hotel Imperial is a turn-of-the-century property built for
Hapsburg emperor Franz Joseph; it was severely damaged during the
bombing of Dubrovnik in 1991.
The hotel will be extensively renovated and should be open by
2003, according to Croatian tourism officials here.
Similarly, the German chain Arabella, which is in a development
cooperative with Starwood, has committed to reconstruct Dubrovnik's
Hotel Argentina, Ruskovic said.
The hotel, which has marvelous views of the Adriatic and the Old
City, will be upgraded by 2003.
Croatia's current government also is making an effort to spawn
upscale boutique hotels by offering low-interest loans and creating
a supportive environment for small-scale investors.
Earlier in the day, Ruskovic received an award from the World
Travel Market Advisory Council, Tribute 21, for her contributions
to the travel and tourism industry over the last 21 years.