LAS VEGAS -- The presidential election in Croatia in the coming
weeks is expected to help boost the country's image as a stable
democracy and perhaps also encourage more travelers, said Pave
Zupan Ruskovic, president of Dubrovnik-based Atlas Travel,
Croatia's largest inbound tour operator. The election comes after
the death of Croatia's president, Franjo Tudjman.
Croatia, with its continued economic suffering and disappointing
1999 tourism results, wants desperately to boost tourism, once one
of its top industries.
Tourism officials had high hopes for 1999 at the start of the
year, but they were dashed by the war in Yugoslavia, said Ruskovic
during a press event at the USTOA conference here.
"Even though we are far away from Kosovo, many tour operators
canceled," she said, and by the time the conflict concluded, it was
too late in the year to stir travel interest for late summer or
It has been difficult to convince travelers that Croatia is "a
very safe country," Ruskovic added.
However, the situation might be a bit rosier in 2000. The
ministry of tourism has received a budget 20% higher than 1999, and
bookings are running "much higher" for 2000 than at the same time
last year, she said.
Thirteen million U.S. tourists are expected to visit Europe in
2000, and Croatia hopes to receive its share of that, said Nena
Komarica, general manager of the Croatian National Tourist Office
in New York.
As of October 1999, 32,600 U.S. travelers visited Croatia, 50%
less than visited in 1998. "Our goal is to increase [the 1999
results] by 20% to 25% in 2000," Komarica said.
Among the positive developments in Croatia tourism cited by
tourism officials at the USTOA conference were:Most major U.S. cruise lines sailing in the Mediterranean have
scheduled visits to Croatian ports on itineraries for 2000.Thirteen U.S. tour operators have created tours and packages to
Croatia in 2000.The country now boasts three five-star hotels, the Hotel
Excelsior in Dubrovnik, which reopened in August after a
restoration; the renovated Croatian Hotel outside of the city, and
the Hotel Argentina, Dubrovnik, which is undergoing a renovation
and scheduled to open by summer.The Croatian government sold its majority interest in Atlas
Travel to Luksic, a Chilean conglomerate that owns hotels in Chile
in addition to mining and industrial interests.Air lift to Croatia is improving, with Croatian Airlines
purchasing two Airbus aircraft and entering a code-share pact with
Many European airlines fly nonstop from major European cities to
Zagreb and Dubrovnik, and many offer convenient connections to
Croatia from U.S. gateways, said Komarica.