How will tourism in Croatia, especially Istria, develop in 2021 under the influence of the Corona virus? A fact that particularly concerns boat owners, charter guests, but also hotel, apartment and camping vacationers. “Should I book already or better still wait and see how the situation regarding the coronavirus pandemic will continue?” This crucial question is probably currently asked by most Corona-afflicted Croatia fans with a pronounced need for vacation. A little help is provided by Denis Ivošević, director of the Tourism Association of Istria in the SeaHelp interview, who confidently already clearly defines the tourism target for 2021, at least for the region of Istria: “We expect 70% of tourism numbers based on the record year 2019,” is his statement in the SeaHelp interview on the situation in Istria.
Istria’s incidence numbers consistently at low level
Purposeful optimism or the much-cited “whistling in the woods”? Rather not, because the latest coronavirus incidence figures (7-day incidence) already showed values in January of just over 30 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants in Istria that other regions of Europe can only dream of. Why Istria in particular was largely spared from the pandemic, the SeaHelp editorial team wanted to find out first hand in an interview with Denis Ivošević, the director of the Istria Tourism Association. Here are the answers to our questions:
SeaHelp: When it comes to the number of new infections with the coronavirus, Istria already took a special position in Croatia in 2020 and was partially exempt from travel warnings. What reasons can be cited for the current sharp drop in incidence figures again?
Istria: Early rapid measures introduced
Denis Ivošević: Istria is an exceptionally well-ordered and organized region, where the communication protocol between the private and public sectors works particularly well. That is mainly the reason why Istria is a successful region in all segments of society. When Corona first appeared, we were the first region to introduce strict measures for isolation and lockdown (long before this was introduced at the national level), we created precise protocols on who must cooperate within what timeframe and with whom in the event of a possible virus outbreak, so that we were prepared for great challenges. A peculiarity of Istria is that the citizens of Istria showed willingness to cooperate in this sense and acted responsibly, so that Istria was one of the first regions in Europe to present itself without a single Corona patient in the hospitals already at the end of March. We have worked through a successful tourist season in extremely uncertain and uncertain conditions and in mid-October we were the only region in Europe marked with green color..
Such a situation continued at the beginning of this year, in the past 20 days Istria has an average of under 10 newly infected with the coronavirus per day. This, in my opinion, is a key condition to maintain such a situation, so that we can open all the sooner in safe conditions for our main tourist markets..
Discipline of the people of Istria with crucial
SeaHelp: What impact do they think this will have on tourism in Istria?
Denis Ivošević: That it was possible to do business excellently even under the Covid-19 conditions is best shown by the examples of small family hotels, the villas in the interior of Istria, nautical tourism, as well as the best Istrian restaurants, taverns, wine cellars and oil mills, which offered security and isolation from tourist happenings in the best possible way. Many among them have achieved excellent results and this is the best reference of how to work and how to work in Covid-19 conditions…! But, it is clear that Corona has significantly shaken all segments of society, especially the economic part. The more responsible and participative we are, and the less advocates of conspiracy theories spread their crude ideas, the better we will help ourselves without looking for the culprit in others, in conspiracies, in mystical clubs that supposedly direct the world. We just stay responsible and patient and everything will fall into place..
From past experience we know what the key to success is:.
- Qualitative private and public sector collaboration
- Maintaining a good epidemiological situation in the region/country
- To have a prepared protocol of obligations and responsibilities in the event of the spread of Covid-19
- Using our diplomats in the role of lobbyists and in the fight against fake news in our tourist destinations
- The tourism sector must communicate in a timely manner and through proper channels with the media in our main strongest tourist destinations about the good situation in Istria/HR
- Track the epidemiological situation in our most important tourist markets
- Be ready to launch an effective promotional campaign within a short period of time.
For 2021: Istria expects 20% more tourists than in 2020
SeaHelp: Do you expect an increase in overnight stays in 2021 compared to 2020?
Denis Ivošević: In 2020, from a standing start, we have achieved more than 50% of the number of overnight stays compared to the record year of 2019. Taking into account that Istrian tourism is primarily based on foreign guests, this is an extremely good result under the conditions in which the 2020 tourist season took place. In 2021, assuming that no undesirable or unexpected situations will happen with the vaccination process, we expect a realization in the amount of 70% on the basis of 2019.
Early border openings: “Depends on Corona development!”
SeaHelp: Can you imagine that Istria will be one of the first Croatian counties to reopen early to the entry of tourists? Possibly even earlier than other destinations on the coast?
Denis Ivošević: It is always difficult and ungrateful to make any forecasts, because we still have very many unknowns in the formula, over which we cannot exert any concrete influence. Here I am thinking of the appearance of new variants of the coronavirus and its markedly dynamic spread, I am thinking of the process of obtaining vaccine and the process of vaccination. We depend, above all, on how the situation will be in our most important tourist markets: Germany, Austria, Italy, Slovenia, the Netherlands, etc. But, if we look at the experience so far, Istria has definitely been a best practice example of how to efficiently fight the coronavirus while maintaining tourism and real life.
Istria already shows relatively good booking levels in early 2021
SeaHelp: What is your personal opinion regarding the 2021 tourist season in Istria? What is the booking status?
Denis Ivošević: The current situation is such that we have inquiries and that is the most important fact at this moment, as long as the main topic worldwide is called Covid-19. Sure, in isolated segments of accommodation we already have promising booking numbers, but we are all aware that the real match will only take place when it is certain that the situation is pointing in the direction of calming down. Then it will be important to react accordingly and quickly, as it is obvious that last minute bookings will be in focus also this year. In general, all of us in Istrian tourism are optimistic, I would say real optimists and therefore we are preparing as if everything will be fine. Our goal, as previously mentioned, is to realize 70% of the sales and overnight stays from the record year 2019..
SeaHelp: Thank you very much for the interview, Mr. Ivošević.