German and Austrian visitors boost Croatian tourist numbers


ZAGREB — Croatia’s tourism industry, a vital part of the country’s recession-hit economy, registered growth during the first eight months this year, officials said on Wednesday.

During the January-August 2010, some 8.2 million tourists visited Croatia, mainly its Adriatic coast, accounting for 51.7 million overnight stays, Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor said.

“Compared with the (same period) last year the number of overnight stays increased six percent and the number of (tourist) arrivals three percent,” she said.

“On the basis of these results we can say that it is the best tourist season, during the first eight months, so far,” she added.

Tourists — 90 percent of them travelling by car — were coming mainly from Germany and Austria.

Tourism Minister Damir Bajs said he expected that by the end of the year another two million tourists would visit Croatia.

“The year 2010 was marked by two things — expectations of an extremely strong competition from a series of countries … and a slow recovery of European tourism,” Bajs stressed.

Tourism, which has gradually recovered since the 1991-1995 war, is a key sector of Croatia’s economy, accounting for 18 percent of its GDP.

In 2009 Croatia’s overall economy shrank 5.8 percent as the global financial crisis took hold. The economy contracted by 2.5 percent in the second quarter of this year compared with output in the same period of 2009.

Analysts say that due to the income from tourism sector, the third quarter could bring a positive trend with 0.5 percent growth.

In the past, more than 10 million people have visited Croatia — which has a population of 4.4 million — each year.