Croatia launches summer tourist drive


ZAGREB — Croatia launched a drive Tuesday to promote itself as a summer tourist destination in the hope of minimising losses in the crucial sector caused by the global economic crisis.

“The Internet will be the main instrument to communicate the action which is starting today,” the head of the national tourist board, Niko Bulic, told journalists.

The campaign, presented on the website, is aimed at encouraging people to discuss the Adriatic country’s tourist destinations through social networking.

But data showed a decline in visitors to the former Yugoslav republic despite the government having tripled its promotion expenditure to 28 million euros (39 million dollars), Tourism Minister Damir Bajs said.

During the first five months of this year, a total of 1.8 million people visited Croatia, mainly its island-dotted coastline. This represented a fall of nine percent compared with 2008.

Over the same period, the country had 5.7 million overnight stays, an eight percent decrease compared with last year.

Bajs stressed that according to national statistics, Croatia’s main European competitors — Italy, Greece and Spain — registered even larger losses during the first four months of the year.

“Our main goal for this season is to be equal or better than our competition,” he said, stressing that so-called last-minute bookings would be decisive.

Last year, the country of 4.4 million inhabitants attracted more than 11 million tourists, representing a one percent gain on the year before. The tourism industry accounts for around 20 percent of Croatia’s gross domestic product.