Last chance to come to Croatia with no visa
This summer will be the last one to take rest in Croatia with no visa. In June the long-lasting negotiations concerning the country’s membership in the EU came to an end. By the end of the year the agreement with the EU members will be signed, by June 2012 Croatia will enter the Schengen Agreement. Obviously the current visa indulgences for the Russians will be immediately cancelled. Russian tour operators see both pluses and minuses in this situation.
Let us remind you that as for today there is a so-called “privileged period” between Croatia and Russia: from April 1st till October 31st Russian tourists can stay in Croatia for up to 90 days with just a valid passport. This visa-free policy helped Croatian authorities to significantly increase the tourist flow. According to the National Statistics Bureau, 165 thousand Russian tourists visited Croatia in 2010, which is 35% more compared to 2009 figures.
Director General of Ascent Travel Company Mr. Igor’ Kozlov sees only positive moments in introducing the visa regime. This season appeared to be not the easiest one for the destination. Excessive air carriage and lack of hotel beds resulted in the situation when some destinations bring zero profit and some even cause financial losses. The policy of some air carriers plays against the tour operators as well, the airlines are selling large number of seats on scheduled flights at a price of a charter. “When Croatia joins the Schengen Agreement, many tourists that now book their vacation by themselves will come back to travel companies – says Igor’ Kozlov – I don’t think this will cause the increase of a tourproduct cost. The prices in Croatia are quite high anyway. Most likely only the visas will become more expensive”.
Tatiana Vand, Director General of the Vand International Tour, has quite the opposite opinion: “Croatia’s pricing policy has never been too loyal. The cost of an itinerary is higher than in near-by Italy, not to mention Bulgaria or Montenegro. And considering the fact that European Union demands very high standards of infrastructure (roads, hotels etc.) from its new members, this will definitely cause significant increase in the prime cost of tourist services. On average 20%, I suppose”. Mrs. Vand forecasts that as soon as Croatia enters EU, the tourist flow will be redistributed among other cheaper countries.
Most of the experts interviewed by RATA-news agree that Croatia is not likely to avoid temporary decrease of the tourist flow from Russia. A spokesman from Paks Travel Company admits that the visa-free regime gingers the demand for Croatia quite well. “When the Schengen visas are introduced some part of the clients will switch to similar visa-free destinations. And only returning tourists will stick with Croatia – they make up 30-40% of the total tourist flow,” – commented in the travel company.
How soon the country will manage to overtake its arrears will be clear only after the actual joining the EU – believe the market’s key players. “The EU membership will help the country to attract more investments, including those for hotels construction. This should boost the competition among hoteliers, which will have to reduce prices” – summarizes Tatiana Vand.