Sports were an important part of promoting and branding Croatia, Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said while attending Croatia Open tennis match in the coastal city Umag on Saturday.
"Sport is one of our main pearls, which is why the Tourism Ministry and the Croatian National Tourist Board are closely cooperating with many sports federations. We must work on making every big sporting event or success part of our promotion and our branding and we are working on that," Plenkovic told reporters at the ATP tournament.
Asked to comment on Croatian Olympic Committee president Zlatko Matesa's warning that Eurostat ranked Croatia last in the EU in terms of funds set aside for sports, he said his government had adopted a national sports strategy and that never had more been earmarked for sports. "My ministers and I are doing all we can to raise sports to the dignified level they deserve."
Speaking of the Umag tournament, Plenkovic said it had positioned itself well and that it represented "a real attraction" for Umag in terms of sports and for tourism in general. "The Umag tournament is our only ATP tournament which continually attracts our best players," he said, calling it "a social, cultural, gastronomic, tourist and sporting event."
He recalled the revived WTA tournament in Bol, saying Croatia could position its players through these two tournaments and contribute to the promotion of its sports.
Cappelli: Croatia Open and Croatian athletes' successes contribute to tourism
Plenkovic was accompanied, among others, by Tourism Minister Gari Cappelli, who said events such as ATP Croatia Open and Croatian athletes' successes contributed to the development of tourism and more arrivals.
He said the government had introduced the Croatian Sports programme to finance and cover all major events and as part of which HRK 20-25 million was set aside every year.
The minister said the effects of Croatia's second place at the 2018 FIFA World Cup were enormous, and that currently there was an increase in the US, Chinese and German arrivals. "As of today, we still have 2% more German guests than last year, although we projected 5-6% fewer."
Cappelli said all of Europe was "hit" by different tourism trends because of bad weather and different approaches, and that Croatia was not the only country with arrivals and nights at last year's level. In July so far, there has been a 3-4% drop annually, but overall arrivals are up 4% and nights 1%, he added.
Cappelli said the government had a vision of the course Croatia's tourism should take, and that four and five-star facilities were "far fuller". "We have a vision and the development strategy until 2020 and are preparing a tender for November for a new development strategy for the next seven to ten years."
This time two years ago all media said we were bursting at the seams. Today we have as many tourists as two years ago. That's actually Croatia's limit because of the infrastructure of its cities, Cappelli said.