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Sustainability and profitability are too often considered incompatible, especially in a sector like tourism. In recent years Croatia has firmly committed to making them two sides of the same coin, despite the struggle to overcome the pandemic and the rising inflation. In 2021 Croatia was ranked 14th in a global ranking[1] on sustainable tourism redacted by Euromonitor International.

Croatia is one of the three nations with the largest cumulative proportion of GDP loss from extreme weather and climate events, according to an EEA analysis[2]. It has thus acknowledged the necessity to adopt a strategic approach to adaptation to climate change and to create novel solutions for sustainable development. As a result of this understanding, Croatia created its first climate change adaptation plan.

croatia, tourism policies, sustainable tourism, central europe,

The country is giving environmental preservation priority[3] in order to secure long-term sustainable growth since sustainable tourism is essential. The Croatian government has concentrated on regulating the maritime sector to maintain the highest environmental and maritime safety requirements due to marine tourism becoming a rapidly expanding industry in recent years. Another strategic objective is to ensure that marine infrastructure, transport, and domain are safe and environmentally sustainable. In order to reduce emissions from sea transportation, Croatia also intends to switch to the use of alternative fuels for transportation links to its islands.

A new national organism

A National Council for Sustainable Development (NCSD) was established by the Croatian government in January 2018 to monitor, assess, and coordinate the implementation of the SDGs. One year later Croatia submitted its first VNR[4] (Voluntary National Review) to the UN outlining how the Croatian establishment intends to implement the 2030 Agenda in their country.

Thereafter an information system for strategic development planning and management was established with the aim of fully integrating electronic collection and storage of statistical and financial data required to monitor and report on the implementation of strategic planning documents at all three national levels, which includes monitoring the implementation of sustainable development goals. The State Bureau of Statistics’ Internet portal was developed with the UN Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform in mind in order to inform the general public of the findings and the current state of the realization of the main indicators of sustainable development.

As for tourism, the Croatian Sustainable Tourism Observatory[5] was established and hosted by the Institute for Tourism in Zagreb which holds a platform aiming at building citizens’ awareness of the projects undertaken by said organization in cooperation with the Croatian government and EU Institutions [6].

One of the most successful one is the DestiMED PLUS project[7], financed by the Interreg Mediterranean programme[8] and bringing together 12 partners: Lazio Region (leading partner), Catalonia Region, Tourism Institute, BLAMES University Foundation, South Aegean Region Development Agency; WWF Mediterranean, Tourist Agency of Corsica, Region of Sardinia, IUCN, Region of Crete, Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions of Europe and Regional Ministry of the Environment of Andalusia.

This programme is described as the phase in advancing integrated coastal tourism planning. DestiMED PLUS implements comprehensive policies that link tourism and conservation thanks to local decision-makers cooperation. As it states in its mission, the entire Mediterranean region’s governance structures and legal frameworks must be strengthened for ecotourism to prosper. The goal of the project, which is built on the achievements of MEET[9] and DestiMED, is to assist the Mediterranean region in improving the circumstances for ecotourism in its protected areas. This entails bolstering cross-sectoral local and regional policies, offering integrated planning techniques, and equipping stakeholders with efficient management, measurement, and promotion tools.

Efforts propounded by the Croatian establishment during pre-pandemic years led the country to a more resilient state against exogen difficulties. This is the key unveiling how well Croatia coped with the pandemic and achieved extraordinary growth, generating more revenue from foreign tourists during the summer months of 2021 than it ever has in the past, as confirmed by the Ministry of Tourism at the end of the same year[10].

Some data by the Croatian National Bank

According to the Croatian National Bank (CNB), revenues from foreign tourists totalled 6 billion and 775 million euros in the third quarter of 2021, during the summer months of July, August, and September. This represents an increase of 100% over revenues produced during the same period in 2020, or 3 billion and 386 million euros more. Sales increased by 2 percent, or EUR 148 million more, than in the third quarter of 2019, which was a record year for Croatian tourism. In the third quarter of 2019, EUR 6 billion and 627 million in revenue were earned.

“Congratulations to all tourism workers and the entire sector on a great tourist year. Not only are we close to 2019 in terms of revenue in this tourist year, but we have also achieved the best results so far during the summer months. Namely, with almost 6.8 billion euros in revenue from foreign tourists, this summer is the most successful tourist summer in Croatia so far and we can all be proud of that. During 2021, Croatia built the image of a safe destination and we must continue to work on that.”- Minister of Tourism and Sport Nikolina Brnjac

The National Recovery and Resilience Plan 2021-2026 fits perfectly the objective of a more resistant and sustainable approach for tourism. The reform is implemented by the Ministry of Tourism and Sports in cooperation with the Institute for Tourism mentioned above.

According to the intended reform’s scope, the Republic of Croatia’s Ministry of Tourism and Sports, Ministry of Science and Education, and Institute for Tourism have signed a tripartite ‘Agreement on Partnership’ in the Implementation of activities within the Framework of the Reform Foreseen in the National Recovery and Resilience Plan (April 22, 2022). This agreement calls for the creation of the System of Satellite Accounts of Sustainable Tourism for 2022 and the European Union’s NextGenerationEU programme is funding the endeavour.

In addition, considering that over 70% of the investments of the Croatian Recovery and Resilience Plan are to be launched before the end of 2022[11], it is reasonable to assume that the country will experience a significant spike in growth during the next months and across 2023.

If it can all be resumed by one single phrase, ‘the best is yet to come for Croatian sustainable tourism’.

croatia, tourism policies, sustainable tourism, central europe

For instance, we can take into consideration ‘Croatia’s tourist Mecca’, the city of Dubrovnik with its imposing medieval walls: the first typical tourist season after two that were dominated by the coronavirus epidemic has thus far produced good results and can be regarded as back to normal[12].

The Society of Friends of Dubrovnik Antiquities focuses on sustainable tourism rather than statistics and records. Despite this, they are nevertheless very pleased with this season thus far, especially given the positive financial outcomes.

  1. Euromonitor International ranking (
  2. Extreme climate events in Europe: rising economic losses can lead to greater sovereign ratings divergence (
  3. Kostelac, M. M., 2017,Statement by Ms. Maja Markovcic Kostelac,  State Secretary at the Ministry of Sea, Transport and Infrastructure, at the General Debate on UN Conference to Support the Implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14 (
  4. Voluntary National Review of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Implementation (
  5. Croatian Sustainable Tourism Observatory (
  6. Institut za turizam (
  7. DestiMED PLUS project (
  8. Interreg Mediterranean programme (
  9. MEET project (
  10. The statement made by the Ministry of Tourism (
  11. Governamental Statement on the NRRP (