Saturday, March 25, 2006

Tuesday Column - Croatia Tourism 6: Boat Shows

Croatia’s Boat Show offering is not as geared to tourism as it might be but it’s expanding fast. Not so long ago there was just the Zagreb Boat Show, held in February each year. A fairly serious affair in an uninspiring group of buildings in New Zagreb, with no water to put the boats on and not much to encourage a family visit. Nonetheless it is worth the trip to see what’s going on in the industry as well as the sports industry in general. For more information on the Zagreb “Sport I Nautika” show, go to

The Split Boat Show is in it’s 4th year and has overshadowed Zagreb for at least the last two. In its first year, it caused chaos on the Split Riva (promenade) and the locals were a little upset about it, particularly, as they’d heard that the exhibition stands were free and nothing was going back into the municipal coffers to compensate for the disruption. Now it’s a huge enterprise with the organisation to match it, and this year it will be on for 9 days from 1st April. It still does cause a little disruption to city life, with half of the Riva fenced in as part of the Show and one of the car parks halved in size. However it also brings a real buzz to Split and I’m sure is now a great boost to the local economy.

Compared with, for example, the London Boat Show, the Split Show still has some work to do to make it a family day out. There aren’t many distractions for children and there’s not too much in the way of accessory or clothes shops and stalls, but it’s getting there. It had its first mega-yacht section last year, which will no doubt expand in size and quality, but was a great start in raising the profile of this side of the Croatian Boat Industry. What is particularly impressive is the drive and enthusiasm of the organisers in turning an originally small show into a major event in such a short space of time. And, if you needed one, what a great excuse to visit Split before the hordes arrive for the summer. For more information go to

In the Autumn, another relatively new boat show takes place in Biograd. It’s organised by Marina Kornati,, and although not on the same scale as the Split Show it has a great atmosphere. Biograd itself is better known as a resort-type destination but there are plenty of interesting places to visit nearby if you want to make an off season break of it and perhaps take in some sailing to the nearby Kornati islands.


Croatia is making serious attempts to manage its burgeoning tourism industry. There is much discussion on improving the quality of the offering and extending the season. With the low cost airlines finally putting Split on the map, now seems a great time to start thinking about making boat shows a part of the off season attractions.


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