Saturday, January 31, 2009

Croatia Online - Croatia in 2009?

It may be a little late to wish readers a happy New Year in the traditional sense but the Chinese have only just celebrated their New Year and that's our excuse!
After a longer than normal trip to the UK for the Christmas break, and a couple of weeks back in Croatia to catch up on the news, it's good to find a refreshing buzz to Croatia compared with the doom and gloom of America and Western Europe.
Croatia's banks didn't go mad on the fringes of the financial systems - derivitatives, or excessive risky lending for example - like many of their global counter parts, and thus do not have a banking system crisis of their own. Croatia seems likely, however, to be dragged into recession soon. Forecasts on growth figures vary but the picture is far less dire than the UK for example. That's not to say that Croatia doesn't have it's own problems - government debt is high and, as GDP shrinks, repayments and interest will be harder to meet and debt may grow further still. Later in the year it will also, no doubt, be more affected by financial contagion - the fall out of western Europe's problems to those it trade's with. Plus, most of Croatia's banks have foreign banks as parent companies who will, of course, be looking to tap their more liquid subsidiaries for cash.
Tourism is a big factor in Croatia's economy and opinions vary as to what that holds for 2009. Astutely, the Croatia National Tourist Board has increased its marketing spend significantly, and the optimists believe that those who have had to defer big spending decisions - new houses, cars and yachts - will still want to cheer themselves up with a holiday. Value for money will be the watchwords but that doesn't necessarily mean that there will be a resurgence of low budget holidays at the expense of more upscale treats. Travellers will just need a little bit more convincing that they are placing their trust with a reputable travel company, hotel or agency, and that their allocated budget will be well spent. Experts suggest that, in times of crisis, spenders in the luxury markets stick to well established brands with a strong heritage, and quality marketing. Wise Croatian company's in the tourism industry will therefore pick their marketing outlets carefully and make sure they offer customers good value at all budget ranges. The tourist board is advising hotels to maintain prices at last year's levels unless there have been improvements in facilities, and let's hope this good advice is heeded.
Croatia has never been a country to be sucked wholesale into western european hype - whether it be massive consumerism, reckless borrowing or financial wheeler dealing. Yes, we witnessed an increase in personal borrowing last year - on new cars for example - but traditional principles are still strong and lets hope that one of them - living within your means, and saving when you can - is not punished here like it seems to be in the rest of the world, whilst the converse is rewarded.
On the streets, certainly the Dalmatians, appear to be out in numbers as before, enjoying their coffee, as soon as the sun shines. In a region where resourcefulness is a strong part of the national make up, and the simple pleasures have not been overwhelmed or overtaken by technological ones, life seems to go on happily as before. Let's hope that endures!
And finally, those that have deferred buying their new yacht but still fancy a cruise around one of the best sailing destinations in the world, might want to try a charter in Croatia this year. To whet your appetite, why not get a copy of our Croatia Cruising Companion, covering the Dalmatian Coast and Islands - more information on our sister site -!
Today's photo is of the new street furniture on Split Riva, provided to mark the World Handball Championship taking place in Croatia. The final is today - Croatia v France. Hopefully the winter cheer in Croatia will be cemented by a home team victory!