Catching Up With Croatia


December is the month of list making, as we tabulate our New Year’s resolutions or read about the “top 10 events of 2007.” Landing on a lot of travel-related lists is Croatia, deemed by some as the best destination for adventure travelers and by others as just the hottest tourist destination. If Croatia has made your client’s must-visit list for next year, read on for the details on this burgeoning destination.

By the end of 2007, Croatia will welcome a projected 11 million arrivals from around the world for the year, a more than 5 percent increase over 2006. Many of those visitors are cruisers, as Croatia has 48 marinas catering to such cruise lines as Holland America, Royal Caribbean and Silversea. Abercrombie & Kent, Travcoa, Sunnyland, Tauck World Discovery, Brendan Vacations, Isram, Gate 1 Travel and Trafalgar are just a sampling of tour operators with itineraries throughout Croatia.

Zagreb, Croatia’s capital, is the most popular city among American visitors, likely due to its medieval architecture and Italian cultural influence. Croatia may indeed be an affordable alternative to Italy—where the dollar has to compete against the euro—as at press time one dollar equaled five kuna, Croatia’s currency.

Lesser known among Americans is the city of Opatija, off the northern part of the Adriatic Sea. A favored spot of European nobility, the area has been adding four- and five-star brands to its hotel lineup, including Regent, Westin, Sheraton and Hilton.

Even so, Dubrovnik (pictured) is still the place to go for a little R&R in Croatia. The resort town is a popular spot for pre- and post-cruisers, but also is emerging as a top wellness destination. “We’ve added [spas] to every single offer,” says Nena Komarica, general manager of North America for the Croatian National Tourist Office in New York. “Medical tourism also is very popular and much cheaper than in the United States, with state-of-the-art facilities,” she adds, alluding to the somewhat offbeat trend of traveling to other countries for cosmetic surgery procedures. Dubrovnik also hosts a popular annual summer arts festival, which in 2008 will take place July 10 through August 25.

Currently, the easiest way to get to Croatia is via United Airlines, which has a codeshare agreement in place with fellow Star Alliance member Croatia Airlines. Komarica also says that a twice-weekly flight to Zagreb from New York Kennedy is in the works with Tradewinds Airlines, largely a cargo carrier. 

Croatia’s peak season is May through October, but Komarica tells us that the off season is a nice time to visit, as the weather is still warm but the streets less crowded. “December sometimes gets cloudy, though,” she notes.

The tourism office doesn’t currently have a large marketing push lined up, but you can find out more by visiting its web site, Komarica says the tourist office frequents trade shows in both the United States and Canada. “We recently hosted 200 agents from California,” she says, adding that the organization usually doesn’t coordinate fam trips. “Send us an e-mail asking for information on setting up a fam trip and we’ll cover the logistics. We find that works better for us.” Check out “The Latest Deals” section of this newsletter for a Croatia fam, hosted by In Quest of the Classics.

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