“On the European and global MICE map, Croatia has firmly taken its position as a highly attractive congress and incentives destination. The reasons for this are the quick and easy transport access, excellent value for the money, and high level of personal security. The natural beauty and cultural attractions, and excellent culinary reputation are added value and benefits when selecting a venue. It is certain that there is still potential and opportunity for future growth and progress in the MICE segment, as seen in the increasing investments in quality and infrastructure. For this reason, there is still room to improve Croatia’s position as a tourism destination for diverse types of tourism. In that sense, the Head Office of the CNTB is seriously considering reopening a congress office,” stated Kristjan Staničić, the newly appointed director of the Head Office of the Croatian National Tourist Board.
KS: Both globally and in Croatia, MICE tourism is on the rise, and trends are changing. When we speak about the congress industry in Croatia, the most important role is still held by the hotels and specialised congress and event agencies. However, I am pleased to note that the number of companies specialised in specific segments of organising corporate events is also on the rise. Certainly, further investments in new facilities with greater capacities are still required, particularly for new congress centres. Investments are also needed in existing facilities, to modernise amenities to keep up with new technological demands. Above all, the objective is to attract more large and significant international events, such as the 10th ISABS Conference on Forensic and Anthropologic Genetics and Mayo Clinic Lectures in Individualized Medicine. This meeting was held in Dubrovnik in June of this year, with the support of the Croatian National Tourist Board, and brought together about 500 scientists from around the world, including reputable Nobel Prize winners from Europe. However, by attracting more meetings of global significance, our airline-based congress destinations, such as Dubrovnik, Zagreb, Split and Opatija, gravitating to the Rijeka Airport, could result in higher quality airline connections with the largest European cities. This in particularly pertains to the pre- and post-summer periods, since business meetings are typically held outside the main tourism season. Therefore, corporate tourism is one of the key tourism products that can significantly impact and extend the overall tourism season, and position Croatia as a main airline destination, which is one of our primary objectives in the upcoming period.
Q: The development of the congress industry has been included in strategic national documents, including the Development Strategy and the Action Plan, as the operative documents to 2020. We are half-way through that period – are plans unfolding on schedule?
KS: These documents contain a detailed analysis of the general situation in place at the time the documents were created, and give guidelines to be followed in order to accomplish the set goals. This is a useful platform and great effort has been invested in recent years. Many of the goals have already been met, such as the number of overnights, investments in capacity and infrastructure, strengthening the national tourism brand, and more. More work is required to reach a strong consensus and cooperation at all levels, particularly in the sense of destination management, and this is something that I will be putting particular focus on.
Q: The growth of incentive travel is a global trend, and Croatia has great opportunities here. How would you assess what we offer today and the creativity of personnel regarding this type of service?
KS: In Croatia, there are high quality DMC and PCO agencies, many of which have years of experience in the MICE segment. They have excellent knowledge of Croatia, as a corporate tourism destination, and all the key target markets, which is essential for designing and successfully placing an incentives programme. This implies innovativeness, creativity and a step away from leisure packaging arrangement. Our specialised agencies are keeping in step with the most popular global trends, while also ensuring that the authentic experience of visiting Croatia remains in first place. They are successfully creating tailor-made programmes, applying the well known aspects of our country, its culture, natural environment, food and wine segments, and combining all these in new ways to meet and exceed the expectations of each individual client. It should certainly be stressed that a large number of DMCs and PCOs are increasingly including continental destinations of Croatia in their incentive programmes, as places offering new and different content and opportunities.
Q: What is the Head Office of the Croatian National Tourist Board planning with regard to promotions and development of congress industry destinations?
KS: For a number of years, the Croatian National Tourist Board has actively promoted the Croatian MICE segment at the most significant congress fairs, such as IMEX Frankfurt, IMEX Las Vegas, IBTM Barcelona, The Meetings Show in London and Conventa in Ljubljana.
We have organised special presentations at congress fairs, participated in specialised B2B workshops, study tours, professional presentations and meetings in Croatia and abroad. I would also like to note that last December, Croatia became the 25th member of the Strategic Alliance of the National Convention Bureaux of Europe, thanks to the work and efforts of the Croatian National Tourist Board and the Croatian Association of Congress Tourism Professionals, whose representatives successfully lobbied for our country to become a member in this esteemed association. We will certainly continue to support every initiative aimed at further strengthening business tourism.