PRESENTATION OF THE AUTHOR:
Tomislav Dumančić has 10 years of experience in the sales and marketing field in Croatian tourism. For the past 5 years he has been Valamar’s Sales and Marketing Director for the Dubrovnik destination. From 2009 he has also taken over the additional duty of the MICE and Corporate Business Director for the whole Valamar group. One of his most important recent projects was the pre-opening sales and marketing project for Valamar Lacroma Dubrovnik, Valamar’s new 4* property opened in June 2009.

Over the last decade of intense investments into Croatia’s tourist sector, there have been significant improvements regarding the quality of accommodation  and small meeting facilities, which no longer match the outdated perception within the regional tourist market  which considered it as a budget tourist destination for many years. A large number of facilities has been elevated to a distinctive level of high quality matching international standards (4* and 5*) with parallel development of new amenities, namely wellness and other facilities, in order to enhance conference business development.

In recent years, the MICE segment in the region has recorded relatively high growth putting Croatian congress tourism in the 41st place in the world, behind Slovenia, yet higher than other countries in the region – Serbia is ranked 55th and Bosnia and Herzegovina 81st. According to the index of ICCA for 2008 on the world ranking of congress destinations, our flagship destination Dubrovnik places at 153rd place while Belgrade is ranked 120th. Zagreb is 164th and Opatija way down at the 265th position. Congress tourism represents only 4 per cent of total arrivals, or alternately, only 1 per cent of actual overnight stays in the total Croatian tourist product, which indicates welcoming potential for development in this segment.

The strongest incentive in continuing the growth of the MICE segment in the region would be the construction of modern congress centres. Currently, there are approximately eighty hotels with multifunctional halls of various capacities and degree of equipment in Croatia, about twenty in Montenegro, thirty in Serbia and ten in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Nevertheless, these locations are still not up to standards required to hold the largest assemblies which have a capacity of a few thousand seating places for plenary conferences, along with a number of smaller meeting rooms. In many cities there are exhibition centres which have been renovated and adapted to hold events, yet the last of these was surprisingly built over forty years ago. In order to build new congress centres with large exhibition facilities equipped with modern multi-media accessories and with great flexibility, the general community needs to get involved and it has to be financed on the principle of Public Private Partnership.

Additionally, an important condition for congress tourism development is good traffic infrastructure. With a fairly good network of international airports, Croatia also has a sound network of quality motorways, main roads and good connectivity to main European traffic routes which is crucial for regional congress events.

In recent times, the economic crisis has negatively influenced the effect on the total demand for congress and incentive packages on the world market. Such a trend has an even bigger effect upon very attractive, exotic and mostly transoceanic destinations, which makes congress destinations in the region more attractive and price-competitive which presents new opportunities for business development. Thanks to continuous investments of hoteliers into quality of services within congress tourism but also to infrastructural potential stated above, we can expect that Croatia and the whole region will record a substantial growth in this segment in the coming years.

Finally, I would like to address the company I work for – Valamar Hotels & Resorts which, is developing in its coastal destinations (Dubrovnik, Istra, islands Krk and Pag) a rich supply of congress facilities, high quality accommodation, gastronomic and wellness amenities. Some of the essential conditions in order to develop the MICE segment in our company are:  acquiring new knowledge and managerial skills, readiness to access the market share as well as strategic orientation towards accelerated expansion of congress packages. Along with last year’s opening of the largest modern equipped congress hotel, the Valamar Lacroma Dubrovnik, the company has recently also offered a part of its land in Dubrovnik to construct a modern congress centre through a Public Private Partnership.