I’ve been to the Croatian capital very often and the first things I’ve been noticing lately are the numerous new buildings and new modern trams. The latter have reminded me I am in a true metropolis since childhood. Today’s Zagreb has about 800,000 inhabitants, with suburbs a little over a million.
To me Zagreb has always been a charming city along with its always stylish women, who have long been known as trendsetter in the region. I feel life in Zagreb flows slowly, people still take time to sit in cafes and chat – this side of the city seems pretty Mediterranean. There is good food in Zagreb, a few extraordinary and different restaurants, such as the bistro Prasac. In the middle of the city there is a market similar to the one in Ljubljana by its character. The other memory from my youth is the visit to Mimara gallery, mandatory for all high school students of former Yugoslavia. It’s the concentration of culture that always draws me to Zagreb. The city boasts over 20 museums, numerous galleries and theatres including the newest Museum of modern art Zagreb, which is also an excellent meetings and event venue. The third memory of Zagreb is always connected with visiting top rock concerts, which take place in Arena or Maksimir. This year they will host Bon Jovi.
To a foreigner the first impression is definitely Central European. The architecture of numerous buildings was marked by Austro-Hungarian times. The suburbs of Novi Zagreb seem a bit more Balkan, grey and tired and haven’t changed much since my childhood.
Zagreb is not only the cultural and political centre of Croatia. As a metropolis it is also among the most developed parts of Croatia in the meetings industry. Most museums are able to host receptions and congresses. All of them are in the centre of town, easily accessible and attractive venues. In light of accessibility Zagreb is a big small congress city.
Zagreb boasts the biggest concentration of international hotel chains in the region. Conventions can be organized in the hotels Sheraton, Westin, Arcotel, Four Points by Sheraton and one of the best hotels in the region Regent Esplanade. Besides those there are a few excellent local congress hotels, such as Hotel Antunović. All in all the hotels of Zagreb offer 1,561 rooms in 5 star hotels and 2,143 rooms in 4 star hotels. Zagreb could host large international congress if the offer of convention centres followed the hotels. Partially this void is filled by the modern Hypo centre with a congress hall for 1,600, the Vatroslav Lisinski Concert Hall can seat 1,800 guests and Zagrebački velesajam also offers congress capacities.
The biggest disadvantage of Zagreb is the absence of a modern multifunctional congress centre. In my opinion this is at the moment the biggest hindrance for a faster growth of the meetings industry in Zagreb and keeps it from becoming a strong contender on the market. As everywhere else in the region the other deficiency is the problem of the airport, which seems the most tired of all in the region, yet the frequency and number of flights is improving.
Happy news was announced this December by Zagreb mayor Bandić – a new convention centre will be built in 2012 and the renovation of the airport terminal will begin shortly. I am certain both projects will restart the development of the meetings industry.
With proper marketing and development of a network of partners, Zagreb will remain the leading Croatian and regional congress destination. As its primary advantages I would stress its compactness and the high quality of hotel accommodation.
Destination grade: 4
5 excellent convention destination
4 quality convention destination
3 recommendable convention destination
2 average convention destination
Comparison with the Region:
Zagreb has a bright congress future. I think it could do well in the international market and form a backbone of the meetings industry in the region along with Ljubljana and Belgrade. At least three cities are persistently climbing the scale of developed congress destination, the final breakthrough of the entire region is complicated and dependant of marketing of main congress cities at the international market.
For more information visit: www.zagreb-convention.hr