CROATIA’S COMPETITIVENESS LIES IN BEUATIFUL NATURE AND GOOD VALUE FOR MONEY
Q: What are your predictions for this season in Valamar hotels in Croatia?
The preparation for this season was quite challenging for us. Firstly due to weather conditions, which weren’t ideal, and secondly, due to the early Easter break this year, which correlated with the ski season. We can say June was again a challenging month for us, but we are now on track with our plans. We are constantly improving and keen to set high targets. Valamar is looking forward to nice business opportunities in autumn and, since the weather is an unpredictable factor in tourism, we hope it will continue to be in our favour. We are ambitious to set higher and higher standards every year and to continuously improve our offers and services in all possible aspects. As always, we are fully prepared for this season and expecting our guests with great excitement. Last year, as a destination we did very well and we are convinced this trend will continue for Croatia in 2013, as well as for Valamar.
Q: Valamar has recently invested around 8 million euros in the renovation of Hotel&Casa Valamar Sanfior in Istria. Are there any other investments planned for this year?
In 2013 we invested around 23 million Euros in our properties. Our biggest investment was in hotel Valamar Sanfior in Rabac, in Istria, which became a four star property for leisure guests with high demands. Our second biggest investment this year went to Camping Krk on the island of Krk. This 4* eco-friendly camping, which was awarded ISO 14001 certificate and carries the Blue Flag for its beach, now offers a heated outdoor pool and the first camping SPA zone in Croatia and luxurious mobile homes with their own yard. After this repositioning, Camping Krk has become a kind of open-air hotel and one of the best 4* campsites in Croatia.
Investments in Valamar are always carefully planned before they are realised, so we are proud to say that one of our projects for the next season is expansion and remodeling of Valamar Dubrovnik President Hotel to a 5* hotel offering new luxurious suites, outdoor swimming pool and an upgrade of all rooms and public spaces. The project is planned for completion in 2014, and the estimated investment level is around 20 million EUR. Also, Hotel Zagreb and Hotel Argosy will join Valamar’s 4* hotel portfolio after planned renovation and investment.
Besides investing in our facilities, Valamar is also investing in our greatest resource – the employees. This contributes to the continuously improving quality of service by introducing the highest quality standards in every aspect of operations. We have developed our own platform for training and education of key operating and management functions. Our standard operating procedures and many certificates for quality business management are at the highest international level. Since our guests are at the center of our attention, we give great importance to further development of human resources as the main factor of service quality in tourism. These investments, together with the EU entrance, make us set optimistic goals for the coming season. At Valamar we see an opportunity in the future, since we are heavily investing in our properties and quality of service. That is very important if you want to keep your guests and attract new ones.
Q: Croatia has just joined the European Union. In what way will this help to improve Croatian tourism in general?
I think the European Union is a good thing for Croatian tourism. Economic indicators show that Croatia will definitely benefit from entering the European Union. This will also reflect on tourism and have a positive impact. The overall results demonstrate that Croatia is becoming more and more interesting to foreign tourists and I believe the EU entrance will help to raise awareness about Croatia as a beautiful and safe country for tourism. Tourists will be able to travel and cross borders faster and in the long-term might be able to pay in a single currency if they are coming from EU countries. Croatia’s competitiveness lies in beautiful nature and good value for money. It is not the cheapest destination, but for sure it is one with a good level of service and high-quality properties. The coast and Adriatic Sea are really unspoiled natural resorts and if we put all of that together, I am sure tourists will find Croatia a great place for a holiday and lasting memories.
Q: Croatia has many devastated hotel properties in state ownership that are going to be privatised. Do you plan to invest in some of these properties in the future?
As a tourism company, we are actively keeping track of projects, companies and properties in the tourism sector in Croatia. We are continuously analyzing opportunities for further growth and development of our business, which also includes hotel properties in state ownership. Our interest for each case will certainly depend on tender conditions and profitability of such investment. High level of indebtedness of such hotel companies is very often the obstacle for realising these projects.
Q: You are German, living in Croatia for many years. Have you noticed any significant changes of the business climate in Croatia over that period?
The investment climate in Croatia is getting better, but there is still a lot to be done to remove administrative burdens for doing business and for investments. We are paying many taxes and levies that are influencing our business on daily basis. All this is acting very discouragingly for investors. Valamar group is one of the biggest investors in Croatian tourism. The Croatian government made some steps in investment climate improvement and I hope that a new Tourism strategy will additionally help Croatia to become one of top 20 destinations in the world. Certainly, there is room for improvement in the current construction and land legislation.
Besides this, I have to mention that some of the major issues today in Croatia are unemployment, high taxes on labor costs that cause a great problem for employers and employees, as well as inflexible labor regulations which do not ease up the process of employment, nor the mobility of employees. We all hope the government will do its best in encouraging employment by ensuring new workplaces and stimulating the overall Croatian economy. EU entrance could help speed up those processes.
Q: The Meetings & Events segment is very important for Valamar. What can we do as a destination to become more competitive in the international meetings market?
Valamar Lacroma Dubrovnik is one of the biggest congress hotels in Croatia. With a capacity of approximately 1,200 guests in our congress hall, we have the leading congress centre in the Dubrovnik region and one of the leading ones at the Adriatic coast. By definition, Valamar is a leisure tourism company. Most of our guests are families and couples but since we are building a strong MICE segment, we have many business groups and individuals that are business related.
In order to become more competitive in the meetings market, our country needs stronger destination management that would provide guests with additional content and experiences. Tourists still don’t know that Dubrovnik, former Dubrovnik Republic, is the cradle of modern diplomacy and even when they come to Dubrovnik there is little developed offering about the history. Development of such products will have a strong influence on Croatian tourism in the future.
Unfortunately, Croatia still isn’t perceived as a year round destination and that is a huge challenge for Croatian tourism in general. That is also one of our priorities in Valamar. How to bring a guest to Dubrovnik or Istria outside the season and provide him with memorable experiences?
I find that the public sector, especially the Ministry of tourism, must have a development strategy plan for congress tourism, which has recently occurred through the new Strategy for development of tourism of the Republic of Croatia to 2020. Croatia is lacking serious, big congress centres that can accommodate a few thousand guests, and this is where I see the strong role of the state as a partner or investor in building such a centre in one of the most attractive destinations in Croatia. The state also has to encourage the initiation of regular air lines with leading European cities outside season as well, because the short season is one of the leading problems of Croatian tourism. One of the most ideal ways of lengthening the season is congress tourism itself.
Q: Last year Valamar introduced an interesting MICE campaign called „meetINblue“. Can you tell us more about it and its first results?
The Adriatic coast is by far the most popular Croatian touristic region, with 11 million tourists every year. Crowned with 1244 islands, islets, rocks, reefs and blue crystal clear sea, it is one of the most desirable sailing destinations of the world. As a leading hotel chain in Croatia and socially responsible member of the community, here in Valamar we are focused on the protection of biological diversity of the Adriatic sea. Since 2012 we’ve been supporting the Blue World Institute in protecting Adriatic dolphins. Funds gathered during the project from the area of socially responsible business ”meetINblue-Valamar blue meetings” in 2012, we have adopted 42 dolphins from Adriatic Sea, thus contributing to the preservation of this protected species. Thanks to realising the lease of our conference rooms for the events in which 100 or more people participate, by donating 700 Kunas for every lease of that type we can adopt one dolphin. Innovation and the importance of the project, which supports the work of non-government association Blue World, was recognised by the profession and meetINblue received the prestigious reward CBTour in category for the best responsible Croatian business tourism program in 2012.
Interviewed by: Daniela Kos
Valamar Hotels & Resorts is the biggest hospitality management company in Croatia. They operate 23 hotels, seven apartment villages and nine campsites, mostly in two main tourist regions in Croatia, Istria and Dubrovnik. We spoke with Valamar’s CEO Peter Fuchs, who has held this position since 2007.
Croatia will benefit from entering the European Union
Valamar adopting dolphins in CSR campaign