Croatia's hotels eye Adriatic throne

Croatia

In the same month that TUI officially opened the TUI Blue Jadran in Croatia, the D-Resort Sibenik became a member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World.

The announcement came as the new series of "Game of Thrones" aired. Parts of the show are filmed in Dubrovnik, which has helped boost visitor numbers to the country. Predictably, the country is upgrading its hotel stock to meet the growth in demand.

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The D-Resort Šibenik is a luxury resort set on a super-yacht marina overlooking the historic Dalmatian city of Šibenik, where the hotel’s general director, Nenad Tatarinov, said that he hoped joining Small Luxury Hotels of the World would open up new markets (primarily the U.S.) and enable a stronger positioning in the UK market.

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The Tui Blue Jadran is the seventh hotel of Tui Group’s new “experience” hotel brand and is located in a building considered to be the oldest hotel on the Croatian Adriatic coast. The group said that the hotel targeted an international audience with an “affinity for lifestyle seeking an authentic holiday experience”.

Hyatt has also looked to the country, with the Hyatt Regency hotel in Zadar, Croatia—the first Hyatt-branded hotel to open in the country—due in the spring of 2019. “We are confident that the globally recognized Hyatt Regency brand will resonate with the growing base of business and leisure travelers visiting the country,” Peter Norman, SVP of acquisitions and development – Europe, Africa, and Middle East for Hyatt, said.

While the global brands are looking to Croatia, the domestic operators are also expanding and looking to the luxury segment. The country’s largest player, Valamar Riviera, which has 30 hotels, has, this year, overseen the largest project yet in the country, with two luxury resorts in Rabac. Željko Kukurin, the group’s CEO, said that it would “continue to work intensely on new investment plans to develop and upgrade the properties and services in our portfolio.”

Why Croatia is Hot

The country saw a record number of visitors last year, at 16.3 million tourists, around 2.2 million more than the previous year. For the year-to-date to June, the country’s tourism ministry said that it had seen a 22-percent rise in arrivals and a 24-percent in overnight stays, indicating, it said, record highs for 2017.

Croatia’s numerous cultural sites, more than 1,100 islands and mild Mediterranean climate have made it a target of developers, who have been aided by the government, which is eager to promote tourism.

Croatia’s tourism development strategy for 2014 to 2020 has set guidelines and goals for its further development, expanding its scope from “sun and sea” to develop other forms of tourism in line with sustainable development, including health tourism.

The government has looked to cooperation between the private and public sector to drive investment in tourism. Gari Cappelli, minister of tourism, said that last year saw €670 million invested in the tourism sector, driving both new hotels and refurbishments, a figure which is expected to grow to €800 million this year.

Hollywood has also come knocking for Croatia. Last year saw rumors that Brad Pitt had joined architect Nikola Bašić and investment firm TFI Holding in a $1.5 billion mixed-use scheme in Croatia, which would include a luxury hotels, as well as schools and a clinic.

The trend for “set-jetting” has seen Croatia and capital Dubrovnik in particular attracting fans of Game of Thrones, with the city’s UNESCO-protected historic downtown used as the setting for a number of scenes throughout the series’ seven seasons. Despite series ending in 2018, it is expected that the country’s appeal will continue to grow.

Katherine Doggrell is an editor at Hotel Analyst, the U.K.-based news analysis service for hotel investors.

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