Croatia strengthening tourist cooperation with Zhejiang province

ZAGREB, 10.3.2015.

Croatia and one of China's most developed provinces, Zhejiang, have plenty of areas in which to develop cooperation, notably in tourism, not only in the exchange and mutual increase in the number of tourists, but also in transport by introducing direct flights and investing in Croatia's health and other types of tourism, Croatian and Chinese officials said on Tuesday.

Croatian Tourism Minister Darko Lorencin held talks with Zhejiang Vice Governor Liang Liming on possibilities of expanding tourist cooperation between Croatia and Zhejiang, the fourth Chinese province in terms of GDP.

"China offers a big tourist and every other kind of potential and Croatia wants to attract as many tourists as possible from that market and we are willing to support Chinese tour operators who, when there is a critical mass of Chinese tourists, will connect China and Croatia by direct flights. Croatia will present its tourism products at an international investment fair in Ningbo in Zhejiang province in early June this year," Lorencin said.

He invited Chinese representatives to come to Rovinj in May for the 100th session of the World Tourism Organization Executive Council since China, a member of the Council, supported Croatia's candidacy to host the session.

"The Chinese are first in the world's biggest travelers rankings, surpassing even the Germans, and this too makes this market extremely interesting to Croatia, notably in the pre-season, when they travel the most around Europe, and we can offer them a lot that interests them, from culture to national parks. In order to strengthen our presence in Shanghai, this year we plan to appoint a Croatian tourism representative," Lorencin said.

Liang said Lorencin had made a big contribution to the tourist cooperation with China because numerous new initiatives had appeared in both countries in recent years. She voiced confidence that Zhejiang province would help to strengthen the cooperation.

The Year of Tourism 16+1 project is being implemented this year between China and 16 central and east European countries, including Croatia, which the Chinese see as a tourist country with a long history, natural and sea beauties, and Zhejiang province has about 1,000 islands like Croatia, she said.

The vice governor said the province had about 55 million inhabitants and was visited annually by about 600 million domestic and about nine million foreign tourists. She compared the province capital of Hangzhou, known in China as a paradise with rich culture and tourism, with Croatia's Dubrovnik.

Zhejiang also has the highest number of Chinese travelling abroad. Liang said 900,000 Zhejiang inhabitants travelled abroad in mid-February during the Chinese New Year holidays.

In recent years, Croatia has seen an increase in Chinese tourists, with a little over 60,000 visiting last year, when they generated a little over 90,000 bed/nights, up 40 percent from 2013.

From 2009 to 2014, the number of Chinese arrivals and bed/nights in Croatia increased six times. Most Chinese visit between May and October, most frequently as part of regional and European tours.