Hoteliers, tour operators, unionists place high expectations on new minister

ZAGREB, 28.12.2011.

The Croatian tourist sector welcomes the formation of the new government and the appointment of the new tourism minister Veljko Ostojic, holding high expectations of the new authorities which they hope will adopt a new tourism strategy, lower Value Added Tax for this branch and carry out a well-planned privatisation. Representatives of the Croatian Hoteliers' Association (UPUHH), the Croatian Travel Agencies' Association (UHPA) and the Trade Union of Workers in Tourism and Services (STUH), who have been polled by Hina, say they believe that 2012 will be more demanding and difficult than 2011, the year in which many favourable circumstances, such as a long and warm summer, have led to better results than expected.

Describing this tourist year as successful, UPUHH chairman Kristian Sustar said the good results were only a first step in creating an environment encouraging further growth and development of the tourist trade. No matter how successful this year has been, it does not solve the problem of the insufficient competitiveness of Croatia's tourism sector, he said, urging more investments and creating infrastructure necessary for making the season last longer. All of this requires a firm strategy with clear economic, fiscal and legal frameworks, he said.

Sustar said that as long as tourism depended on weather conditions, which are not a controllable factor, and the schedule of public holidays, the situation could be deemed serious given the current crisis in Europe. Sustar, who considers the new minister to be competent and aware of problems, recalled that at a recent convention hoteliers had requested the lowering of the VAT rate to 8 percent for tourism services, as a way of boosting the competitiveness of Croatia's tourism.

UHPA chairman Boris Zgomba said that this year travel agencies had made good business results and that next year would not be easy. Travel agencies hope that Minister Ostojic will use his previous experience in the tourism sector and joint activities with tour operators to enhance business conditions. According to Zgomba, travel agencies welcome announcements of possible reduction of VAT in the tourist sector.

STUH trade union leader Eduard Andric, too, described this year as good, calling for concrete measures to enhance sector competitiveness. He proposed connecting coastal tourist trade with continental tourism and attracting more investments.

The unionist expects of the new minister to consider carefully the situation regarding the possible privatisation of the remaining 16 state-owned companies in the tourism sector, adding that those with good business performance should not be privatised, at least not soon. (Hina)