Croatia Joins the Eurozone
New Year’s Day marked a historic double achievement for Croatia. This idyllic Balkan nation joined the Eurozone and the border-free Schengen Area, the first country to do both on the same day. So goodbye kuna currency and hello euro!
A Boon to Tourism
Croatia’s entry into Schengen is expected to boost the tourism industry, which already accounts for 20% of its GDP. Its economy relies more on tourism than any other EU country. Among the millions of visitors Croatia welcomes each year are those who booked their vacations with Olive Tree Escapes and our valued travel agent partners.
I spoke with Nikolina Borak, OTE’s Croatia Operations Manager in Zagreb, about the transition and how the 2023 season is shaping up. “As locals, we are on a learning curve with the new currency and still adjusting,” remarked Nikolina, “but I feel our clients will find it easy to adapt.”
“Border crossings from Italy and Slovenia to Croatia and vice versa will be much smoother and faster, giving us the opportunity to ensure clients have flawless transitions,” she said. Checks at internal land and sea borders were removed on January 1st, while internal air borders will follow on March 26th, well before tourist season starts.
A No-brainer for Travelers
With Italy, Croatia, Slovenia, and Montenegro now using the same currency, passing from one country to the next will be seamless. Plus the strong dollar makes this a good time for Americans to travel to Europe. During the last week of January, 1st USD was 0.92 EUR so exchanging $100 at the ATM will net you 92.08 Euro.
The favorable exchange rate will only fuel what the media has dubbed “Revenge Travel” whereby people are taking their revenge on the pandemic. They are finally planning the trips they couldn’t take over the past two or three years due to COVID-19 restrictions. And staying at home means that lots of people have saved up money and can splurge on a longer vacation, a fancier hotel, or a fabulous, once-in-a-lifetime experience.
A Good Sign for the 2023 Season
Nikolina shared that OTE’s Croatia sales department is swamped with requests. Things are looking very promising for the upcoming season; like the pre-Covid years and like 2019 in particular. Croatia welcomed a record 17.4 million tourists in 2019, with the island-hopping route between the Dalmatian coastal cities of Split and Dubrovnik proving especially popular.
No one wants to skip heavenly Dubrovnik—Game of Thrones junkies and everybody else! Some of our clients choose to concentrate on the beaches in the south, mostly at the peak of summer. Istria is popular, especially in autumn during truffle season and the olive harvest. Or they might dip into neighboring countries like Slovenia with its fairy-tale castles, Alpine attractions, and verdant vineyards that extend into Italy, or surprising Montenegro. Here the gem is Kotor—it sits at the end of a narrow, fjord-like bay bordered by soaring mountains and several luxury resorts.
Honeymoon Heaven on Brac Island
June is the traditional month for honeymoons and Nikolina said that several have already been confirmed. These dreamy getaways usually range from 7 to 10 days and focus on sea, sun, and romance. Couples fly into Split, stay a few days in that fascinating city, and then work their way south to Dubrovnik, with private speedboat transfers between the islands of Brac, Hvar, and Korcula. “We love to send honeymooners to the Hotel Lemongarden, a wonderful oasis on the island of Brac,” Nikolina remarked.
An Excellent Time For Repeat Visits
Craig and Barbara are returning clients who’ve planned a 10-day trip this June and July. In 2018, they visited relatives who live in a little village on the Northern Adriatic coast in the Kvarner region. Now they’re coming back to spend a relaxing week at a luxury spa hotel in that region, and extending their trip to the stunning Pelješac peninsula and Dubrovnik. On the peninsula they’ll stay at Villa Korta Katarina, a very exclusive and luxurious property with its own well-respected winery.
One of Nikolina’s favorite stories is about the generous grandmother who, after having visited Croatia in the fall of 2017, decided to pay for each one of her four grand-daughters and their significant others to go see the country. Two did so in 2018 and another in May of 2019. There’s still one couple left, but she’s promised them a trip to this “beautiful country. I’ve never met nicer people nor seen more lovely landscapes,” Grandma Martha enthused, “You’ll be hearing from us again!”