Czech company Odien Group is investing around EUR2m in a resort in Podstrana in Croatia by the end of this year, with another EUR8m in the next three years. This after taking over the Le Méridien Lav hotel and marina near Split last year, aiming to strengthen its market position.
“This year we are opening two new restaurants, Conlemani and 7 Palms, as well as a new terrace,” said Michael Saran, managing partner of Odien Group. “Our investment plans include expanding the marina by at least 25 per cent, renovating apartments and some rooms, as well as opening a new beach club. We also plan to include new catering and commercial services in the Marina to be at the disposal of our guests and local residents,” he went on.
Odien Group knows the Croatian market through its travel companies – Čedok agency was the first in the former Czechoslovakia to start bus tours to the Adriatic.
The Podstrana investment is the outcome of an analysis of the Croatian market of interest to the group due to the large tourism potential, Saran said.
“Hotel Lav is the best choice as it is one of the largest and most recognised hotel resorts in Croatia, with a marina and one of the largest conference halls and wellness centres, crucial for expanding the season. Despite all this, the destination is underrated on the market – Split has the potential to become a superior global destination,” notes Saran, responsible for managing the fund and the Lav takeover project.
“Although tourism has been our strategic investment, our investment interest in Croatia is not limited to tourism, which is why we decided to open an office in Zagreb. From Zagreb we will run not only operations in Croatia, but in Slovenia and Montenegro,” concludes Saran.
He admits the company has halted its long term plans for investments in Turkey due to the global geopolitical situation, where tourism income is expected to drop by 40 per cent. This, however, is not the reason why investors are coming to Croatia, he believes.
“Although crisis in other Mediterranean countries can speed up some processes, I do not believe that foreign investors are interested in Croatia just because of problems in Turkey or any other country, but see a large potential for investment in Croatia, especially in tourism. Which is why we’re here,” added Saran.
A tourism boom
Some 12.9 million tourists visited Croatia in 2014, 4.6 per cent more than the same period of the previous year. Tourism accounts for up to 20 per cent of Croatian GDP.
The 12.9 million tourists created 73.17 million overnight stays, 2 per cent more than 2013. Out of the total number of tourists, 11.6 million of them were foreign arrivals, up 5 per cent from last year. Domestic tourism was also up 1 per cent.
Most regions in the country experienced growth. In the Istria region tourist arrivals were up 2 per cent to 3.2 million, whilst in the Split-Dalmatia County there was impressive growth of 9 per cent this year (2.3 million arrivals). Zadar saw tourist arrivals grow by 7 per cent in 2014 (1.4 million), whilst Lika-Senj experienced 6 per cent growth (519,000).
The capital Zagreb was again one of the stars of the season, with 12 per cent growth in tourist arrivals (854,000), whilst the Šibenik-Knin County had 1.5 per cent more tourists in the first 11 months of the year. The popular tourist Country of Dubrovnik-Neretva had 1.4 million arrivals, which was 9 per cent more than the same period last year. The Kvarner region was one area which saw a decline in tourist arrivals (down 1 per cent to 2.2 million).
Germans continued to lead the way, accounting for the largest number of tourist arrivals in Croatia in the first 11 months with 2 million arrivals, which was 2 per cent more than which came in the same period last year. Slovenians were next (1.18 million – +2 per cent), followed by Austrians (1 million – +4.3 per cent).
November alone saw 10 per cent growth in the number of arrivals, with the growth aided by tourists from nations outside of Europe 13,000 Japanese tourist arrived in November, growth of 9 per cent from 2013. But it was the South Koreans who recorded the biggest jump – up 290 per cent to 10,000 arrivals last month. Also in November there were 5,000 American arrivals (+4 per cent) and visits from 2,000 Chinese tourists (+78 per cent).