Lonely Planet Writer

Croatia's incredible tourism success - one in every six euro made comes from their booming travel industry

It’s a remarkable statistic by any standard, but more than one in every six euros generated in Croatia comes from tourism.

Split, Croatia
Split, Croatia Image by Shutterstock

The country’s extraordinary reliance on travellers, from both home and abroad, brings in 18% of GDP, far higher than nations internationally known as travel hubs. Spain, for instance, with its famous reputation for tourism has just a 4.1% share of its GDP coming from travel each year.

A boat crosses Kozjak lake at Plitvice Lakes National Park near Plitvicka Jezera, Croatia.
A boat crosses Kozjak lake at Plitvice Lakes National Park near Plitvicka Jezera, Croatia. Image by Matej Divizna/Getty Images

That, in itself, is more than double that of France (2.1%), with France numerically at least, the single most popular destination in the world. Visitor numbers to Croatia for 2015 were up by 8% on the previous year, and growth so far in 2016 has been even faster. Local reports said that there had been 83.4 million overnight stays by the end of September, which was 3.4 million more than for the entirety of 2015.

Throughout the year, a whole variety of travel records have been broken with Split Airport – the country’s second busiest – welcoming two million passengers for the first time ever in a single year on September 26. In July, the airport had set another record when 544,000 passengers flew through the airport, the largest monthly figure they’d ever seen.

Croatia is best known for historic well-preserved cities like Dubrovnik and Zadar, and also its long Mediterranean coastline boasting more than one hundred separate blue flag beaches. However, it is also developing a reputation for adventure holidays with trips for bird-watching, hiking, rock climbing, and paragliding all proving increasingly popular. Tourists are flocking to Croatia in summer, with the tourism industry highly seasonal, and July and August by far the most popular months. September and October are starting to boom as well though, and bookings for both months were at their highest ever levels this year. One of the biggest growth areas has been in nautical tourism, with boating visitors responsible for up to 600,000 overnight stays in September alone.