The travel industry in Croatia is preparing for what many providers expect to be another busy year on the heels of a record-breaking 2022 that saw the highest number of visitors and revenue ever.
That’s because in January, Croatia became part of Europe’s open travel zone, called the Schengen area, and residents and tourists alike can now travel freely across 27 countries. They won’t need passports or have to stop for border checks, and also benefit from the ease of being able to pay for trips in euros, as it’s now Croatia’s national currency.
The upside for travel providers is immense. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen put it well in saying that “People will be able to travel freely, business will be unhindered by checks. Seamless travel will bring tangible results for people living along the border, working across the border, or having family on both sides of the border. Communities will grow closer together.”
Tapping into this newfound freedom of tourism is really exciting for providers like Leonidas Travel, a destination management company based in Rijeka. For one thing, it will likely make Croatia more enticing to add to multi-stop travel itineraries, according to Alberto Dittadi, co-founder and managing director of Leonidas, especially for travelers from North America, South America and India, who tend to spend at least 10 days on their trips. For instance, Venice, one of the destinations Leonidas Travel serves, has an international airport and sits a two and a half hour drive from Croatia. Travelers who were planning to spend time in Italy have fewer barriers to getting to Croatia by ferry, car or train from there.
“It really opens up a different scenario. We can draw tourists to a geographical area and not just one country,” he said.
Travel momentum is pushed as well by the strong U.S. dollar and Croatia’s adoption of the euro as its national currency. The currencies have hovered at or achieved parity for most of 2022, something that remains steady in 2023, motivating U.S. travelers to book Euro-Zone trips.
To make sure tourists can take advantage of open travel zones and not be blocked by payments, Leonidas Travel relies on Flywire, switching to the payments provider from Stripe in late 2022. The software came highly recommended from DMC peers for Flywire’s rich expertise in the travel space. Flywire makes it easy for clients to book trips and pay in their currency and payment method of choice, and automates foreign exchange so that the DMC receives payment in euros.
“What brought us to switch from Stripe to Flywire is that Flywire understands this business much better,” Dittadi said.