Tourism has also resumed full speed in Croatia. But the country on the northern end of the “other” shore of the Adriatic is experiencing – in a particularly serious form – the same problem that afflicts the “travel” industry in every corner of the planet: the lack of personnel.
According to official estimates, in the land famous for its coast in front of which there are more than a thousand islands and islets, the “hole” would amount to 10 thousand people. The problem, which afflicts many of the great powers of European tourism, France, Spain, Greece, and the beautiful country itself, takes on even more worrying connotations in Croatia, both due to the peculiar configuration of the local economy, which in times of crisis does not depend on tourism for 20 percent (in Italy the share is 12 percent), partly because in Zagreb the lack of staff available in this sector is structural and precedes the times of Covid.
A report by the France Press agency in Rovinj, one of the most popular coastal destinations in Istria and beyond, gives a picture of the situation. Restaurateurs and managers of local tourism promotion speak of a “sensational rebound” of the market, but at the same time of an “alarming situation” on the workforce front.
The country has already hosted, between January and May 2022, 3.8 million international tourists, in other words triple the number of those who crossed the border in the same period of 2021. All before the presumable peak, which as in Italy occurs between July and August. “The desire for travel is high, tourists will continue to arrive – explains the director of the Croatian tourism association, Veljko Ostojic – who is convinced that the absolute record of arrivals from abroad, inevitably achieved in 2019 – 21 million, for a Country of only 3.8 million inhabitants – may be beaten, despite the absence of the Russians, if the conflict with Ukraine does not escalate further.
As mentioned, the lack of tourism workers in Croatia has a historical matrix that precedes the Covid crisis by several years. Since Zagreb joined the European Union, over 250,000 Croatians have left the country in search of better fortunes and wages, particularly in Germany, Austria and Ireland. And with the pandemic, the transmigration of tourism and catering workers to other sectors has inevitably arrived. Those who have left have often found better salaries and less strenuous working hours, and in many cases have not taken a step back.
Hotels, the boom of May. More Italians and foreigners than in 2019, the first time since the beginning of the pandemic
As a result, Croatia is forced to look for a workforce abroad, in particular among the neighboring Balkan countries that are not yet the EU, but even further away, starting with Asia. To the point of forcing Zagreb to raise the quotas of non-EU foreign workers admitted: from January to June, the new work visas were 51 thousand, destined, in order, to construction, catering and tourism workers. The figure, 100 percent higher than that of 2021, is expected to reach 100,000 by the end of the year.
Among local managers and operators, there are those who explain the phenomenon (also) with the poor promotion that the government guarantees to specialization schools in the hotel tourism sector, which today have far fewer students than in the past, and who explain that, in a context where young people – and not only because of the global shock from the pandemic – have entered the logic of the flexible workplace, improving wages and working conditions plays an important role. And it’s trying to fit in.
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