Move over, Italy. If the recent AirDNA data is anything to go by, the ever-busy Mediterranean has a new regional leader, and the fact that the trendy Croatia has taken up the mantle should come as no surprise to some. According to the vacation rental research group, Croatia is now officially the most sought-after destination in all of Europe.
Once overshadowed by its dark past under the now-defunct Yugoslavia, the Balkan country underwent significant changes since its struggle for independence in the nineties. Tourists come from all over the world to meet its famously rugged Adriatic coastline, packed with crystal clear beaches and a rich History, and stroll its countless picturesque cities.
If you’re looking to visit Croatia soon, though, you better secure those bookings ASAP as occupation is very high:
Croatia Leads Europe’s Recovery With A 132% Increase In Overnight Stays
In total, 7.2% more overnight stays were recorded in Europe in June 2022 compared to a Covid-free 2019. As AirDNA puts it, the industry has ‘fully recovered’, with arrival figures surpassing those of the pre-pandemic years. More specifically, June marks the ninth consecutive month that occupancy rates have increased, reaching 58.2%.
Interestingly, Croatia leads the way in Europe, posting a 132% increase in overnight stays compared to 2021 and beating other traditional Mediterranean competitors, such as Italy and Spain, to the number one spot. This is further indication travelers still take into account the level of freedom a country enjoys before booking a trip.
Unlike ultra-strict Italy or the ever-cautious Spain, which reopened several months later while the travel season was already underway, Croatia has had normal entry rules since May 3. Since that date, foreigners have been allowed to visit the Pearl of the Adriatic restriction-free, without being subject to health documentation:
- No vaccination certificates
- No boosters required
- No pre-departure testing
- No post-arrival testing
- No mandatory quarantine
- No pre-entry registration forms
Comparatively, other Mediterranean nations have only dropped their Covid rules recently, Malta being the latest only two weeks ago. At the peak of the crisis, all the way back in 2020, Croatia also maintained an open border to Americans, and with the exception of brief periods of closure due to the spread of new variants, it never ceased welcoming tourists.
Additionally, despite the widespread travel disruption, the Dalmatian heartland’s tourism recovery is still going strong, with demand surging to new heights. The latest monthly market review published by AirDNA is proof of that, with Croatia coming out of ahead of every single other European nation in booking trends.
Do Health Restrictions Influence A Country’s Tourism Recovery?
It seems Croatia’s unorthodox approach, as it was once deemed by its European counterparts, has paid off in the end, as the country shoots ahead of all other EU nations as the world’s new favorite European destination. Of course, Croatia wasn’t the only country registering a pronounced increase in bookings lately – the list is rather extensive.
In the runner-up slot, the equally restriction-free Norway can be found, experiencing a 117% increase in overnight guests, followed by Hungary with 97%. The entire top 20 has seen renewed demand, but one thing stood out in AirDNA’s ranking: those that have reopened earlier, some as soon as February 2022, have charted the highest.
The Netherlands, one of the last European countries to impose a vaccine requirement, trails behind with a shy 34% increase after 2021. Finland’s recovery has been even slower, at only a 25% improvement over last year’s figures, though that could be attributed to its decision of removing all entry curbs in late June.
The existence of Covid curbs is not the only explanation behind some countries’ newfound success, and others’ persistent struggle to attract visitors. One of the most restrictive in Europe, France in fact saw an 18% increase over 2019’s historic levels. It should be noted, however, that France has always been world leader when it comes to tourism.
Paris is a dream destination for a majority of visitors to Europe, and beach-goers never stopped flocking into the Cote d’Azur even during 2020 and 2021’s bumpy summers, but Croatia’s unexpected rise as a Mediterranean powerhouse is a testament to something bigger than simply a lack of health measures – although that’s still very relevant.
What Makes Croatia So Damn Special Besides Being Restriction-Free?
Very few countries have gone from zero to one hundred in a time-span as short as Croatia’s. Despite being a relatively new state, established following the latest Balkan Wars of the nineties, alongside Serbia, North Macedonia and a few others, Croatia has been a home for the Croatian people, and a cultural hub, for many, many centuries.
Among its leading attractions, we have the walled city of Dubrovnik, with its hilly, cobblestone streets and strategic Mediterranean port; Split, built as an extension of a former Roman-era palace, now a maze of narrow alleyways where Dalmatia’s Ancient History comes alive; and the Venetian-looking Zadar, boasting the most beautiful sunset in the world.
Even the severely underrated capital city of Zagreb, the country’s heart and its financial center, has enough attractions to keep tourists busy for days, ranging from cool, niche museums, such as the Museum of the Broken Relationships, to medieval watchtowers and an iconic cathedral. In sum, Croatia is absolutely gorgeous, and it’s no wonder it is no longer a hidden gem.
It remains a gem, nonetheless, and now, it is Europe’s top vacation hotspot.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com