What opportunities does Croatia's booming tourism sector offer Qatari visitors and investors?
Qatari tourists have recognized Croatia as a desirable destination, and in recent years their numbers have been on the rise. We are experiencing a significant growth in the number of visitors, 140% in 2017 and 18% in 2018. In 2018, we had around 10,000 overnight stays by Qatari visitors, a figure we seek to increase significantly. There is great potential for growth and for our people to get to know each other even more. Croatia has high-quality and diverse accommodation, a rich cultural and historical heritage, and an exceptionally well-preserved natural heritage that also encompasses eight national parks and 11 nature reserves. Croatia is also increasingly recognized as a halal-friendly destination—we are among the few EU member states with an officially registered halal standard. Croatia is, by all means, open to Qatari investors in tourism projects. There is great potential for Qatari investors in various tourism projects, especially with respect to high-class facilities and health tourism.
How will the recently established Croatian Business Council (CBC) contribute to the intensification of business relations for both countries?
The Croatian community in Qatar is extremely successful, influential, and highly appreciated. Croats may not be present in large numbers in Qatar, but they have certainly started to make their presence felt by setting up the Croatian Business Council (CBC). Around 500 Croatian expatriates work in different positions in Qatar, and CBC can serve as a link and contribute to promoting cooperation. Bilateral political relations between the two countries are extremely cordial. CBC seeks to become one of the main bridges between Croatia and Qatar and hopes that companies and individuals from both sides will find this bridge worth crossing. Thus far, Qatar and Croatia have had many potential opportunities for business cooperation, though many were also missed.
Which sectors are better placed to capitalize on the increasing relations between the two countries?
The goal of Croatia's economic policy is to strengthen and accelerate economic growth in three areas: improving conditions for doing business, strengthening institutional efficiency, and boosting investment potential. Croatia has introduced numerous incentives and privileges for investments such as non-refundable grants, tax incentives, direct employment incentives, free lease of state-owned assets for investment projects, and other measures. There is huge potential for economic cooperation through the direct investment of Qatari partners and implementation of joint projects. This includes cooperation in all types of tourism, ICT, electronics and electrical engineering, construction, and health. Croatia has knowledge, experience, and a longstanding tradition in maritime affairs and marine culture that it can share with Qatar. Croatian companies have capability and experience in building seaports and their accompanying infrastructure. Croatia has tremendous potential, and with the help of investments from Qatar it can develop production capacities that would, by and large, fulfill the needs of Qatar—and Croatia—for first-rate food products. Croatia has over 100 companies with halal certification and experience in organizing halal conferences. A major Croatian energy project—the construction of the LNG terminal on the island of Krk, which is vital for the energy security of Croatia and the EU—is a contribution to the further diversification of energy sources, supplies, and routes and could be of interest to Qatar as an entry point for supplying natural gas to the central and southeast European energy market. Furthermore, Croatia's defense industry offers some of the best products in the world. There are also significant opportunities for military to military cooperation, especially in the area of education and training.