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Croatia all set for the big year ahead  

Croatia has capital news for WTM London 2019, leading event for the global tourism industry, headlined by the trailblazing Croatian cities, Rijeka and Zagreb, ready to fast track Croatia's tourism results, and raise the destination's profile in the UK further. City of Rijeka takes the crown as the Culture Capital of Europe and the beacon of the Kvarner Gulf, while the Croatian capital of Zagreb conquers the throne to preside the EU in 2020, offering staggering amount of events, festivities and attractive content all year round.

Combined with more investments, business travel growth, award winning coastal and continental destinations, new hotels, Michelin accolades, and repeated increase of visitors and TV crews capturing the country's diversity, Croatia continues to meet the demand and match the travel trends in the UK.

Highly coveted title of the Culture Capital of Europe expects to catapult Rijeka's appeal and expects to welcome over one million visitors in 2020. Diversity of the 27 regional destinations on the islands, coast, cities, and villages in the Primorje-Gorski Kotar County, guarantee innovative escapism, while Rijeka, dominated by the historical yacht transformed into a museum, once visited by Churchill himself, is all set to match the demand of culture buffs, gastronomads, and adventure seekers from the reputable Molo Longo, longest pier in Rijeka to the Shrine of our lady of Trsat perched 138 meters above.

Meetings and events opportunties are distanced 11 miles away in the town of Opatija, nestled under the Mount Ucka, one of Croatia's 10 nature parks, and reputable since 1800s owing to the European royalty. Today, Opatija is experiencing a revival due to the competitive wellbeing and spa infrastructure consisting of 20 contemporary facilities led by the Thalassotherapia hospital at the forefront of medical treatments, whilst evolving as a trendsetting hot spot for congress tourism, key driver of an increased interest in the post season. With 53 halls encompassing 9,563 spectators, dotted around mere 66 square kilometres, and complemented by the 2 revamped and 3 new upmarket hotels, Opatija can satisfy the needs of even the most demanding of congress organisers and delegates.  

Zagreb, the Croatian metropolis, presiding the EU and competing for the European Green Capital title, will be on the wish list to visit in the year ahead for a whole host of reasons. Triple awarded for the best Christmas Market in Europe, 2.5 hour away from London Heathrow with direct links all year round, and boasting 6 new luxury hotels, Zagreb intends to break the record of 127,000 visitors rocketed in December last year, along with consistent year on year increase in arrivals during the winter holiday season. Owing to the competitive entertainment taking over the entire city from the underground Christmas fairy tale in the Gric tunnel to the upper town connected with the shortest and oldest funicular in the world, Zagreb expects a boost in consumer spending in the range of 50 million GBP.  

Coastal Croatia carries a plentiful appeal for the winter season with direct flights from London Gatwick to the most visited Croatian destination by the British visitors. Buzzing Dubrovnik, UNESCO World Heritage site guarantees plenty of sun, shining 250 days in a year, and lesser crowds in a pedestrianised 6th century Old Town bustling with an abundance of celebrations and tasty local festivities. Newly refurbished iconic hotel Bellevue carved into a cliffside, with floor-to-ceiling windows revealing the vast Adriatic is just a bonus, ready to advance Dubrovnik city with 1 million arrivals reached in record time and close to 4 million overnight stays in the first 9 months.   

With a steady rise amounting to 5 % increase in arrivals and 2 % in overnight stays up to September 2019, Split-Dalmatia county narrows the margin as the second most popular Croatian destination in the UK sourced in almost a dozen new boutique hotel openings scattered around Split city centre immersed in history. Newly introduced catamaran line, Split Express, gives a boost to the fast - paced results, providing efficient and time-saving voyage from the newly refurbished Split Airport to the city of Split and the islands of Hvar and Brac. Not surprising then that the Hvar is voted No.1 island in Europe by the Condé Nast Traveller Readers' Choice Awards offering premium travel experiences to the UK market, and a long - awaited alluring Palace Elisabeth heritage hotel to boot.  

This year welcomes another record rooted in the Grand Hotel Park, the biggest hotel investment in the Croatian tourism history exceeding £70 million, establishing Rovinj as the luxury hotspot of the northern Adriatic. Continued attraction of the Istrian peninsula demonstrated by the  4% increase in overnight stays and 7% increase in arrivals from the UK in the 9 month period, powers through the heart shaped region in the postseason, complemented by the Michelin-starred Monte stone's throw away from the reputable Grand Park and seasoned by numerous gourmet events showcasing truffles and many other star ingredients.  Introducing wine & heritage hotel Roxanich to the mix, Istria cracks this year's formula for the most compelling food & wine destination in the northern Adriatic.  

Added to that, the world's renowned Michelin guide continues to discover the country's endless gourmet excellence and this year bestowed distinguished Michelin stars to another two restaurants; Noel (Zagreb) and Draga di Lovrana (Lovran) which joined previously awarded Pelegrini (Šibenik), 360º (Dubrovnik), and above mentioned, Monte (Rovinj), spreading Croatia's eno-gastro potential, globally.     

Croatia's Ministry of Tourism aims to implement over 67 projects focused on both niche and mainstream tourism trends proving that Croatia continues to diversify and adapt to every type of British holidaymaker. Enriched with the national tourism accolades for the most prolific destinations: Paradise beach in Lopar on the island of Rab, Papuk Nature and UNESCO Geopark, along with Baranja and Srijem as the easternmost area, Croatia paves the way as an all-year round, active and adventure destination.  

To top it off, numerous TV shows continue to give tribute to Croatia's photogenic appeal. From the BBC 'Getaways' filmed in Rijeka and Opatija, Channel 4 'Travel Man' showcasing Dubrovnik, C4 'Extreme Chocolate Makers' discovering wine potential of Kastela, Jack Stein following his father Rick's footsteps cooking a storm in Zagreb to Peter Andre sharing his family holiday on the island of Brac on ITV 'Lorraine', Croatia is set to capitalise on the multi-million audiences. With a total of 20 new upmarket hotel openings in 2019, Croatia is all set up for another high-flying season.

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