The word’s out: Croatia is one of the hottest destinations in the world. A boomerang-shaped nation tucked between the Adriatic Sea and the fringes of the Balkans, the country has emerged from its bloody past and has grown into a beautiful teenager who knows how to throw a party without totally leaving its storied past behind. Blessed with a beautiful Adriatic coast and a great culture, never has Croatia seen a brighter future than today.
The view isn’t without its share of blemish, though. While accession to the EU finally took place in 2012, war crime issues still linger with Ante Gotovina still enjoying a hero status in his homeland despite reproach from the UN. Despite display of steady growth recently, the economic climate remains patchy. Corruption still provides a major headache, unemployment hovers at a double-digit rate, and the average barber struggles for his daily sustenance.
But a ray of Mediterranean sunshine peeks through as tourism, growing by leaps and bounds in recent years, could be the proverbial manna from heaven. Croatia, particularly Split and Dubrovnik, has lately seen a spike in international visitors arrival, thanks largely to cruise ships who have regularly poured out sun-worshippers to these two Adriatic jewels.
There’s no doubt that tourism is helping the country, which is constantly priming itself. But such excitement may ultimately lead to unchecked development that could ironically destroy the country’s nature and culture, its very drawcards. The challenge now is balancing progress with sustainability and whether Croatia could cope with it remains to be seen.
First published in TravelBlog on July 12, 2010.