President Ram Nath Kovind was in Croatia recently as part of his eight-day, three-nation, visit. The meeting with his Croatian counterpart was described as “productive” and cooperation and concurrence on broader issues of global engagement were the major takeaways of the meet. Important for the industry, four MoUs in the fields of culture, tourism and sports were signed between the two nations. An MoU was also signed between the Sports Authority of India (SAI) and the Department of Kinesiology of the University of Zagreb for capacity building in sports.  The mention of tourism as a pivot to strengthening bilateral ties must come as welcome news for the industry.

President Kovind stressed on tourism as a means of boosting cooperation. “Croatia attracted nearly 19 million tourists last year …tourist flow from India to Croatia has been increasing sharply every year. The agreement on cooperation in the field of tourism that we signed today will help deepen our links in this important sector,” the President said, reported TOI.

Croatia is an exciting prospect for the Indian outbound. Its unique location, being at the crossroads of Central and Southeast Europe, has provided the nation with some stunning backdrops. The Adriatic Sea and a moderately warmer climate have created a massive tourist influx in the region with the tourism industry contributing upwards of 20 per cent to the European nation’s GDP. While much of the western and eastern Europe has already been sampled, southwest Europe remains relatively unexplored for the outbound. Croatia could emerge as a significant catchment area for the outbound provided it positions itself well and addresses the challenge of no direct air-connectivity. Its presence in the Indian could also do with a more visible push. Indian cinema makers have shot big-budget movies in Croatia and have helped bringing additional focus on the product.

The absence of any direct, non-stop, flights is a visible bottleneck. Turkish Airlines, Emirates, Qantas, Austrian Airlines and several other carriers, however, provide extensive one-stop connectivity to Zagreb (Croatia’s capital) and beyond from Delhi, Mumbai and other gateway cities. With an enhanced people-to-people exchange, we may even see greater traffic coming into India from Croatian shores. Albeit small, it is a relatively wealthy nation, and can provide India high-value inbound too. The meeting of two presidents and tourism emerging as a common theme for bilateral action should equally excite industry stakeholders in India and Croatia.