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Croatia: A window of opportunity for incentives

Croatia: A window of opportunity for incentives

Our World | On 30, Nov 2011

I don’t know about you, but for me, Croatia seems to be having a second wind – and very well deserved it is too. Its first foray into the incentive travel and conference world was with the small and beautifully formed Dubrovnik, which I first visited back in 2005. Scroll forward to 2011 and this glittering corner of the Adriatic is now under the spotlight for so much more that it has to offer. The breathtakingly beautiful island of Hvar is featuring more and more in proposals (and on my personal wish list) and my fellow Event Manager spent a few days this summer at the Sound Wave music festival – one of many on a rapidly expanding festival scene.

So what’s next for Croatia?

Well, a recent visit to Rovinj on the Istrian coast (spitting distance from Northern Italy) means I have great hopes for this region being the next big thing – if they can just sort out the access, but more on that later.

Maistra Hotels & Resorts (our hosts) have a strong presence in the area, with 6 hotels ranging from 3 star to 5 star deluxe and a large converted tobacco factory that can hold conferences up to 2000. The Hotel Lone is the first ‘Design Hotel’ in Croatia and it is very funky. It’s also purpose built, so an Event Manager’s dream, with lots of intriguing spaces for meetings, dining options and advanced and complimentary in house AV facilities. Although, for my taste, not the most attractive from the outside (it looks like a 70s cruise ship) the whole offering is very cleverly put together and definitely one to remember.

Moving up, and just a 3 minute walk away is the Hotel Monte Mulini, where we had an exquisite dinner in wonderfully understated surroundings which kind of summed the whole place up. Smaller, with just 99 rooms, this is the top end offering and a very special hotel.

On the other end of the scale, we took a 15 minute public ferry journey over to one of the 22 islands of the Rovinj Archipelago and the, let’s face it, very leisure trade focussed Hotel Istra. To be fair, it was dark and the main appeal is the outdoor spa facilities and the 4 swimming pools but this hotel did not impress. It also seemed a little odd to be so isolated from the mainland and having to rely on a ferry – but each to their own I guess.

The other hotels in the portfolio were closed for refurbishment but if the recent openings are anything to go by, we will not be disappointed.

The local area also had a lot to offer, the towns are postcard picture perfect and an hour’s drive takes you up into the mountains for wine tastings with the Italian Alps in the background and to sample the truffles that are famous in the region. Although I was a little concerned when one of my fellow travellers (from the leisure and not MICE Industry) admitted she was not looking forward to having chocolate shavings on her pasta…

But hold on, a quick check of the arrivals and departure boards at Pula airport revealed just 5 flights that day – 2 of which were to / from Zagreb so it would seem that the majority of access is indirect. If you are lucky enough to have a budget which allows charters to be considered, the hotels and the region are DEFINITELY worth a visit and would work beautifully for larger groups.

Let’s hope that Maistra Hotels can use their, quite frankly, Mafia-esque influence to lobby anyone who’s listening and increase the flights into Pula as, until that happens, I’m afraid that Istria and their hotels will remain a (very) hidden gem.

Sarah Threlfall

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