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What are retirees looking for in Croatia?

Senior travel in Croatia
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Croatia’s tourism industry has exploded in the last 10 years, booming exponentially (and somewhat uncontrollably) just in the last three years alone.

Of course, the unspoiled beauty of Croatia’s coast and islands plays a role in the country’s popularity, but there is more to it than that. Croatia has been promoted on a global stage in the last few years, which has put the it on the radar of travelers across the world of all ages who either didn’t know Croatia existed or thought it was war torn and dangerous.

Now that those incorrect assumptions have been dispelled, everyone wants to come to Croatia. In terms of the total nights spent in the country by non-residents, Croatia is now the eighth most popular tourist destination in Europe, neck and neck with Germany.

A rise in retiree tourism

Older travelers make up a significant proportion of tourists heading to Croatia. The country welcomed nearly two million visitors aged over 65 in 2018. With many of them choosing to visit in the spring and autumn months, before and after the hottest weather and the crowds, senior travelers play an important role in extending the country’s tourist season.

A new study looking at the travel habits of senior citizens from the UK carries plenty of encouraging news for Croatian tourism. Commissioned by Avanti, a travel insurance provider that specializes in policies for the over-50s, the survey determined that overseas travel among older people is on the rise. When compared to 20 years ago, the numbers of over-65s heading abroad for their holidays is up more than 35%.

The survey hints that there has been increase in ‘silver tourism’ to former Eastern Bloc countries overall (Romania has reportedly seen a 2120% rise in over-65 visitor numbers since 1998, and Bulgaria 1398%).

What we have yet to see is if the rising costs in Croatia will become a deterrent to retiree travelers. Croatia was once a budget destination, however that is quickly fading as restaurants, tour agencies, and other tourism businesses hike their prices to squeeze as much money out of tourists as possible.

With the expensive bureaucratic choke hold that the government has on small businesses, one can hardly blame them. However, jacking up prices so that your business can survive in winter is a short term solution, and will end up harming this tourism-focused country in the long run.

Senior citizens traveling Croatia
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A rise in seniors moving to Croatia

Alongside the increase of retirees traveling to Croatia for vacation, there has also been an increase in senior citizens settling in Croatia to live out their retirement.

In 2018, nearly 17.000 EU citizens older than 65 moved to Croatia, which is an 80% jump since 2014. The top countries for EU retirees is now Croatia and France (previously Spain and Portugal).

As a retiree, there are many advantages to living in Croatia.

  • It has a very temperate Mediterranean climate, especially on the coast.
  • There is a low cost of living, when in comparison to the Western nations they are coming from.
  • There is a low cost of real estate, when compared to their home country. Perhaps in their home country they could only afford an apartment, but in Croatia they can afford a house with a garden, for example.
  • It’s quiet, easy going, and laid back.

Unfortunately, not all retirees can take advantage of this retirement paradise. There is currently no residency program available for non-EU retirees. Third-country retirees can be here for one year, after which they must leave for 18 months before returning.

This is yet another short-sighted policy that only harms the country. Portugal will give automatic temporary residency to any retiree who can show they are receiving retirement payments from their home country, no matter where they are from.

Croatia has been making incremental changes across the board lately, so my hope is that this is a sign that they will eventually get around to creating a residency option for non-EU retirees as well as there would only be benefits to doing so.

Some have expressed concern that they may be a burden on the healthcare system, however requiring private health insurance is one quick and easy way to get around that.

With VAT (called “PDV” in Croatia) at 24%, anyone who pays for anything is automatically contributing significantly to the tax base. It is especially beneficial to the country if these retirees purchase homes.

Croatia’s population has been in decline for years now, so anyone who chooses to move here is a benefit in offsetting this trend. We should welcome them with open arms!

Please note: Information provided by Expat in Croatia is only for the purposes of guidance. It does not constitute legal or financial advice in any form. Croatian laws and bureaucratic rules often change, and each personal case is individual, so different rules may apply. For legal advice, contact us to consult with a licensed Croatian lawyer. For financial advice, contact us to consult with a licensed Croatian tax advisor or accountant.

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