Croatia wants Chinese investments in tourism and infrastructure
Author: CSEBA / CGTN
24th February 2018
ZAGREB - Croatia's hopes of being a major medical tourism destination have been boosted following brokered Chinese investment worth 36 million US dollars in one northern spa town. But many officials also want to see Chinese investment spread beyond the tourism industry into construction and high tech sectors.

However, tourism is the one that can produce the quickest results.

In Krapinske Toplice spa, it was a brisk two degrees Celsius outside, but inside an aquatic park, while it seemed that nobody cared. On an ordinary day in February, dozens of tourists were enjoying the natural hot springs and artificial waves in one of the swimming pools at the Krapinske Toplice spa. It is that natural hot water at 41 degrees that the locals are counting on to help attract Chinese tourism investment to their small community. Head of Krapinske Toplice municipality Ernest Svazic is optimistic about the future.

“I expect this investment to begin this year. By the end of 2018, actual work will start on the site. The Business Association for collaboration between China and East Europe (CSEBA) announced that, by mid-2018, all legal proceedings will be resolved. In the second half of the year, we will see an investment of over 36 million USD in the health tourism hotel,” said Svazic.

And it is the hotel “Toplice” that is the subject of this investment. It is now in poor condition, so Chinese investors plan to demolish it and build a brand new four-star hotel in its place. The goal is to bring Chinese medical tourists here for the spa and the adjacent world-class heart surgery clinic. Croatian state secretary in the Ministry of Tourism Frano Matusic hopes that this is just a first out of many future Chinese investments in Croatia’s tourism industry.

“We expect even more involvement by the Chinese in this region, with significant investment in the tourism industry. In the first place, I’m referring to the hotel industry, and then partly to the entertainment industry. Croatia is open to having casinos and that type of entertainment, which is for sure attractive to the Chinese,” said Matusic.

But Croats don’t want their collaboration with China to stop at tourism. After Chinese investment in the electric supercar producer, Rimac Automobili, another Chinese CRBC company won a major tender worth 435 million US dollars for construction of the Peljesac bridge.

The deal has raised some eyebrows in the EU. An appeal against the decision to award the tender to a Chinese company has been submitted by other EU-based competitors, and is currently under consideration by the Croatian authorities. A special adviser to the Croatian president, Mate Granic, confirms that Brussels is sometimes uneasy with the Chinese investments. He said it is because China is a rising power.

“Definitely in Brussels, there is some fury concerning investments from China, but concerning Peljesac bridge, the European Union supported it and the European Union would finance the majority, 85% of the bridge. Additionally, the atmosphere in Croatia is very good concerning Chinese investment,” said Granic.

Croatian politicians say that they do welcome Chinese investment, wish it was on a much bigger scale than now, but they also admit that Croatia is lagging behind in economic collaboration with China, particularly compared to its neighbors. Now, they see tourism as Croatia’s major chance to catch up with the rest of the region.

Back in Krapinske Toplice, all the hotels are booked for the next two months. Locals are now eagerly awaiting Chinese investment, which should help skyrocket the economy of this small Croatian village.

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