INTERNATIONAL NEWS - Croatia may give Czech tourists special access this summer to counter the impact of the coronavirus on its vital tourism industry, a minister said Tuesday.
An initiative for the creation of "tourist corridors" to Croatia was launched earlier this month by Czech tour operators, local media reported, and top officials of the two countries have discussed it.
The Czech tourists, who would need a certificate of not being infected with the novel virus, could travel to Croatia by road or plane this summer, media reported.
"We have already discussed with the Czech Republic that they prepare their proposals and we will prepare ours" for such an option, Tourism Minister Gari Cappelli told the state-run HRT radio Tuesday.
"We are depending on foreign tourists" who account for 90 percent of tourism income, he stressed.
Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic tweeted last week he had agreed with his Czech counterpart Andrej Babis that tourism ministers of the two countries should "propose an acceptable model for the arrival of Czech tourists this season".
A similar model could apply to Austrian and Hungarian tourists also, local media said.
The proposal was hailed by the Croatian association of travel agencies which said they "eagerly await" the Czech tourists.
"We should see whether we could undertake similar operations in other surrounding countries," the association head Tomislav Fain told AFP.
But health officials voiced caution and said the arrival of tourists from countries having more cases of infected people than Croatia would not be allowed.
The country of 4.2 million people has extended its partial lockdown measures, imposed in March, until May 4.
It has banned all public gatherings and closed all shops except for foodstores, pharmacies and petrol stations.
Croatia is particularly concerned about the impact of the confinement measures on its tourism industry which accounts for around 20 percent of gross domestic product (GDP).
International think tanks are forecasting a decline in Croatia’s economy of 5.0-9.0 percent this year.
Last year about 20 million tourists visited Croatia, mainly its stunning Adriatic coast.
They included more than 700,000 Czechs.
Croatia reported its first case of COVID-19 in late February. That number has since risen to 1,881, including 47 deaths.