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Fernando Kirigin - Mayor of Europe – June '22 – Sustainable TourismImage: City of Opatija

А special place in the Opatija economy is occupied by sustainable tourism of higher added value

Fernando Kirigin was born in Rijeka, Croatia on 27 January 1971. Before pursuing a career in politics, Kirigin studied tourism and hospitality. In 2013, he began his PhD in Sustainable Development Management. During the same year, he assumed the position of Deputy Mayor of the City of Opatija where he worked until 2017.

From 2018 to 2021, Kirigin held the title of Director of the County Port Authority in Opatija. In the summer of 2021, he was elected Mayor of the City of Opatija.

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Mr Kirigin, please tell us how Opatija earned its reputation as a year-round tourist destination?

Opatija was officially declared a climatic health resort in 1889 for the aristocracy and prominent people of the time and was the first of its kind in the entire Adriatic region. Today, we can say that it is one of the most popular wellness and health tourism destinations in Croatia and beyond.

In addition to our natural beauty and rich cultural and historical heritage, we organise targeted promotional campaigns, as well as already known events such as Advent, Valentine's Day, Carnival festivities, etc. After a cold winter, Opatija turns into a paradise for wellness lovers thanks to an annual series of events entitled “March – An Oasis of Wellness”.

We are very satisfied with the current part of the tourist year, which has confirmed that Opatija is a year-round destination and operates throughout the year. The importance of the tourist economy for Opatija is indisputable.

Tourism and related activities make up almost 90 percent of Opatija's economy. Also, the Town of Opatija is strategically committed to the highest quality standards, which further positions our destination on the tourist map of Europe and the world.

Opatija established Croatia’s first Centre for Innovation in Tourism last year. What is the purpose of this centre, and how will it benefit the city?

HUBBAZIA – Centre for Innovation in Tourism is a project of the Town of Opatija, and the first of that kind in Croatia. The European Union financed the project from the European Regional Development Fund. Total value of the project is 2.5 million kuna, of which EU co-finances 1.9 million kuna - or 83.6%.

The Centre for Innovation in Tourism organizes training for start-up entrepreneurs who want to develop their own business ideas. The main goal of the project is to strengthen the development of entrepreneurship.

We want to increase employment, create new jobs and new development in our town. All workshops and training are free of charge.

Admission to all events within the project is free and open to public. HUBBAZIA has already produced the third generation of participants who will bring new value to Opatija’s tourist offer with their business ideas.

Your municipality recently unveiled a digital version of its famous coastal promenade. In your opinion, how can technology attract more tourists?

The coastal promenade of Francis Joseph I received a special "gift" for its 111th birthday - an interactive map. This map shows the glorious past of the Opatija promenade up to the digital present.

The coastal promenade has been a symbol of Opatija and one of the town's most important attractions for more than 11 decades. You can now walk from Volosko to Lovran by clicking on the link on the Tourist Board of Opatija website. You can visit our historical and cultural sights from anywhere in the world.

In this way, I am convinced, we can motivate many guests who have not yet been to Opatija to visit us, and to see for themselves the kind of beauty we offer.

Finally, how is Opatija working towards achieving sustainable tourism?

The principles of sustainability relate to the environmental, economic and socio-cultural aspects of tourism development. In our goal to achieve long-term sustainability we are constantly working on an appropriate balance between these three dimensions.

We strive to develop value-added products and special forms of tourism. Thus, a special place in the Opatija economy is occupied by sustainable tourism of higher added value. The bearers of its development remain wellness and health, cultural tourism, enotourism and gastro tourism, outdoor and congress tourism, with the organization of recognizable events.

Author : Svilena Iotkovska

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