Acantho – Croatia Charter Holidays: Lessons and Experiences from 10 Years in Tourism

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21st August 2018, Acantho – Croatia Charter Holidays recently celebrated their 10 Year Anniversary, so we reached out to them to ask their lessons, impressions and experiences from 10 years in the industry.

I first came to Croatia, working on a boat as a guide 6 years ago and the changes I have seen in the last 6 years have been extensive; tourism in particular, the industry has really developed in this time and continues to do so. Recently, Acantho – Croatia Charter Holidays, celebrated their 10 Year Anniversary, which I thought was extremely impressive to have not only stayed in the industry but adapted with it, so I reached out to Ivana Vatavuk from Acantho to ask her impressions on tourism and charter industry.

It goes without saying that a lot has changed over the last 10 years but what has changed for you and your line of work in particular?

During the last 10 years, everyday life has accelerated significantly, as well as the pace of work. Social networks (Facebook, WhatsApp, Viber etc.) have brought many changes to different spheres of life and business; for us, it means that clients can reach us any time they like to get information about our offer or Croatia in general. This wasn’t possible in previous years but now, we are able to send them all of the information they need in real-time. It means we never really clock-off (which can be challenging) but it also means that our clients have peace of mind and trust that they can rely on us.

The attitude of small villages towards tourism has also changed. Earlier, they were not so open-minded, now they are more welcoming of tourism and consequently, the tourist service and offer on all the islands and smaller destinations has improved.

Croatia has become extremely popular the world over, listed as the #1 travel destination on various platforms. Thankfully, the offer in Croatia is now much richer to match the demand. We have a large variety of services to offer everyone now, from gastronomy to history and outdoor activity, there is something for everyone.

The overall Croatian mentality has improved here, to be more welcoming and open to growth and change.

Working in the charter industry for the last 10 years, it can also be said that the offer of boats has improved significantly. We now have more – high category and luxury vessels to offer our clients, the range of boats is diverse which is fantastic because again, it means we have something to offer everyone. Simultaneously, the level of proficiency and service has increased dramatically, with a greater focus and attention to details and customer service. Something sorely missing in the past.

Where do you see tourism and the nautical sector going in the next 5 – 10 years?

We expect further development, for sure. The guests have changed during the past years and we believe this positive trend will continue into the upcoming years. Each year, the clients coming to Croatia are more affluent and we need to keep up with their wants and needs. Today, clients are less interested in just lying around on the beach, each year they want to experience more, quality is the name of the game.

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What would you like to see change in the industry?

The attitude of the state towards the tourist sector. The state needs to stimulate tourism since it is crucial for the Croatian economy but unfortunately, the state seems to be making counter-productive moves like increasing taxes year after year, which only penalises small businesses and inhibits growth. We are optimists though and still hope for positive change in the industry. One positive, is that attention is finally being drawn to the traffic issues our roads face, it is great to see roads being maintained and constructed – thanks to new bridges, traffic jams are not as chaotic as it has been in the past. This means a lot to both us and our clients.

What has kept you going over the last decade?

Learning, upskilling and broadening our horizons. The tourist offer has changed and along with that, the challenges which appear each day. These changes mean each day brings something new, not a single day, is the same as the day before, which keeps it interesting and challenging for us, meaning we have to continually – grow, learn and adapt. Through contacts with different cultures, we have learned so many valuable lessons about foreign countries and their cultures, not only in business but this has contributed to our personal growth.

Return clients – tell us, what keeps them coming back

The personal touch. We believe our clients feels safe and that they can rely on us. Any issues that arise are always solved in their favour and with their experience in mind. Although we are proud to say that we haven’t faced many problems over the years because we are very thorough and show extreme attention to details, which our clients truly appreciate. We have learned to identify a potential issue and eliminate it by being proactive before anything actually comes to fruition – this is what our 10 years’ in this business has given us.

Our clients also appreciate the fact that we are able to offer them a full service. We have never limited ourselves to solely chartering yachts but rather we are able to organise day trips, excursions, accommodation, car rental… everything they need for a complete holiday, we can help them with. What they appreciate the most is that we are available 24/7, no matter what they need, we are always able to help.

Here is direct feedback from one of our clients:

“Cal and I and our entire group wanted to thank you from the bottom of our hearts for all of your constant and generous travel tips and bookings for our holiday. 
It is not often that you can find such willing and ‘going-the-extra-mile service’ these days. We are very aware that we were calling you initially to just book a boat, but what we got was a full-time travel agent. The booking of the van, which we absolutely adored, before and after our sail was perfect, all of the hotel recommendations and bookings, and all of the restaurant help was perfect. You converted us wholeheartedly to your beautiful country of Croatia and it’s genuine and warm people – but especially to Acantho services. 
We will definitely be a return customer and will be spreading the word of where to get travel services in your amazing country!”

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Have you had any negative experiences which weren’t able to be solved?

It is only natural, we have had some wonderful clients and some not-so-wonderful… Sometimes, it doesn’t matter what you do, some people just aren’t happy but this is the tourism and customer service industry. There have been situations where guests demanded a refund for a service they explicitly asked for. We worked hard to meet all of their requirements, did everything as they wanted and still, they were not satisfied and demanded compensation or they would leave negative feedback. We never complained, only asked them to be honest when they wrote everything – and you know what, they never did leave those negative reviews…

This industry can be challenging, anyone who has worked in tourism or service can vouch for this but in general, we don’t have extremely negative situations arise, like I said before, our years working in this industry allow us to anticipate where there might be potential trouble and for the most part, we manage to mitigate or eliminate it.

What are your highlights from the last 10 years?

As well as our clients, we really care about our partners because both of these relationships are crucial for our business. Over the years, many of our partners, have become our dear and close friends, they have provided great experiences for our clients and have helped us become who we are today.

We have also met many wonderful clients during these years, who return or keep in touch with us from all over the world.

What are your greatest lessons in tourism after 10 years?

Regardless of the fact that we were trained for this business, went to specialised schools and have been in this business since we were 14 years old, we love it more and more each year. For the many lessons we have learned, our greatest discovery is that this is not just a job for us, it is a way of life. A job is something you do, this is our passion and this is who we are.

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Karmen Hrvatic and Ivana Vatavuk from Croatia Charter Holidays

If you want to learn more about Acantho’s full service, including holiday planning and yacht charter, you can find their website here.

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