|New airline plans flights from Zagreb to Belgrade, Central Asia and China|
Chinese Southeast Europe Business Association (CSEBA) and its partners have announced plans to create a new airline which will launch direct flights between Zagreb and Belgrade, connecting the two cities for the first time in 23 years. In addition, the airline plans to provide charters between Croatia and China, as well as Central Asia. According to the Chinese Southeast Europe Business Association, “ticket prices are expected to be in the range of low cost airlines”. CSEBA President, Mario Rendulić, said in a statement, “There will be tourist air charters between Croatia and China. Chinese tourists are seeking new destinations, and due to recent initiatives by the Croatian Tourism Ministry, the Chinese are very interested in Croatia”.
Croatia has never had direct air links to China. Far off markets like China hold huge potential for Croatia's tourism industry. The number of Chinese tourists visiting Croatia has seen double digit growth for the past few years. In 2013, 43.000 Chinese tourists visited Croatia and spent 65.000 nights in the country, with numbers expected to rise even further this year. CSEBA is looking to tap into this mostly underserved market. On the other hand, flights between Zagreb and Belgrade would be warmly welcomed by the public. However, both Croatia Airlines and the former Jat Airways maintained that the service would be commercially unviable due to good road connections between the two capitals.
Recently, the Croatian Ministry for Sea, Transport and Infrastructure has been pitching Croatia Airlines to Chinese investors. The ministry held talks with Hainan Airlines and China Southern Airlines several months ago in an attempt to interest the carriers in a 49% stake in its national carrier. Furthermore, there have been efforts to lure Chinese airlines to Croatia. Last year, Dubrovnik Airport’s management announced they were in talks with Hainan Airlines in order for it to launch a seasonal service from the resort city of Sanya on Hainan Island in Southern China during the summer. However, the proposed service did not materialise.