Croatia to invest seven billion euros in tourism by 2020

Croatia plans to invest 7 billion euros ($9 billion) in tourism by 2020 in a bid to reach the world's top-twenty list of attractive holiday destinations, a minister said Wednesday.

Around one third of the amount would be invested in the construction of new hotels and resorts, mostly on Croatia's popular Adriatic coast, as well as into renewing existing structures such as camps or ports, Tourism Minister Veljko Ostojic said.

The aim is to double the country's current income from tourism to some 14.3 billion euros in 2020 and increase the number of overnight stays -- currently some 70 million annually -- by 43 percent, Ostojic said.

Croatia "should become a competitive, globally recognised tourism destination, attractive for investments" by 2020, the minister said.

The World Economic Forum's 2011 report on Travel & Tourism Competitiveness ranked Croatia 34th out of 139 nations.

Tourism is a key sector of Croatia's economy, contributing around 19 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP).

In 2012, more than 12 million tourists -- almost triple the country's population of 4.2 million -- visited the former Yugoslav republic, heading mostly to its stunning Adriatic coast.

Croatia's economy has not grown since 2009, and is estimated to have contracted by 1.1 percent last year.

International financial institutions say the centre-left Croatian government should reform the country's huge and inefficient public administration in particular, and improve the overall business climate.