Croatian tourism booms to record in 2013

Croatia drew a record number of tourists, mainly to its island-studded Adriatic coastline, in 2013, a minister said on Friday, contributing growth to an economy struggling to recover and reduce a big public deficit.

The number of tourists rose by 5.5 percent from the figure for 2012 and to a record total of 12.4 million people, most of whom were from Germany, Slovenia and Austria.

Tourism has developed into a key part of the economy since the former Yugoslav republic gained independence in 1991.

Tourists accounted for about 72 million overnight stays or 4.1 percent more than in the previous year.

The figures also showed that the "main tourist season ... is extending" beyond the July-August summer period, Tourism Minister Darko Lorencin said in a statement.

Croatia also registered a growth in tourism income which totalled 6.5 billion euros ($8.8 billion) during the first nine months of 2013 or 4.7 percent more than in the same period of 2012, he said.

For the whole of last year, the figure is expected to exceed 7.0 billion euros for the first time since 2008 when the global economic crisis hit, Lorencin added.

Tourism accounts for about 15 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in Croatia, which joined the European Union in July.

The country's economy has not grown in the last five years. The government has forecast 1.3-percent growth in 2014.

The European Commission, the EU's executive arm and responsible for enforcing the EU rules, has said that Croatia should be put under an "Excessive Deficit Procedure" which lays down the steps it must take to return to EU norms.

The recommendation will be put up for approval in April next year by all EU member states, many of which are also at fault over the deficit and debt limits.