The new Croatian government will do its best to increase the competitiveness of the tourism sector and its results, which includes a possible lowering of the VAT rate, putting land for tourism purposes in order, stepping up privatisation, and strengthening the investment climate and promotion, Tourism Minister Anton Kliman said in an interview with Hina.

Underlining that a better investment climate and greater investments were among the strategic guidelines of the new government, Kliman said that there was the political will to remove obstacles to investments.

"I have been telling the public as well as the finance minister that not every VAT reduction is a direct loss for the revenue side of the budget... That it is possible to increase the budget revenue is best evidenced by tourism, and on the other hand, a lower VAT rate in tourism would leave more money to our diligent workers in the tourism sector for reinvestment, which would attract more customers and new investors, thus increasing revenues. We will discuss whether the VAT rate will be lowered this year and whether the budget will allow it, but we are considering different models and I would really like it if we could find room for that," said Kliman.

When asked how much the VAT rate could be reduced, he said that the lowest and most competitive rate would be around 5.5%, as envisaged by the government's guidelines, but that considering the reality, a 10% rate would be satisfactory and such a rate would only be a beginning.

As for the privatisation of state-owned tourism companies and putting state-owned property in use, Kliman called for dealing faster with problems, planning better and setting prices more realistically.

"There are a number of people at the Tourism Ministry who have been doing their job professionally for years and who are familiar with privatisation processes in tourism and their competence should be used more in those processes. Until now, the staff at the Tourism Ministry coordinated those processes but decisions were made at DUUDI (State Property Management Office) and CERP (Restructuring and Sale Centre), and it seems to me that those processes were not sufficiently propulsive."

Aside from state-owned tourism companies, of which some are looking for investors and some are preparing for it, Kliman believes that domestic and foreign investors should also be offered state-owned construction land at exceptionally good locations which is in DUUDI's portfolio as well as former military barracks.

Asked if he liked the slogan "Croatia, full of life", Kliman said that it seemed to him that people had started to accept it just as they had started to accept the new concept of tourism promotion conducted by the Croatian Tourist Board.

Noting that he would visit the ITB tourism fair in Berlin in early March, Kliman said that he would insist that the current geopolitical situation in Europe be used to improve Croatia's results in the pre-season, as well as on short-term action plans.

Kliman said that he and Foreign Minister Miro Kovac had discussed additional measures that could be taken to facilitate the arrival of Russian tourists in Croatia, adding that he had also asked for more funds for market promotion.

"We are a peaceful country and communicate well with the public and that peacefulness must be seen in our market promotion," said Kliman.

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