Vukovar and other areas of Vukovar-Srijem County have great potential to develop their tourism from Danube river cruises, but the current offer does not satisfy visitors on stopovers in Croatia, a discussion on international Danube cruises heard in Vukovar on Tuesday.

Presenting the results of a survey of international river cruises in Croatia, Zrinka Marusic of the Tourism Institute said that the most effective way to attract more cruise ships to Vukovar was through direct marketing and contact with tour operators.

"We can improve the piers and the town, offer tourists more souvenirs because visitors have told us that they are pleased with our hospitality and the sights but that there aren't quality souvenirs, they don't have anywhere to exchange euros and the towns are pretty untidy," she said.

Around 200 ships stopped in Vukovar last year with about 30,000 tourists, Marusic explained.

Surveys indicate that ship tourists spend an average of 11 euros when they come on shore, which does not include trips on which they spend an additional 7-10 euros, and they would spend a lot more if we remove the shortcomings, she added. "These are well-to-do clients who are prepared to spend if you offer a good product that they are interested in it," she said.

Vukovar's port authority is continually working on promoting cruises, including the construction of river piers, in addition to the four that already exist on the Danube, the port authority's director, Bozana Matos, said. She explained that a smaller pier was being built in the vicinity of the Vucedol archaeological site which would facilitate more visits to the local museum.

Matos added that the number of tourists coming to Vukovar by ship is growing at a rate of 10% each year. "This year we have announcements of a record number of cruise ships stopping over, 303 compared with 278 last year, with 220 ships carrying 30,000 passengers stopping in Vukovar, the first of which is expected on April 1," Matos said.

These are mostly tourists from the USA and Canada travelling from Budapest to the Black Sea. Many of the tourists who stop at Vukovar include a visit to Ilok, Osijek and Djakovo and do not spend any time in Vukovar itself, it was said.

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