On April 1, Croatia opened its borders to U.S. travelers who are fully inoculated against COVID-19, making the small Mediterranean nation one of the first in Europe to institute a vaccine passport program for travelers.
Croatian government officials announced the policy change in January, also noting that U.S. visitors who have not been fully vaccinated may continue to enter the country with proof of a negative COVID-19 PCR or rapid antigen test taken no more than 48 hours before their departure.
Home to 4.2 million residents, Croatia reopened its borders to U.S. citizens on July 1 of last year with the requirement that travelers provide proof of a negative COVID test. According to Dr. Nikolina Brnjac, Croatia’s Minister of Tourism, the decision positioned Croatia as the only EU country to allow American visitors at that time.
“The U.S. market has always been important to us,” Brnjac said. “We have a long tradition of welcoming American tourists.”
Although total visitor arrivals were down 50% last year from the nation’s record highs in 2019, Brnjac said the July 2020 reopening allowed Croatia to salvage significant tourism revenue while many of its competitors were closed to visitors.
“Despite the challenging circumstances, Croatia was one of the most successful destinations in the Mediterranean,” Brnjac said.
More than 656,000 Americans visited Croatia in 2019, Brnjac said, also adding that while total U.S. arrivals plunged substantially last year, the American market remained remarkably resilient during the peak of the pandemic.
Despite the challenging circumstances, Croatia was one of the most successful destinations in the Mediterranean.
“Keeping the global lockdown in mind, especially in the United States, … 54,000 U.S. travelers was a great sign that Americans, no matter how hard it was to travel last year, still desired to travel to Croatia,” she said.
Vaccinated U.S. travelers looking to visit Croatia today will need to complete online registration forms before their departure and then present custom officials with documentation demonstrating they’ve received both of their Pfizer, Moderna or AstraZeneca shots — or their lone Johnson & Johnson dose – at least 14 days prior to their arrival.
Americans who have not been fully vaccinated will need to provide Croatian customs officials with proof of either a negative PCR or rapid antigen test taken no longer than 48 hours prior to their arrival. More detailed testing requirements can be found here.
Since announcing its vaccine passport program, Croatia has seen a significant surge in interest and bookings from Americans.
“U.S. tour operators are extremely interested in Croatia,” Brnjac said. “It seems their clients are looking into trips to Croatia mostly from July to October, and for us, this is a very encouraging sign for the upcoming season.”
Further evidence of that increased U.S. interest came on Monday when United Airlines announced plans to launch the only nonstop flight between the U.S. and Croatia on July 8. Offering three-times-weekly service between Newark and Dubrovnik, the new nonstop service will depart from New Jersey on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays and operate through Oct. 3, 2021.
United also announced plans this week to launch new nonstop service between Chicago and Reykjavik, Iceland, as well as Dulles International Airport in Virginia and Athens, Greece, starting July 1.
“In the last month, searches on United.com for flights to Croatia, Greece and Iceland are up 61%,” United officials said in an April 19 statement.
It’s also worth noting that Croatia has navigated the pandemic relatively well when contrasted with some of its Mediterranean neighbors. Through April 22, the country has reported 316,308 confirmed COVID-19 cases and a total of 6,738 related deaths, according to government’s official coronavirus website. Over the past week, the country has seen 15,000 new cases and 290 deaths.
And while not everything in Croatia is open to tourists just yet , according to Brnjac, the destination’s accommodation options and visitor highlights are coming online quickly.
“Everything in Croatia is opening,” she said. “And as the summer approaches, we expect that more hotels and attractions will open their doors for tourists.”