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Moving back to Croatia: Young Croatian-Canadian family start tourist buisness on island of Losinj

Mario and Iva 

According to estimates, there are over 3 million first, second, third and fourth generation Croatians living around the world. Nearly half of those are in America, with large numbers also in Argentina, Canada, Australia, Germany, Chile, Ireland and New Zealand.

Whilst emigration from Croatia has always outweighed Croatian diaspora immigration, there has been a steady stream of people returning over the last two decades. In this series we meet some people who have made the move back to Croatia.

Today we meet Iva Frankovic. Iva was born in Croatia and moved to Canada at an early age and has now returned back to live in Croatia. 

Where were you born and raised and when did you move to Canada?

I was born in Zagreb and moved with my family to Vancouver, Canada in 1987 at the age of 6. I finished all of my schooling there (elementary, high school, university) and also worked for the most part at the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC). I moved back to Croatia just over 10 years ago.

How was life there?

I was so blessed to have had the life I did in Canada. What I most loved about growing up in Vancouver was the multiculturalism – my friends to this day come from all over the world and I am definitely richer by being influenced by so many distinct cultures. In Canada a healthy work ethic is important so from the age of 14 I started earning my own money – first by babysitting and later on by working in retail (during university). Another thing that absolutely stands out about my upbringing is that I was raised in a culture that promoted “optimism” and the desire for everyone to succeed.

Throughout my schooling and work life my teachers, mentors and bosses were always there to push me one step further. I cannot stress the profound impact this had on the way I live my life and my outlook in general…instead of focussing on what others have versus what I don’t and what others can do versus what I can’t do, I focussed on the opposite. I find its a much more desirable way to live.


What made you decide to move back and live in Croatia?

My family visited Croatia every summer and I loved coming here. I also wanted to try something new. My biggest fear in life has always been having regrets. So I took the leap and decided to move back to Croatia….so far, no regrets.

Where are you living and what are you doing now in Croatia? 

I live on the relation of Zagreb-Mali Losinj. My husband is from the island and this year we finished the construction and design of our property Valbay Residence. Our first year in operation is successfully behind us. Other than being a mom to a 4 month old baby girl, I manage the property and I have also been a Senior Marketing manager at Erste bank for over 10 years now. 

Mario and Iva

How was the tourist season for you and what has been some reactions from your guests? 

Our first season was even more successful than we could have imagined. Professional photographs of our property were only put up on the internet at the beginning of June, therefore the tourist season had already began, but were nevertheless almost completely booked throughout the summer. As we speak we still have guests at the Residence.

Valbay Residence

Valbay Residence

Our reviews have been fantastic as our scores on the internet attest (9.8/10 on Booking.com, 5/5 Google, 5/5 Facebook, 4,8/5 Airbnb). I work in marketing research and quality management so I am happiest when we receive feedback from guests on what we could do better. A score of 10/10 or 5/5 is great but what we are interested in is what can we do to make their experience amazing, give them that “wow” factor and go a little above what they expect or have experienced up until now.  

Valbay Residence

Valbay Residence

Valbay Residence

How long is the tourist season for you on Losinj?

This year we we were booked from June until October but we already have bookings for next year starting in April. All of our apartments have (under) floor heating so are looking forward to hosting guests in the fall and winter months as well. 

Valbay Residence

Valbay Residence

What improvements would you like to see happen in the tourist sector, especially around private accommodation?

Most importantly for categorization of rental apartments and homes to be standardized. Throughout Croatia all sorts of vacation apartments and homes are offered to tourists boasting a certain number of stars yet they lack the amenities that guests expect in the individual categories. You may have two 4* apartments in neighbouring homes or buildings that are completely dissimilar in regards to their facilities because one was granted a permit, for example, last year and the other 10 year ago when the conditions were drastically different. Also, we lack quality content in terms of gastronomic offers, sports facilities and a variety of cultural events. Croatia has amazing beaches and nature but that is not necessarily enough to attract, rightfully so and to be expected,  the growing demands of tourists. 

Valbay Residence

What makes Losinj a great place to visit?

There is so much to say. Visitors love the fact that Losinj is an island and therefore feel like they are actually “getting away” from everyday life and worries. It is not an easy place to get to (by that I mean it cannot be accessed by car alone) yet this seems to make it even more desirable. Losinj holds the title of “The island of vitality” which makes it the perfect getaway for an active holiday. The island is great for bikers, hikers, runners, but also those looking to just relax. With amazing beaches, hidden coves, gastronomy and nature its a great place to explore on foot, by bike, boat or car. As for cultural content, the Museum of Apoxyomenos is a unique archaeological and architectural institution that is entirely dedicated to one exhibit – the bronze statue of a young athlete, the Apoxyomenos which dates back to either 2nd or 1st c. B.C. Also, many tourists come to Losinj for its health benefits.


The island was awarded the status of a health resort back in 1892 as it has all the necessary climatic and natural preconditions for the recovery of patients or those that need to take time away from their everyday lives. In a nutshell, we have more than 200 days of sunshine annually, 280 km of footpaths and cycling trails, supreme air and sea quality (researched and tested), 1200 plant species plus we are home to approx. 200 resident bottlenose dolphins.


What do you like about the lifestyle in Croatia? What are some of the benefits?

The coffee culture. What I mean by that is I like the laidback approach, the hedonistic aspects of life of life in Croatia. Compared to Western cultures there is no rush to do anything which makes life a whole lot more relaxed and enjoyable.  Having the beautiful Adriatic sea close by doesn’t hurt either. 

What do you miss about Canada? 

So much. Apart from family and friends, sights and sounds, I miss the positive outlook, big city life, the opportunities a country like Canada offers. I definitely miss the diversity that is Canada and acceptance of all regardless of background, culture, sexual orientation etc…Nowhere else have I experienced such a melting pot of cultures that live in such unison…it is a beautiful thing. Of course I miss Tim Hortons as well.

The openness of people. In Vancouver people smile at each other when passing on the street or chit chat to complete strangers while waiting in life for their coffee. Canadians are super kind and sweet people and these little things set the country apart from others. 


Do you have any advice for anyone thinking of moving back to Croatia? 

Don’t compare. If you’ve decided to take the leap and move to Croatia (or any other country for that matter) be open to new ways of doing things, new attitudes and ways of life. Do your research. Visit beforehand and get a feel for the place. Talk to people who live here and read up on the culture. You only live once, the worse thing that could happen is it doesn’t work out but, in my wanderlust view, this has always been much better than wondering “what if…” 

You can find out more about Iva’s property Valbay Residence here.

If you had a story about moving back to Croatia which you would like to share then please get in touch by email: [email protected] 

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