Elite tourism has always been one of the buzzwords in the Croatian tourist community, but at the same time, awareness about private jet service and domestic private jet operators in Croatia is fairly low.
The COVID-19 pandemic really put a spotlight on the many benefits of flying private and business aviation operators are experiencing a certain amount of first-time bookers. There are thousands of private jets in Europe from various BA operators that fly their clients to Croatian destinations.
One operator, Zagreb-based Jung Sky, performed flights to 29 countries and 109 different airports alone during the summer of 2020 with Dubrovnik and Split the number one and two most frequent destinations.
Jung Sky is Croatia’s No.1 business aviation company and last July and August were the most successful months in the company’s history.
We spoke to Kresimir Vlasic, Jung Sky’s Chief Operating Officer, to find out more about the private jet service and its significance to Croatia and its tourism offer
A year ago, you were very optimistic about what awaits the business aviation industry during summer months and the results you achieved last July and August showed your predictions were well-founded. What are your expectations this year?
It’s shaping up to be a very strong season, not just over the summer, but during the preseason and hopefully the postseason as well. The last couple of weeks have been really potent and it looks like business aviation’s “hottest” time of the year, which is usually in July and August, could come a bit sooner this year.
We’ve witnessed very high levels of private jet demand in April and May and I believe it will only continue to grow. Countries are slowly opening up for tourists, business meetings and activities are returning to their pre-pandemic state and major sporting events like the UEFA EURO 2021 and the Olympics are just around the corner. Furthermore, people are very eager to get back to their travel habits and there’s generally a growing optimism all around that a large part of our lives is going to get back to normal very soon.
We’re very excited about the upcoming summer months and we’re ready for whatever the rest of the year will bring. We know the pandemic’s not over and if a new COVID wave hits, we’re one year more experienced in dealing with all the issues and obstacles it forces upon the business aviation world, not to mention vaccination efforts around the world suggest travelling should function in a far simpler way than in the last year and a half.
You’re a Croatian company, but your clients are mostly foreigners and, on a yearly basis, you mostly fly abroad. However, during the summer Croatia is pretty high on the “charts”, right?
That’s correct. In 2020, during non-summer months, flights that involved Croatian seaside destinations accounted for just three percent of our flights in total and there were eight countries we’ve flown to more frequently than Croatia.
But over the course of the summer – more than 16 percent of all our flights were associated with Dubrovnik, Split, Zadar, Rijeka, Pula or Brac island which is about 3 percent increase compared to 2019. The only country that topped Croatia on the ‘most flights list’ was Italy (19 percent of all flights done by Jung Sky in the summer of 2020). Dubrovnik and Split were our most visited airports, Zadar was also among the top 10 and you have to have in mind we’ve done flights to 109 different airports in 29 countries in that period.
It’s really no secret Croatia has a growing popularity as a summer vacation destination and we’re glad our flight operations also reflect this trend.
Is the private jet experience paramount for the concept of elite tourism?
It doesn’t have to be paramount, but it can be the ‘cherry on top’. In air travel, the aircraft is the starting and ending point of your vacation time and if you’re searching for an elite experience, a private jet offer should be on the table and it would definitely be more helpful, not to mention more presentable, if it was part of something bigger, for example a well-rounded, unique and personalized “full of life” package.
I’m quite sure business aviation operators would play a meaningful role in that type of arrangement and although Croatian operators don’t account for too many jets, and we don’t fly thousands of passengers during the summer, our clients are high-paying customers who are very active on their holidays and are eager to explore all sorts of unique and authentic experiences.
Croatian tourism strategy is based on avoiding mass tourism, i.e. focusing it on the elite one. Unfortunately, for now we cannot confirm that the Croatian Tourist Board and the Ministry of Tourism recognized business aviation as one of the filters that can significantly contribute not only to the fulfillment of the strategy, but also to the prolongation of the tourist season, which is also of great importance. Therefore, we have defined our own activities in this regard and consequently we expect changes in the near future.
We’ve heard business aviation operators around the world saying they have welcomed many first-time bookers since the pandemic hit. Do you have a similar experience and how did COVID impact your flight operations?
The pandemic caused disruption in air travel all around the world. Organizing a trip from point A to point B with regular airlines became a real challenge and people started to think about the alternatives to large gatherings at airports and spending time in closed spaces with people they don’t know.
The concept of travel was suddenly analysed very deeply and questions like – how to get somewhere, what’s the fastest and most practical way to move around and what grants me the possibility to isolate myself and my close ones from the surroundings and minimize touchpoints as much as possible – were on top many people’s minds.
We’ve definitely had our share of new bookers and we’re glad to say they were full of very positive feedbacks about the whole experience, acknowledging that a business jet flight grants them very good ‘value for money’. They were very clear in their determination to continue using our services in the future.