Croatia is enjoying its successful 2021 tourist season, despite the continued threat of pandemic.

“It’s almost like 2020 never happened,” said Josip Crncevic, a tour guide in Dubrovnik. Dubrovnik, with a historic and picturesque Old Town, beautiful beaches, and vibrant night life, is Croatia’s most popular destination for tourism.

Before their War of Independence in the early 1990s, which went on for four years and ravaged a formerly agrarian economy, Croatia was a part of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Since then, the country has been a parliamentary republic, and has risen to be one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations, a vacation ideal for many from the European Union, of which Croatia is a member.

Tourism accounts for around a fifth of the Croatian GDP. In 2019, tourist income was estimated to be almost $12.5 billion.

And then, of course, the COVID-19 pandemic happened. Croatia, with a population of only 4.3 million, has reported around 370,000 cases and over 8000 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic, and the country followed suit with the rest of the EU in closing borders and enforcing lockdowns where citizens were not allowed to travel town to town. The resort towns and cruise ports stood empty. Beaches were abandoned.

After that, and with vaccination moving slowly this year, those in the tourist industry did not expect a strong rebound, but the influx of EU tourists desperate to travel this year because they couldn’t last year has flooded the scenic country. Many are choosing to show at least some prudence and indulge in Croatia’s amazing sailing culture instead of staying in town.

Croatia still has a universal mask mandate in place, requiring masks to be worn at all times in shared indoor spaces, but people don’t come to the country to stay indoors. Even with the more virulent Delta variant accounting for most new infections, a trip to the beach or an outdoor market, provided people respect distance, is a good travel plan.

Photo: A panoramic view of Dubrovnik, Croatia. Credit: Shutterstock