In the last days of April I was invited to a conference about establishing the cluster of tourism in the Croatian Ministry of Tourism in Zagreb. The conference provoked exceptional interest and attracted several hundred functionaries and professionals of the highest rank, all connected to Croatian tourism in general.
The reason for the conference was to raise awareness and interest abut the tourism sector, which is very important for the Croatian economy. The main topic was the establishment of a Croatian tourist cluster in the scope of Croatia becoming a European union member.
To organise a cluster is not a new process in Croatia. It has been done in the past but it has never became an active driving force in the economy and previously formed clusters were not perceived as resulting in anything. So, once again “clusterisation“ began but now in the frame of obligations that Croatia should take as a member of EU.
Cluster establishment is in tight connection with smart specialization. A term that is fundamental for the EU Horizon 2020 strategy. Smart specialization is all about how Europe sees the sustainable economy develop in the next seven years period.
In the scope that regions/or sometimes locations in Europe are relaying on their clusters to preserve their economic independence and power, so should Croatia clarify what are those strengths that defines the country towards the neighbourhood, the rest of Europe and the world.
The first three national cluster for the EU perspective were formed in January 2013. and they were the food-processing industry, the wood-processing industry and automobile components industry. The fourth cluster established is this one, the Croatian tourism cluster.
The Croatian government prepares to establish ten more new clusters: ICT, nanotechnology and biotechnology, the defence industry, the textile industry and manufacturing of leather and footwear, pharmaceutical industry, creative industry, chemical industry, manufacturing of electric and mechanic machinery, naval industry, traffic and logistic, and possibly also a construction industry cluster.
The government can initiate cluster development and provide the foundations for businesses to collaborate. Once established, the clusters should help in collaborating, networking and forming the best possible solutions among the member businesses, researchers and other actors.
Membership of a cluster will be encouraged by the Croatian government in allocation of the funding from the EU structural funds. Clusters should eventually result in establishing the know-how for getting the financing not only through EU structural funds but from other funding sources.
Interest in the new European Union work frame is strong enough to focus the major topics in the national media towards the EU perspectives. This period about a few months before entering the EU is the moment for harmonizing the collective expectations and hopes inside the country. Soon we will be there as a member.