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article image'Gateway to the Islands' passes 1m overnights in Split, Croatia

By Paul Bradbury     Nov 5, 2014 in Travel
Split - The transformation of the Dalmatian capital of Split from transit centre to hip tourist destination continues with a landmark statistic.
Tourism in Central Dalmatia is booming, its season getting longer, and no destination symbolises the upswing more than the main city of Split, which registered its one millionth overnight stay for the year last month, according to official statistics released by the Central Dalmatia Tourist Board on November 3, 2014.
As previously reported on Digital Journal, the Indian summer on the Adriatic coast has been one factor in extending the tourist season, but the transformation of Split as a destination has been taking place quietly over the last few years, and the raw statistics bear out the change in the city's tourism fortunes.
The new West Coast Riva (below) has added waterfront options to the more traditional Riva in front o...
The new West Coast Riva (below) has added waterfront options to the more traditional Riva in front of Diocletian's Palace.
European Coastal Airlines
The latest statistics, released by email, indicate that some 377,887 tourists stayed overnight in the Dalmatian capital in the first 10 months of 2014, a 21 percent increase over the same period last year, and already considerably ahead of the entire year for 2013, which saw 325,200 visitors over the twelve-month period. Official statistics available online comparing 2013 to 2012 indicate an additional 22 percent increase year on year, meaning that the increase in the last two years has been even more significant.
Josko Stella  centre  the Central Dalmatia Tourist Board Director  promoting Split at the current Wo...
Josko Stella, centre, the Central Dalmatia Tourist Board Director, promoting Split at the current World Travel Market in London.
Toni Glavina
It should also be noted that the official statistics do not include visitors from cruise ships, which is an industry growing in popularity in the city, and which provided some 300,000 visitors last year.
While numbers of visitors is one barometer, it is the crucial statistic of overnight stays which is perhaps a more accurate measure of a destination's success, and the recently-released statistics showed that overnight stays in the city passed the one million mark in October, with 1,066,307 stays registered by the end of the month, a sharp increase on the first 10 months of 2013, where the corresponding figure was 882,122.
Split has long been known as 'the Gateway to the Islands', as it is geographically positioned closely to some of the jewels of Dalmatian tourism, namely the islands of Hvar, Brac, Solta, Vis and Korcula. These islands have traditionally been magnets for tourists, who have used Split's transport infrastructure of sea, rail, air and road to access them.
Times are changing, however, and tourists are now spending a little more time investigating a city whose prime tourist attraction is the magnificent UNESCO World Heritage Site of Diocletian's Palace, a retirement home built for a Roman emperor some 1,700 years ago, and it is what is happening in and around the palace that perhaps gives some clues for the rise in popularity of Split.
Now in its third year  the pioneering Paradox Wine and Cheese Bar has inspired a wine bar revolution...
Now in its third year, the pioneering Paradox Wine and Cheese Bar has inspired a wine bar revolution.
Paradox Wine and Cheese Bar
There has been an explosion of hostels and other budget accommodation in recent years, as well as a significant increase of diverse bars and nightlife options, including the introduction of a wine bar scene, which has proved exceptionally popular and grown very quickly. The increased choices have allowed tourists more time to investigate the attractions in and around the palace, and Split offers an enviable combination of culture and heritage, gastronomy and adventure tourism to compliment the stunning views and charms of the Adriatic.
Split has been slow to embrace foreign dining options  but things are slowly changing. The excellent...
Split has been slow to embrace foreign dining options, but things are slowly changing. The excellent Turkish Istah Kebap and Meze Bar.
Istah Kebap and Meze Bar
The nascent wine scene has been mirrored by a slow but steady branching out of culinary options in a society where locals are rightly fiercely proud of their local Dalmatian cuisine. A source of frustration among the growing expat scene, until recently the only ostensible international cuisine option was a mediocre Chinese, but the last year has seen the introduction of Turkish, Japanese, a sushi and oyster restaurant, a quality steak house, the first truly pan-Mediterranean eatery, as well as the first proper brasserie on the palace waterfront. Insignificant steps in other European cities of 200,000 people perhaps, but major progress in traditional Dalmatia.
Adding a little chic to Split s famous waterfront  the opening of Brasserie on 7 is the first qualit...
Adding a little chic to Split's famous waterfront, the opening of Brasserie on 7 is the first quality restaurant in this cafe heartland.
Brasserie on 7
The rise in importance of Split Airport has been another factor in the popularity of the city, and of Central Dalmatia as a whole. Whereas there were no budget airlines coming into the city less than a decade ago, Split was connected to almost 90 destinations in 2014, while the introduction of the first scheduled seaplane service in modern European aviation history will soon see additional connections to Italy and many other national destinations 12 months a year. The early flight announcements by airlines for 2015 indicate growing confidence in the destination, with several announcing their intentions to start operations a full two months earlier next year.
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