Living in Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) and Northern Rhodesia (Zambia) for 15 years, Katica worked for Barclays Bank International, as well as Eimco International from Salt Lake City. She then moved back to Yugoslavia, where she worked in reception at Hotel Varazdin Selce. After that, she headed the Scandinavian department for Kvarner Express International for 15 years; when she moved on to Kompas International Ljubljana to be in charge of the incoming department for Scandinavia for two years. She then, when Croatia became independent in 1992, decided to start her own business— Katarina Line was born.
Today, she and her family are owners of this successful incoming DMC and leading small-ship cruise line company. With guaranteed weekly departures from April to the end of October from Opatija, in the north, and Split and Dubrovnik, in the south. Their team of over 50 professionals do wonders for travellers looking to see the best of Croatia and the surrounding countries, with guaranteed land tours in Croatia itself as well as other countries in the region.
She is fluent in English, German, and Croatian—with a little knowledge of Italian and French. She has been a member of Skal for more than 20 years, first, first with Skal International Zagreb and then she started up Skal International Kvarner club. She was the president of this club for more than 4 years. Today, she is the Skal counsilor for Croatia.
Now a member of the regional and national Croatian tourism board, and the recipient of many awards on a national and international level for high standards and ethics in the tourism industry, and the great efforts on tourism in Opatija, where their head office is located, and Croatia in general.
Travel Research Online (TRO): Hello, Katica. How are you today?
Katica Hauptfeld (KH): I am very well, thank you…we have lovely weather over here and a lot of bookings from the USA on our deluxe cruises planned for this summer. The Americans seem to have discover our country!
TRO: Katarina Line has been around for almost 27 years now, and has grown to include 50 employees. I would image that this is very different from where you started. How has your outlook on the travel industry changed?
KH: My outlook toward the travel industry is more or less the same as then, and today we yearn to have satisfied clients and tour operators that travel with us on our cruise ships or on our land tours throughout Croatia. However, when I started my own business we communicated by telefax whereas today with emails and internet sites. Things are much quicker, easier, and much much more is expected from a DMC than what we did nearly 30 years back—as clients can do a lot of research themselves before even contacting a local agent, which of course was not the case then. That is why a DMC must have much more knowledge than before, especially with new offers in their regions, and offer things that clients may not necessarily be able to find or put together as easily as a local DMC can.
TRO: You’ve made some big changes in career through your life. Has this helped you adapt to the ever-changing travel industry?
KH: Having the war in Croatia made me realise that you must be able to adapt…from being a manager in a firm with over 1000 employees, I became a one man band practically overnight. That was not easy in more ways than one. The thing that helped me enormously was the fact that I have always been hard working and always wanted to learn new things and visit new places and love people. This made it easier for me to adapt and look into other markets—other possibilities. To adapt to that was enormous, so when other things changed constantly in the travel industry they were not a problem. The main problem one has is not having work to do or no one to sell your product to. One must never stop at one or two offers, only when sending out, or trying, more than a hundred different offers or presentations (or however one presents their product) can one succeed. It is all about hard work and persistence!
TRO: What would you say are Katarina Line’s driving philosophies?
KH: Katarina Line’s driving philosophies have always been to give the best possible service and experience, whether to our clients or to our tour operators that book their clients with us, we always want to give them something new and extraordinary. Not to copy what is already out there but offer a new and unique experience and make sure that the client goes back home with an experience of a life time!
TRO: Croatia has been on a course of change ever since its independence, yet has a culture that is rooted in long-held traditions. What is it about Croatia that brings travellers from around the world?
KH: Since our independence in 1992, our country has changed a great deal. First of all, the new highways were built which brought us closer to the rest of Europe and we became a part of the European Union—which, of course, opened us up to tourism in much higher numbers than ever before. This too made us more known to the rest of the world and Europe, and opened the sky to the low budget airlines and other direct flights that fly people in to the various destinations along the coastline and inland. Most important, we built a lot more hotels—especially boutique and smaller 4 and 5-star hotels instead of large resorts, which we feel give the tourists contact with the locals as do the smaller intimate heritage places that we have to offer. All the buildings that were affected by the war have been restored and have done a great deal in retaining our great historical and cultural traditions; where tourists enjoy sightseeing of palaces, churches and other stunning buildings that have been with us for so many centuries! Our company, for example, went from the old traditional wooden ships to the new modern deluxe superior small cruiser/yachts that we offer today. Much has been done and we are proud to say that we are one of the leading tourism countries in Europe today!
TRO: What do you think is the most important lesson you’ve learned while being in the travel industry?
KH: The most important lesson I have learnt while being in the travel industry is that you must always be on your toes. Never stop for a moment, and always look ahead to see what more can be offered or done to make clients happy and satisfied; but, at the same time, I have also learnt unfortunately not to trust everyone as I used to do. As there were times that we saw that people are not always as truthful as they seem, especially when it comes to payment of the services.
TRO: Small-ship cruising can be a scenic adventure with a personal touch that larger cruise ships can’t match. What do you think are the benefits of cruising on smaller ships?
KH: The benefits of small-ship cruising is the personal touch that the larger ships cannot match, especially when it comes to the fresh food on board and liberty of being able to stay on land as long as you want (our ships always dock in the little local harbours and only leave the following morning or afternoon depending on the route) when visiting and finding an ideal restaurant or bar of your own choice with the company of some fellow passengers or not. Simply being closer to the natural environment by swimming off the ship and meeting and mixing with the local people. Also, when there are only 36 people on board a ship of this size, one can easily make friends—not only with fellow passengers but with the crew as well.
TRO: Does Katarina Line have any big plans or announcements our readers should know about?
KH: Katarina Line has plans to build a hotel with 56 state rooms and some VIP suites in Opatija, where our head office is situated which should be completed by 2020/2021, and which will provide the same personalized service that we have on our small cruising ships but on land, where people will feel at home and we will make their stay a most memorable one!!
TRO: Thank you for your time, Katica.
KH: Thank you, you and your readers are more than welcome onboard our ships to discover Croatia from a completely different angle!
For more information about Katarina Line, visit https://www.katarina-line.com/.