Accidental Tourism or Concrete Plan: A Closer Look at Croatian Tourism Statistics

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July 30, 2020 – As Croatian tourism chiefs hail the relative success of the tourist season, a closer look at the statistics and issues behind them. Accidental tourism of a concrete plan?

A little over a year ago, I gave an interview for the portal HRTurizam, entitled Nikola Tesla Would Be a Great Minister of the Kings of Accidental Tourism. 

If we abolished the Croatian National Tourism Board and got rid of everyone from the ministry, except young Tesla, would we actually have any less tourists?

Having Nikola Tesla as Minister of Tourism wouldn’t cost very much, and at least he is a brand for Croatia. 

The suggestion was only semi-joking. If Croatia did not have a tourist board or ministry of tourism (and let’s not forget those chaps in the tourism department of the Croatian Chamber of Economy and all the vital work they do, would we actually have any less tourists?

Could we potentially have more without a tourist board? The concept is not without precedent, even during a pandemic. Just ask the people of Fuzine, whose tourism numbers improved in the corona era after they got rid of the local tourist board. 

I have long been a vocal critic of the national tourist board and the ministry of tourism in Croatia, and never has the situation been starker than now. For corona has revealed that the Emperor is wearing no clothes. 

I have watched in amusement as the Kings try and justify their unjustifiable existence with press conferences, announcements – and their biggest weapon of all – statistics. 

Why do the Kings of Accidental Tourism Restrict Access to an Internationally Acclaimed Transparent System?

The Mighty State of Uhljebistan has the fight of its life on its hands as it tries to balance the two viruses of transparency and technology. And it is doing its best to hide the truth and keep control of the agenda. 

Nowhere is this more true that its absolute refusal to make available the eVisitor system which actually won recognition for its transparency and real-time reporting. A great innovation to enable tourists, journalists and everyone else to look at and interpret the statistics in real time. 

In a normal country. 

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In the Mighty State of Uhljebistan, however, access to such information is a closely guarded secret. Even the monthly reports which come out are in PDF format only, designed to limit people’s ability to search for trends other than those which are officially endorsed. 

The effect of maintaining control of the statistics is also a desperate attempt by the Kings to be able to announce new tourism numbers, in a desperate attempt to show that they are actually doing something to justify their exorbitant salaries. 

Trust me, they are not. 

I hereby call on Croatian National Tourist Board DIrector Kristjan Stanicic to make public access to the eVisitor system, as it was designed to be. And if he will not, I would be grateful for an explanation of why this is not possible. The system was, after all, built with public money. Here’s the UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) on eVisitor:

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Are tourist arrivals directly related to tourism promotion?

Imagine that Nikola Tesla was the Minister of Tourism during this pandemic. 

“Nikola, it looks like flights are going to be an issue and people will be nervous about travelling by air. Where do you think we should concentrate our marketing?”

“Well, it makes sense to focus on the 7 countries that traditionally bring tourists by car – Slovenia, Austria, Germany, Slovakia, Czechia, Hungary and Poland. But let’s not forget Switzerland, Serbia and Bosnia – all good sources of revenue.”

Perhaps I am psychic, but on March 25, in a piece called Hope v Reality: Will There Be a 2020 Tourist Season in Croatia?  I wrote

What should Croatia do to attract tourists for the 2020 season after COVID-19?

The Ministry of Tourism and Croatian National Tourist Board have put all promotion on hold for the moment, which is very sensible. But where should they be focusing the efforts when things pick up again?

With the uncertainty of flights, I think it makes sense to focus on the markets which have been the backbone of Croatian tourism for decades, and which can be reached by car. The Germans, Austrians, Slovenians, Poles, Czechs, Slovaks and Hungarians all adore the , which is still just a short drive away. Some intelligent campaigns (AND pricing). Croatia remains the best and most attractive sea option for all these countries. There will be strong competition from other tourism countries for this business, but Croatia currently holds a competitive advantage with customer loyalty and that unbeatable

Perhaps the national tourist board reads TCN and got the idea to do a campaign in these seven countries (the ONLY countries there was a campaign – although I have yet to hear from anyone in those countries who actually noticed a campaign was taking place). But this brings us to the important question of how much has the (VERY) expensive tourism guru network actually contributed to bringing tourists to Croatia. 

Consider a few things.

110,000 Slovenians own holiday homes in Croatia. After months of lockdown, where do you think they will be heading for their holidays. Do they need to find their way to their holiday home from the national tourist board?

People in Central Europe yearn for a holiday on the coast somewhere, especially after this horrible lockdown. In normal years, they would choose from Croatia, Greece, Turkey, Egypt, Spain, and more. This is not a normal year, and with the desperation to get to the sea and the total uncertainty of flights anywhere, the natural conclusion was to play safe and find a which was driveable. And there it pretty much the only option, with 1,777 km of coastline and 1185 islands?

Croatia. 

A natural decision, very little to do with promotion. 

What promotion are the Kings of Accidental Tourism Actually Doing?

Has anybody noticed a domestic campaign from the national tourist board? Time to holiday in Croatia. This must be the only tourism country in Europe that did not have such a campaign. 

The official press releases are hilarious. Croatia among the top 20 most-searched destinations by French people. Is that seriously news?

And then, when an absolute gift of free promotion, which the Mayor of Dubrovnik described as ‘priceless’ comes along, not a single mention. 

I was a little surprised when ABC News contacted me looking for a city on the Mediterranean to film a series of feature stories for Good Morning America. I am very grateful to Kresimir Macan not only for dealing with this, but for going above and beyond the call of duty in arranging their itinerary. An interview with the mayor for American TV, various features, finding American tourists to be interviewed from our Total Croatia INFO Viber community  Macan even contacted the national tourist board to involve them in the project. 

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The first report went out on Good Morning America to an audience of 12.5 million people, arguably the best free (or paid) promotion of Dubrovnik for some time.

And totally ignored by the Croatian National Tourist Board in its press releases and Facebook page – after all, if we are in the top 20 most searched destination in France, we can take the summer off.

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Opinion is divided on whether or not we should be welcoming Americans with the current situation, and I understand that. Ask the people of Dubrovnik, whose lifeline is tourism, and who registered just 12% of tourist arrivals from January to June compared to  2019, according to Mayor Frankovic. The country currently has 11 active cases.  

But even if Americans are not travelling this year due to corona, what a fantastic message to send. Dubrovnik welcomes Americans, this is how gorgeous it is. See you in 2021. 

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How Can the Kings Claim Success When They Refuse to Communicate?

Few people know just how chaotic the travel information has been this summer. I first saw it at first hand at the border with Macan on May 17 when Slovenian tourists were turned back as they did not have proof of paid accommodation. How were they to know? Soon after that, we started the Total Croatia Travel INFO Viber community to give people information in real time. The amount of confusion was astounding. 

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When the (now former) Minister of Tourism, Gari Cappelli, invited me for a meeting, he gave a commitment over the phone that he would install one of his team into our Viber community to help answer the questions. His Deputy Minister confirmed this two days later, but nothing happened. When we met a couple of days later, he explained that he could not join an unofficial group, but he responded positively to my suggestion that he create his own group with the border police and national tourist board – all official.  Nothing happened. 

In fact, the ONLY official institution which has been highly responsive to tourist needs throughout has been the Croatian border police, whose task it has become to answer those questions about flights to Split. 

The amount of misinformation about travel information to Croatia this year has been astounding. And so easy to fix, as I showed with the Irish Times in Fixing Croatian Travel Media Misinformation One Email at a Time.

Let’s Judge the Kings on an Initiative Which is 100% Their Own Creation

Is there anything concrete that we can judge the Kings on? Something that was their creation, their genius, something which they declared would save tourism?

Hell yes!

Nothing symbolises the pointlessness of the existence of the current rulers of the Kingdom of Accidental Tourism than the much-lauded but now much-avoided Cro Kartica scheme. More than four years in the making, it has added a particularly pale shade of white to the great tourism white elephants of our time. Meanwhile in Slovenia, after just a few months of a new voucher system brought on by the pandemic, more than 20 million euro spent in the first month. 

And Finally, What is the Most Memorable Achievement of Our Tourism Kings in the Last 4 Years?
 

A simple question for national tourism director Stanicic – what are your greatest achievements in the last four years as director?

I would be very interested to hear the answer to that one.  

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