October 12, 2020 – A decade of tourism promotion in Croatia. As Croatian Hot Spots magazine celebrates 10 years, owner Maja Zlokic on promoting tourism in Croatia.
This interview first appeared in Croatian on Dalmatinski Portal.
The new coronavirus pandemic has undoubtedly changed the world to its foundations, and tourism, as one of the most susceptible industries to the virus, has suffered a huge blow in all segments. However, the leading people of domestic tourism and experts who know this profession to the core, agreed on one thing – in slang, we should get back on our feet and adapt to the new normal.
We talked to Maja Zlokic, a marketing expert, editor of Croatia Hot Spots magazine, and the hotspots.net.hr portal, about the basic requirements of a new tourist – high safety and hygiene standards, but also fast and reliable information.
You are the editor of Croatia Hot Spots magazine and one of the most read tourist portals in the Republic of Croatia, hotspots.net.hr. How did this story start and in what direction is it developing?
We started with Croatia Hot Spots magazine 10 years ago. We have 20 editions behind us, and over 5,000 published topics and articles that promote Croatian destinations and projects in tourism. We were among the first to start writing tourist blogs and promotional texts about Croatian destinations, which thematically revive the rich tourist heritage. In a very short period, the digital version of Croatia Hot Spots became the leader among portals on this topic, which was recognized by more than 70 local and 10 county tourist boards, mainly of the most popular Croatian destinations, which joined the project. In addition to our media, we have become distinctive for media leasing and planning in foreign markets. We started with a series of new projects and cooperation with the best Croatian communication and marketing experts.
Who are your readers and what topics interest them most?
As many as 75 percent of our readers are from Croatia and the countries of the region, and we can be proud of the 25 percent of foreign readers who follow the English version. They are most interested in affirmative articles that carry lived experiences and creative tourist products. Readers are looking for a story through which they will experience the destination and wish to travel to it quickly.
What does advertising look like in the post-COVID period?
The Covid-19 crisis hurt all industries, both tourism, and advertising. The best ones in the COVID and post-COVID period recognized the opportunity for themselves. It’s time to be creative and brave. The company’s business needs to communicate and maintain contact with its customers and follow communication trends within the industry. Any such form of communication can bring fresh ideas and positive experiences on how to plan business in the next period.
Since you’re specialized in destination promotion, what is the key to advertising them in this uncertain period?
The global coronavirus pandemic has indeed had a strong impact on international tourism trends. Croatia has sun and coast and historical heritage, very rich gastronomy, and rural destinations. It is extremely important to create a lively dialogue between our coastal and rural destinations and to convey everything that our rural and urban destinations have to offer. Offering year-round tourism can certainly be part of the answer to COVID challenges. On the topic of tourism in the corona time and the role of creativity in creating new promotional activities, in cooperation with the Split-Dalmatia County Tourist Board and Professor Domagoj Bebić, Head of New Media and Head of the Department of Strategic Communication at the Faculty of Political Science in Zagreb, once a year we organize a conference called „Tourism and new technologies“, at which tourism entities can be adequately informed about all effective marketing tools in this uncertain time.
Can you give us some positive examples from practice?
Communicating destinations is always a kind of a challenge because a lot has already been seen, but I would like to highlight three promo campaigns.
The one I liked the most was the campaign of the Tourist Board of Bol in cooperation with the communication advisor Hana Klain called „Our Bol Stories“. This was the first time that a destination decided to involve locals in the promotion of their place. Somehow they are always forgotten, and they are the soul of a place. They are people who communicate intensively with guests. We were also involved in campaign promotion and the feedback on the campaign was very good.
The second campaign we were also involved in was the Split-Dalmatia County Tourist Board named „A dream waiting for you“ with great messages and great staff.
As another positive example, we would like to point out the promotional campaign of the Tourist Board of Jelsa, which at the time of the pandemic relied on its tried and tested model from the 70’s – great boarding house accommodation and personalized, individual approach to the guest. Even in corona time, it brought occupancy of accommodation capacities of as much as 70 percent!
To what extent have the habits of the guests changed? How do they choose a destination?
Tourism today with COVID-19 requires a different attitude towards health and hygiene safety. It requires distance tourism, individual vacation, and high-quality service that can ensure satisfactory hygiene standards – all that Croatian tourism has space and potential for, in wide indented beaches, motives for arrival that do not depend on summer, and in small, authentic, yet undiscovered destinations. Therefore, it is important to carefully create campaigns that respond to the needs of today’s tourists. The changes in demand, habits, and expectations of guests that have occurred will remain, in part or in full. The guest is looking for fast and accurate information.
What about private accommodation? How much does a small renter have to work on marketing to attract a guest?
We suspect that in addition to the presentation of the facility, hygienic safety, the position of the facility, picturesque surroundings, proximity to top beaches, it’s important to have a personalized, friendly approach to the guest full of trust. A good price-quality ratio of accommodation, a friendly family atmosphere, and a friendly host is a model that has been nurtured for many years and is now even more important. Also, it is important to communicate it all well. That’s why we regularly provide our readers with tips on how to communicate with guests in corona time. Our column is led by Barbara Marković, a family accommodation expert.
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