"A skiing spectacle like the world hasn't seen" is how Mayor Bandić announced another in a line of bizarre marks of his rule over Zagreb. After claiming Zagreb needs another 40 fountains, we figured that's as bad as it can get. Now we see it isn't. Bakačeva street became a ski slope. Arrogance once again so we are left wondering what's next, how much will it cost, giving back nothing. How did the idea of branding Zagreb as a skiing destination come about? With all due respect and admiration for the Kostelić family, it is hard to fathom hosting a race of the World Ski Cup to a city that has 3 kilometres of ski slopes on a hill without a cable car. Where are we on the world ski map compared to Austria, where each village has more cable cars than all of Croatia? Does it make sense to harness each year the manpower and mechanization, pay large sums as awards to winners, and what remains when the spot lights are turned off?
Today everyone speaks of how many countries followed the spectacle from the centre of Zagreb, giving Zagreb promotion worth nearly four million euro. Although it all sounds lovely, scratching under the surface reveals a lot more. It is quite simple to ascertain how much a minute of promotion on the BBC is worth, but it is quite impossible to ascertain how much a ski spectacle in the centre of Zagreb costs, the birthday celebration of the World Ski Cup at the expense of Croatian citizens, without the support of the International Skiing Federation. Only Zagreb can do this, meaning Mayor Bandić, who doesn't ask the price for a chance to promote himself.
Let's go back to branding and how a destination is branded. A brand cannot be created by presenting it somewhere once, be it CNN, BBC or anywhere else. Destination adverts, to be perceived and engaged, need to be repeated hundreds of times. If we want to brand Zagreb as a skiing destination and a place for ski lovers, which is of course pointless, we should primarily secure adequate skiing infrastructure, followed by investing large sums into advertising to be able to compete with popular skiing destinations.
To anyone serious it is clear Zagreb is not and cannot be a skiing destination. Hence the avalanche of photo montages on the next unbelievable spectacle the Mayor will create next. Promoting Zagreb as something it is not and cannot be, spending huge money on projects and manifestations which cannot be resold is quite insane, but not surprising. As the Mayor, as was evident many times, does not care for the city's benefit as long as his ego is satisfied. Unfortunately.
Examples of what can be done - and how - to promote a destination and make money are plenty. The filming of the Game of Thrones series brought Dubrovnik the status of a movie destination and directly influenced an increase in the number of guests, those who target destinations where this mega popular show was filmed. In the same way Koreans rush to Croatia due to a popular reality show and documentary series filmed in Croatia with Korean actors. As we are experiencing a rise in tourists due to the series, Mayor Bandić probably thought the same would happen after skiing in the centre of Zagreb. He aims especially for ski lovers who will now, instead of Schladming or Kitzbühel, choose Zagreb with 168 metres of slope in the centre and 3.000 metres of slopes on Sljeme.
Unfortunately, all of the above only confirms Zagreb is still the victim of a policy of arrogant money spending without a plan or calculation. Without vision or strategy. So the covering of Bakačeva street with snow seems more like Nero's burning of Rome.
Politics of arrogance and autocracy without precedent.
For the original and more from Ankica Mamić, click here.