Croatia, the View from Asia: Interview with Ashley Colburn

By , 20 Apr 2017, 08:46 AM Travel

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Asia is one of the fastest developing markets for Croatian tourism. One of Croatia's most high-profile and tourism promoters and ambassadors Ashley Colburn recently spent two months filming i Asia, while leaving her heart in Croatia. TCN caught up with Ashley on April 20, 2017, to learn more about the perceptions of Croatia from Asia. 

You spent 2 months on the road in Asia, Croatia is in your heart - how did it compare?

I spent the last two months traveling throughout Asia, filming my TV series, WONDERS. During my trip I had the chance to visit Philippines, Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan. I’ve always been a fan of Asia and through the years have had the opportunity to visit several countries throughout the continent. Like when I was filming “WONDERS OF CROATIA,” I highlighted the food, culture, landmarks and adventure that can be found. I feel so privileged to be traveling around the world, but don’t worry, I am not going to call it my second home. Croatia is in my heart and always will be, while Asia is a place I will always love to just visit. Asia in general is beautiful and up until this trip I thought it was always a bit chaotic, which I don’t mind. This time around I was completely blown away with how “different” my experience was. In a recent report I read that Singapore, Hong Kong and Tokyo were the most expensive cities in the world whereas my previous trips to Asia were probably in the cheapest cities in the world. This is what is so fascinating and why I like Asia so much. The standards are still good when things are cheap and in the places where drinks and food are expensive, it is not shocking because there is also no trash on the streets, everyone knows how to form a line, etc. This time around I liked the organized city life.

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What does it need to do to improve?

When it comes to tourism in Asia, you can find all different levels, however English is really not as common as you would think or hope in a lot of the countries. Sometimes the best experiences come out of these language barriers, but in places like Japan, it was very difficult to communicate in some places. Traffic in Asia is horrendous and while Singapore has figured out the problem and how to solve it, I’m afraid Manila and Hong Kong still have a way to go. As an American, I found the public transportation to be extremely reliable and user friendly in Asia and I think this is always an advantage for tourists.

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What are the perceptions of Croatia in Asia?

If there is a big increase in tourists from Asia, I’ll take all the credit- just kidding. I was a big promoter of Croatia in all the destinations telling everyone it was one of my homes. To be honest, not many people knew much other than “they heard it was beautiful.” Many would also ask me if it was expensive in Croatia because when you can travel very reasonably throughout Asia, they are bit concerned about the flight and prices once you arrive. I typically tell people that Croatia is still quite reasonable, but I am saying this according to US standards. I think at the end of the conversation everyone I spoke to was convinced to book a trip and they will one day.

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What should Croatia be doing better to increase its share of the Asian market?

Flights are always a big game changer in bringing people to your country, but what would also be a great program is some kind of stopover program that hits other key European cities. It is still a trek for Asians to travel to Europe, so they always want to make the most of it. I think this is why a lot of groups from Asia do only stay one day in different cities because they really do want to see as much as they can. I think Croatia has the foundation set to accommodate people from all over the world and Asians are ready to make the trek as long as the marketing is visible to them and flight options are easy.


How visible is Croatia there?

Funny enough, the only people I hung out with in Singapore on my off days were Croats working in Singapore. I also went to a Croatian restaurant in Tokyo with no reservation on a Thursday night and it was completely booked. After begging for a table and speaking to the poor waiter in Croatian (he didn’t understand a word), he told us to come back tomorrow. I immediately knew the restaurant was not run by Croats and found out it had been sold a few years ago to a Japanese owner. It was pretty awesome to drink wine from Peljasac in Tokyo. Unlike in America where many people don’t have a clue where Croatia is, in Asia they have heard of the country.

You moved to Istria! How is that going?

I’m about to come back to Istria and I sure have missed it! I can’t wait to get back home and be back at the sea. A dip in the sea and the food is what I am missing the most. This summer I am excited to start filming Ashley Colburn’s Croatia Video Guides. These 3-minute web videos will highlight the top things to see throughout various cities, national parks and regions. The videos will all be on YouTube and accessible by all. While I am also writing a guidebook that will be out later this year, I wanted a video link to be available to send to someone and with watching it for 3 minutes, you can find out key places, to see and do and how to get there (this excludes restaurants and hotels).

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What’s new from your side? Can we expect another quiet Ashley Colburn summer?

In addition to filming the video guides this summer I am teaching a travel journalism workshop at the University of Zadar, teaching the study abroad program from USA for the second year, speaking at Croatian Travel Festival and have some other fun projects that will be announced soon, but basically I will be in Dalmatia a lot! I feel like I keep saying this, but this summer is going to be my busiest yet!

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Here is a trailer to WONDERS OF ASIA:

To follow Ashley’s adventures through Croatia this summer, check out her instagram @ashley_colburn 

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Croatia Traffic Info

  • Traffic is suspended on the DC8 Adriatic road between Omiš and Brela at the place Medići due to trees on the road, detour: Omiš-Gata-Dubci. Due to rain the roads are wet and slippery in Dalmatia, in Istria, in Lika and Gorski kotar mountain areas, in the northern coastal area and in the central parts. Rock and land sliding is possible. Due to fog visibility is reduced in Gorski kotar - on the A6 Rijeka-Zagreb motorway between Kikovica and Tuhobić tunnel. Traffic is dense in cities and on their detour roads. During the day difficulties can be expected in roadwork areas, such as on the A1 motorway between Lučko and Donja Zdenčina junctions in direction Split. Drivers are invited to keep distance and to adjust the speed to road conditions. With the bad weather the headlights have to be on during the day as well. One lane is free only/traffic is flowing in reduced lanes on the following motorways:-A1 7th-8th km in direction Rijeka/Split, in Plasina tunnel in both directions; -A2 Zagreb-Macelj between Zaprešić and Zabok junctions 20th-18th km in both directions; -A3 Bregana-Lipovac between Kutina and Novska junctions 119th-120th km in both directions; -A6 Rijeka-Zagreb at Svilno viaduct 78th-80th km between Orehovica and Čavle junctions in each direction till 1 June; -A8 in Istria on the section Lupoglav-Učka tunnel. Roadworks on the A4 Zagreb-Goričan motorway (Zagreb detour road): - till 9 June traffic is suspended in the entrance lane of Kraljevečki Novaki from direction Sesvete and Dugo Selo towards Ivanja Reka junction, there is a local detour; in the roadwork area traffic is flowing in reduced lanes; - till 8 May traffic is suspended in the exit lane of Popovec junction from direction Goričan towards Popovec, detour for direction Vrbovec-Popovec: Sveta Helena junction (A4)-Sveta Helena-DC3 Goričica-Belovar-Žerjavinec-Soblinec-Popovec junction, for direction Goričan (A4)-Sveta Helena: Komin junction (A4)-DC3-Sveti Ivan Zelina-Donja Zelina-Žerjavinec-Soblinec-Popovec. Lepenica rest area (at 57th km) on the A6 Rijeka-Zagreb motorway is closed till 15 June, the previous rest area and petrol station is the one Ravna Gora (at 30th km), the next one Cernik-Čavle (17,8 km away from Lepenica). Due to roadworks traffic is suspended: -on the DC1 state road in Lučko and Stupnik (Zagreb); -on the DC8 Adriatic road at Posedarje; -on the DC6 state road, section Glina-Dvor border crossing, detour: Glina (DC37)-Petrinja-Hrvatska Kostajnica-Dvor. Traffic is regulated by traffic signals/one road lane is free only:-on the DC1 state road in Knin until 14 July; -on the DC1 state road at Klinča Sela, Tušilović and Mostanje; -on the DC1 Sinj-Klis Grlo state road at Dicmo; -on the DC8 Adriatic road on the section Kaštel Stari-Kaštel Gomilica, at Podstrana, on the section Zaton Doli-Bistrina, at Srebreno; -on the DC66 Pula-Most Raša state road; -on the DC75 Poreč detour road, section Vrvari-Bijela; -on the DC62 Veliki Prolog-Metković state road at Most Metković.
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  • During the day difficulties can be expected at the border crossings with Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Hungary due to traffic density and occasional additional controls. Passenger traffic is dense at: - Bregana (20 minutes), Karasovići (30 minutes), Stara Gradiška (25 minutes) in the inbound direction, -Bregana (25 minutes), Županja (30 minutes) in the outbound direction. Bus traffic is heavy at Bregana (an hour) in the outbound direction. In the outbound freight traffic there are delays at Bajakovo (4 hours) and Tovarnik (an hour), in the inbound at Bajakovo (5 hours) and Tovarnik (an hour) as well. Due to roadworks at Županja and Slavonski Brod border crossings delays can be expected. At Harmica border crossing traffic is allowed for vehicles up to 7,5 tonnes only.
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  • The following ferries, catamarans and boats do not operate due to strong wind: -Lopar-Valbiska, Brestova-Porozina, Šibenik-Zlarin-Kaprije-Žirje ferries, -Mali Lošinj-Rijeka, Rijeka-Rab-Novalja, Ubli-Vela Luka-Hvar-Split, Korčula-Hvar-Split, Jelsa-Bol-Split, Vis-Split catamarans, -Mali Lošinj-Unije-Susak boat.
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