2022 Bringing Dismissals, New Job Offers for 300 Tourist Board Directors

By 28 December 2021
2022 Bringing Dismissals, New Job Offers for 300 Tourist Board Directors
Croatian National Tourist Board

December 28, 2021 - Croatia has more than 300 tourist board directors all over the country, most on permanent contracts. An interesting initiative from the Ministry of Tourism and Sports could change all that. 

I am not holding my breath - this is Croatia after all - but could a much-needed shakeup of the outdated and inefficient tourist board system be on the cards?

A new law requiring all of Croatia's 300+ tourist board directors, including the Croatian National Tourist Board Director, to take part in a tender to reapply for their jobs. And rather than - in most cases - a job for life, a fixed term of four years only. 

And not only that, but some insane requirements such as successful applicants needing to know at least one foreign language. I can immediately think of 15 tourist board directors I have met on my travels who do not fit that requirement. 

More detail in Lauren's translation of the Poslovni Dnevnik by Marija Crnjak below, but if passed, this could be a massive step forward for Croatian tourism. 

I am often criticised for my criticism of Croatian tourism, and many assume that I am against all tourist boards. I am not at all. 

Some of the best people in Croatian tourism work within the official system, and some of the local and regional tourist boards who do the best work are TCN partners, and others are not. Once we accept that the Croatian National Tourist Board in its current state and leadership is an irrelevant institution, a closer look at the excellence of official tourism promotion shows plenty of great examples. 

The award-winning public-private partnership between Saltwater Nomads, TCN and both the Zagreb and Dubrovnik Tourist Boards for Zagreb Digital Nomad Week and Dubrovnik Digital Nomads-in-Residence program are two cases in point. But there are other heroes in much smaller destinations, such as Stari Grad on Hvar which is one of the great tourism transformation success stories. And even my beloved Jelsa, where my fierce criticism of the tourist board back in 2015 first shot TCN to national attention. Even though I have no relationship with the Jelsa Tourist Board today, I am the first to acknowledge the excellent job the new director is doing. 

Such tourist board directors have nothing to fear from the new law. 

But in addition to the number of tourist board directors who cannot speak another language, I have met others who have been in the job 25 years and yet do not have their tourist board website in English. Others who have been in the job for over 20 years, having started straight from college, with no tourism or world experience whatsoever. 

There is so much life, and so much dead wood, in the official tourist board system, that a shake-up like this can only be a good thing. Of course, this being Croatia, the four-year term has the potential to be politicised, the position given as a thank you by the local mayor. Safeguards against that would be more than advisable. But anything is surely better than the current system. 

And I like the fact that non-tourism experts can also apply, provided that they have double the experience. A sharp mind, experience in other fields, and the right mindset are infinitely more important and relevant than those offered by some of the current 'qualified' directors. 

Hell, I might just apply myself. If elected, my first move might be to ban the practice of SLAPP lawsuits to silence annoying fat bloggers - as fine a use of public promotion money as I have seen in my time in Croatia. 

A great initiative, congratulations to the Ministry of Tourism and Sports, and something TCN will follow with interest.  And now... 

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Marija Crnjak writes on the 28th of December, 2021 - In the implementation of the new Law on Tourist Boards, the Ministry of Tourism decided on an unexpected move - in the first days of 2022, new tenders must be announced for the selection of all 300 directors of tourist boards in the country, including the director of the Croatian Tourist Board (HTZ).

After those in their current positions resign, all of the directors can enter into a new tender/contest should they want to. In addition to that, the new directors' employment status will be changing significantly. Instead of the indefinite contracts that everyone now has, fixed-term contracts will now be concluded for a four-year term.

These are some of the details that stand in the interpretation of the part of the Law that has been in force since the beginning of last year, ie the part of it that regulates the work of the director of the Tourist Board. All tourist boards received a document with an interpretation from the Ministry of Tourism last Friday, Poslovni Dnevnik has learned.

They did not expect such a procedure, and this interpretation has therefore created a great level of confusion within the system of tourist boards, and some of them have already hired lawyers to look into possible violations of Croatian labour laws. Poslovni's interlocutors consider this move of the Ministry harmful.

The new criteria for hiring new directors of the Tourist Board, which are proposed in the new Ordinance, which was in public discussion until yesterday, are also controversial, and the key news is that the directors will be able to be people who have no experience whatsoever in the field of tourism. The Ministry of Tourism doesn't see anything controversial or new in this, because with these changes, all tourist boards will harmonise their activities with the Law, as they should have harmonised their acts and structure so far.

Poslovni's interlocutors from the tourism industry also don't see a big issue here. If the law prescribes that mandates be introduced, which is a good tool for quality control and work results, it should be applied somehow. However, they aren't sure whether the part that encroaches on labour rights is skilfully executed, and how people without experience in tourism will manage to do the job.

"There are a number of illogicalities in the interpretation of the Law related to the election of the director of the Tourist Board, which we received at the last minute after many months of waiting. We believe that we have grounds in the first place to delay the implementation of this Law, and we're working on changes to the implementation that violate a number of labour rights. What is being done is certainly not the reorganisation of the Tourist Board system, but the collapse of quality and additional politicisation. Employment conditions now make it easier. We're at risk of being left without the best people in the system, who will either be replaced or will not have a motive to apply for a fixed-term employment tender,'' say Poslovno's interlocutors from within the Tourist Board system.

The new Law on Tourist Boards was passed back in May 2019, with effect from the 1st of January 2020, while the provision on the introduction of four-year terms of office for directors should be introduced from the 1st January 2022.

All of this said, this new Law doesn't elaborate the procedure, and it doesn't say anywhere when re-election contests should be held. Article 22 of the Law only says that the director of a tourist board is appointed by the tourist council for a period of four years, it states the powers of the director, including the fact that the director is the one to announce public competitions and tenders for jobs within the tourist board.

“Given that the provision of Article 22, which states that the director of a tourist board is appointed by the tourist council for a term of four years, enters into force on the 1st of January 2022, the legal conditions for announcing a competition/tender for the director(s) of tourist boards have all been met. All tourist boards are expected to act in accordance with the provisions of the Law,'' the Ministry explained in response to a request for futher information. They also noted that the previous directors of tourist offices didn't have a mandate, so it cannot even expire.

They also clarified that with the entry into force of this Law, the position of director of a tourist office for which no mandate has been prescribed ceases to exist, which means that it is necessary to announce a competition/tender for all directors.

What about after the election? The one who is re-elected gets a fixed-term contract, and the one who is not elected will be offered another job in the office. If there is no space or nothing ends up being offered, cancellation is also an option. The Ministry explained that the employment of the director is regulated by the Labour Law, and the employer, in this case the tourist board, is responsible for its implementation.

As has since been found out, in this process, termination with the offer of an amended contract from Article 115 of the ZOR (Labour Law/Zakon o Radu) will be applied for the current directors. As stated there, the provisions of the Law relating to dismissal also apply to the case in which the employer themselves terminates a contract and at the same time proposes to the employee to conclude an employment contract under other, amended conditions.

However, according to Article 107, an employer may terminate an employment contract if they have a justifiable reason to do so, including dismissal in the event that the need to perform a certain job ceases due to economic, technical or organisational reasons (a business-related dismissal).

Such a scenario is realistic for small tourist boards, where there will be no space or budget for another employee. Who will be the new directors of the Tourist Board? According to people from the system, the ordinance on special conditions that must be met by employees in tourist boards is moving towards the degradation of the profession.

In addition to the fact that no one needs to have experience in tourism to take on this role, in addition to formal education, the criteria are knowledge of one foreign language (for regional directors, and for the CNTB, knowledge of yet another) and computer skills. Today, these are the basics of literacy and aren't special skills, according to Poslovni's interlocutors, who find it inconceivable that people who have nothing to do with tourism can come to such important positions.

The Ministry claims that the special conditions for the employment of directors in tourist boards have not been relaxed.

You can read more on the irrelevance of the Croatian National Tourist Board in Ever Been to a Party Where the Host is Suing You?