Thursday, 15 November 2018

American Perceptions of Croatian Tourism: Myriad Marketing's Al Merschen Interview

American interest in Croatian tourism is growing. A  recent in-depth survey of perceptions of Croatian tourism in the United States by Myriad Marketing was presented to the Croatian tourism industry at the recent Days of Croatian tourism by Myriad director, Al Merschen. You can read the report on Merschen's presentation here. TCN caught up with Merschen on November 15, 2018 to learn more.

1. Many thanks for your presentation at Days of Croatian Tourism on Hvar last month. Tell us a little about American interest in Croatia.

There is a growing interest in Croatia.  It seems to be one of the “in” places in the world for Americans.  Many are introduced by a cruise that sparks interest.  Others have seen pictures and heard stories from friends.  And, of course, some watch Game of Thrones!


(the top 11 things American tourists are interested in about Croatia, according to the Myriad Marketing survey)

2. Getting American tourists who want to travel abroad past Mexico, Canada and the Caribbean is one thing, but then Croatia has to compete with the likes of London, Paris and Rome, as well as traditional diaspora markets. What is Croatia's competitive advantage?

There is mounting pressure from almost all destinations around the world that creates competition for Croatia. I do not believe it is Paris or London... or Sydney or Hong Kong. That is a different traveler looking for a different experience.  Our research indicates that it is the Croatian culture that creates the interest for the Americans who want to visit Croatia.  

It is actually other emerging destinations like Iceland, Columbia, Turkey and Vietnam/ Cambodia that are attracting the potential Croatian audience, as well as repeat travelers to Italy, Greece, etc.  

Because the American are high-spend travelers, it is a highly sought-after visitor. Some say that American travelers are the “Antidote for Over Tourism!”

3. What is Croatia best-known for in the United States in your opinion?

Croatian marketing in the USA “punches way above its weight class.” When other international destinations have budgets in excess of 10Million USD (plus partner or regional well as airline marketing, i.e. Turkey), Croatia has made maximum impact with minimal dollars. In addition to the need to build and maintain consumer advertising and public relations, the distribution channels need to be addressed. This requires strong, integrated and very expensive media partners.

Overall, the impact has had a substantial ROI compare to other destinations.

4. How would you rate Croatia's marketing presence in the US market?. How could it improve?

As mentioned, they are stars in what they have achieved in the market The best way for improvements in tourism marketing would require two movements. The first would be a substantial increase in budget. If Croatia wants to be a serious competitor in North America, it needs to have a serious budget. The market is very competitive. Also, it would be helpful if the industry partners began to have an investment in the US market too

5. You recently returned from Croatia. How do you personally view the potential of the country compared to your perceptions before your visit?

Croatia met and exceeded my expectations. The infrastructure was more developed than I thought. The high level of the product offering was at a higher level than I had imagined. The ease of traveling around the country is a welcome eye-opening. Most people I knew who had visited Croatia had come via Cruise or on a guided tour. I think there is such a strong possibility for FIT markets. 

Although I had read about the history, I believe the complicated nature of the nation was even more interesting when there. 

As expected, the pictures don’t do the experience justice. 

And although I heard that the people of Croatia were nice (which you often hear about many destinations), the fact that they were “proactively’ nice made the difference. 

6. Medical tourism did not feature in reasons for visiting Croatia in your survey, and yet the potential of Croatian medical tourism is perhaps the biggest of all. Co-founded by Mayo Clinic, the OneOme RightMed pharmacogenetic test is only available in Croatia in Europe, for example, and the potential savings, especially for US patients, is huge. In two case studies at Bagatin Clinic in Zagreb, for example, the dental savings for these two patients totalled about $100,000. How can Croatia and its health tourism industry most effectively gain better visibility in the American market?

Although it may sound sexy and profitable, medical tourism is a very very small niche market for the US. The money that comes into the destination usually ends up in very few hands and has little impact throughout the country. 

Before it can have true impact, the destination must be well established to create confidence in an additional attribute.

Saturday, 27 October 2018

Croatia Travel Trends for USA Market: Al Merschen Presentation on Hvar

Where does Croatia travel fit in American priorities and interest? An in-depth analysis at Days of Croatian Tourism on Hvar on October 25, 2018.

Among the many fascinating discussions and panels held at the 2018 Days of Croatian Tourism on Hvar this week was an in-depth look at the perception of Croatia as a tourist destination with the American market. Al Merschen of Myriad Marketing provided a comprehensive overview of a targeted survey of Americans interested in travel to Croatia. In order to give the research more relevance to Croatia, the survey target group was confined to households with an annual income of more than $100,000 who had taken a holiday in the previous 12 months to a destination further than Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean. 

Setting the Croatia Travel Context for the USA Market.

While the focus of the presentation was on Croatia, Merschen gave some great insights into the trends of American tourists, which was an interesting overview into the trends of tourism promotion in this increasingly digital age. Apologies in advance for the quality of some of the photos - I was sat a little further back than I would have liked in Hvar's historic Arsenal, but I will explain all in the text below each slide.  

croatia-travel-trends-usa (3).jpg

The top five reasons for travelling all play to Croatia's strengths - experiencing different cultures, exploration/adventure, experiencing new cuisines, variety of tourism product, and relaxation, all of which Croatia does with aplomb. 

croatia-travel-trends-usa (4).jpg

The top six countries of interest in Europe are Italy, England, France, Spain, Germany and Ireland. As Merschen pointed out, these are all countries with sizable diaspora (Croatia has around 1.2 million diaspora in the United States) - a target market in addition to regular American tourists.  

croatia-travel-trends-usa (5).jpg

The most important methods of searching for destination ideas and information are travel review websites, online search, destination websites and recommendations for friends and family - good news for our little website, which gets 60% of traffic from Google Search and has a number of destination websites. 

croatia-travel-trends-usa (6).jpg

The declining interest of print media is there for all to see, as is the power of travel review sites. Interestingly, Merschen explained that while the majority of people travelling now are millennials, the majority of those leaving comments on review sites are baby boomers, so children are listening to their parents after all, at least in terms of travel recommendations... 

croatia-travel-trends-usa (7).jpg

A big surprise for me in this age of terror was that almost two-thirds of American tourists had no problem flying with a non-US airline. 

croatia-travel-trends-usa (8).jpg

And if there was any doubt in where the world is going in terms of seeking information, this slide says it all -  average daily time spent with media - more than 6 hours online, just 23 minutes with print. 

croatia-travel-trends-usa (9).jpg

Welcome to the world of the power of the mobile. 

Croatia Travel Study - Results of Myriad Marketing Survey of USA Market.


croatia-travel-trends-usa (10).jpg

Moving to the research into the Croatian market, there was some very encouraging information, as well as some opportunities to build on. Almst half surveyed had an interest in Croatia, with some 23% Croatia travel veterans. 

croatia-travel-trends-usa (11).jpg

The biggest interest group are millennials. And before you think cheap backpackers, the oldest millennials these days are 37. 

croatia-travel-trends-usa (12).jpg

More good news for Croatia in the length of stay survey - the vast majority from 4-7 days and 1-2 weeks. 

croatia-travel-trends-usa (13).jpg

And some of the best news of all - Americans are very prepared to spend, spend, spend - a much higher vacation spend on average than Croatia is currently enjoying. 

croatia-travel-trends-usa (14).jpg

The most interesting places to visit threw up some surprises, and at least one huge unexploited opportunity. Interest in wine and wineries is above Game of Thrones. And yet Croatia does not have an official website about wine to help address this obvious need. TCN started a dedicated website about wine, Total Croatia Wine, to meet this need. Perhaps it is time to make a wine road for Damatia too... 

croatia-travel-trends-usa (15).jpg

Food tours and wine tastings figure high on the list of things to do. Croatia has so much potential as a top gourmet destination - potential immortalised by the late Anthony Bourdain in his No Reservations show about Croatia six years ago. 

Croatia has the potential to be on a par with France, Italy and Spain as a gourmet tourism destination, but it has some way to go to reach that level. But the potential - and the demand - is there.  

croatia-travel-trends-usa (16).jpg

Among the best - and most surprising - news was that some 85% of those surveyed did not see the need to change planes to reach Croatia as a barrier. Although the first direct flights from the USA to Dubrovnik after the war will commence next summer, the lack of direct flights is perceived as being a major obstacle to North American tourism to Croatia. It appears that it is not. 

croatia-travel-trends-usa (17).jpg

And for those not interested in Croatia, the reasons for lack of interest in Croatia travel were also encouraging. Nothing specific or negative in the key reasons - no destination suits everyone. 

croatia-travel-trends-usa (18).jpg

Croatia has a major appeal to exploit - its attraction as a different cultural experience. 

croatia-travel-trends-usa (19).jpg

A closer look at the interest in gourmet tourism also reveals interesting results - who needs Michelin-star restaurants when you can have local and street food experiences?

croatia-travel-trends-usa (20).jpg

Those travel review websites have a major pull.  

croatia-travel-trends-usa (21).jpg

A lot more so than recommendations from friends and family. 

croatia-travel-trends-usa (22).jpg

And an interesting statistic for those planning for next season - the largest number of people researching their Croatia travel do so 6 months before arriving. 

croatia-travel-trends-usa (23).jpg

The power of social media. 

croatia-travel-trends-usa (24).jpg

The average age of people interested in visiting Croatia was a lot higher than I imagined, and things must be good in the States, as more holidays are envsiaged next year than last. 

croatia-travel-trends-usa (25).jpg

A profile of the people surveyed interested in Croatia travel from the United States. 

croatia-travel-trends-usa (1).jpg

And, given the distance involved, a rather surprising number of respondents who are interested in Croatia travel with young children and/or teenagers - good news for Croatian tourism providers in the high-quality family tourism segment. 

Plenty of great information from Al Merschen's presentation, and the news is very, very good and the (that word we use in Croatian tourism so much) potential is huge. Can it be turned into bigger tourism numbers of high-spending American guests?

Many thanks to Al Merschen for such a thought-provoking presentation. You can learn more about Myriad Marketing here.