Saturday, 6 March 2021

Croatian Tourism Brand Recognisability Increases 50%, Says CTB Director Kristjan Staničić

ZAGREB, 6 March, 2021 - The brand awareness of Croatian tourism destinations on foreign markets has increased by 50% in the last seven years, the Croatian National Tourist Board (HTZ) director Kristjan Staničić has said in an interview with Hina.

The enhancement of the recognisability of the Croatian tourist industry is one of the targets of the last Croatian tourism strategic marketing plan and Staničić announces the preparation of the new plan for the 2021-2025 period this autumn.

Findings of the regular annual Brand Tracking survey conducted in late 2020 by the HTZ on ten European markets among 5,000 respondents aged 18 to 65 show that the brand awareness of Croatian tourist destinations increased from 3.3 in 2013 to 5.0 in 2020.

The respondents eligible for the survey were persons who had spent at least two nights on holidays abroad before the survey and who planned to travel abroad in the following five years.

In the survey, Croatia was compared to its Mediterranean peers -- Spain, Greece, Turkey and Italy, -- and our country fares best in terms of the preserved scenery and the value for money criterion.

The findings show that Croatia was also associated with terms such as security and family-friendly destination.

Staničić points out that Croatia was to the lowest degree associated with mass tourism, which he finds as a positive thing.

Tuesday, 8 October 2019

HeadOnEast, Quality Croatian Tourism Branding Made in Slavonia

October 8, 2019 - The story behind HeadOnEast, the best tourism branding project I have seen in years in Croatia. And like so much excellence in the country, a brand 100% made in Slavonia.  

Not so many people know that the reason I moved to Croatia was due to the promotional activities of the Croatian National Tourist Board. 

The year was 2002 and I was working as a civil society coordinator in Somaliland for an international aid agency when I saw a CNN advert which had me transfixed. Croatia, the Mediterranean as It Once Was. Having just sold my house in the UK, I decided there and then to buy my new home in Croatia, and less than two months later, I found myself the proud owner of a house in Jelsa on Hvar. 

Ah, Croatian tourism branding, one of the great conversation topics in these parts. Croatia is obsessed with how to brand itself, even having an annual conference, Branding Hrvatske, which is now in its fifth year. This in addition to other Croatian branding conferences we are served up each year. 

I will confess I am not a big fan of the current Croatia, Full of Life branding. While I can appreciate the flexibility of Croatia, Full of Wine, Heritage, Culture and the rest. it doesn't really say anything and is a vague generalisation which could be applied to almost anywhere. The Mediterranean as It Once Was, for me at least, brought Croatia immediately into focus. With the tourist industry struggling to recover from the devastation of war, in addition to the challenges of trying to explain to people where exactly this new independent state of Croatia was, it was a brilliant slogan and campaign and I am sure it attracted more than just this fat Brit that took an interest in Croatia as a result. 

There have been some questionable branding exercises over the years, with none standing out (in a positive way), which is why the recent project coming out fo eastern Croatia ahead of Days of Croatian Tourism in Slavonia made such an impression on me. Head on East - [email protected]. A fantastic play on words, inviting people to head on out to the east of Croatia to enjoy Slavonia's famed hedonist gourmet welcome. So many things packed into one slogan, and it was only when I tried to find out more about the origins of the slogan and who created it that I realised just how clever it was. 

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But before we start, a quick word about the word 'hedonism' as it has a slightly different - and important - perception in Croatian than in English, at least in my opinion. In Croatia, hedonism means good food, wine, lifestyle - the finest things in life with great hospitality, a little to excess. Andro Tomic, the legendary Hvar winemaker, would be a perfect example of this with his bon vivant lifestyle. And while it kind of also means that in English too, the term has been somewhat hijacked in recent years to reflect other types of excess, and when a globally famous swingers hotel in Jamaica brands itself as Hedonism, one can understand some international confusion if Croatian branding talks of hedonism without referring to gastronomy in its core message. It is why Hvar's choice of Genuine Hedonism as a slogan - at the same time it was becoming known as a top party destination - sent out completely the wrong message. 

But Head on East Hedonism to the Slavonian gourmet heartlands is an altogether different story. Pure genius. So who is the agency behind it? I was VERY surprised by the answer when I contacted the Slavonia Baranja Regional Tourist Board for more information... 

No agency at all. The slogan was made in Slavonia, inhouse by the team at the regional tourism board, with the design of the logos developed by Osijek designers Marko Jovanovac and Ante Vekic from Symbol

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The play on words of HeadOnEast and hedonist was one level of genius, but it also masked one of the biggest challenges in branding the region. Several years ago, I held initial talks with an idea to do a Total portal for the east of Croatia, but the size of the task ahead was obvious when we got stuck at what to call the portal. Total Slavonia was the most obvious one for me, but that brought objections from Baranja and Srijem, while Total Eastern Croatia was a little too long. In the end, the initiative came to nothing for other reasons. 

And while what to call the east was one issue, there was also the issue of brand recognition of Slavonia. Slavonia, Slovenia, Slovakia. Slovenia and Slovakia are frequently confused with each other, while Slavonia is only really well-known in the region, not so much further afield. This issue was highlighted once more to the regional tourist board at the ITB Berlin tourism fair, when a visitor asked why Slovenia was being promoted at the Croatian stand. 

How to brand a destination of 5 regional tourist boards where food, wine, and hospitality were key elements of the offer, but where regional and international recognition was different and where there was no agreement locally on what to call the region as a brand? Quite a challenge.  

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A region located east of almost all of the target markets, and located in the east of the country. 

Head on East!


The Symbol designers were tasked with created different mosaics for each destination and type of event, portraying the various things that the region or sector was famous for. See Baranja, land of wine and Kopacki Rit, and Djakovo, land of famous cathedral and Lipizzaner horses, above. 


And underneath the main HeadOnEast slogan, a hashtag to define which part of eastern Croatia we are looking at - HeadOnEast - [email protected].

Quite brilliant. 


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HeadOnEast branding really came into its own in the Osijek Tvdja festival from October 3-5. A beer festival. 

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And a great selection of street food.  

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A REALLY impressive festival of lights as the old town's historic buildings sported new, multi-coloured facades. 


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And individual parts of the festival, including the InDaSofa chill zone.  

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A superb logo, to match the organisation of the event itself. Made in Slavonia.  

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And, as I wrote yesterday, now that the lights have been turned off, the stalls dismantled and the visitors departed, what are the next steps? A campaign of education for the rest of Croatia on the joys of eastern Croatia and why it is a fantastic place to visit. And it really is, I am going back in a couple of weeks for the weekend with the family to explore a little more. 

And wouldn't HeadOnEast - Hedonist be a great slogan for a national campaign?

To learn more about the wonders for those who do head on east, here are 25 things to know


Sunday, 18 November 2018

Where is Croatia? Why Football and Tourism Should Be Branded Together

November 18, 2018 - 'Where is Croatia'? It was one of the huge spikes in Google Search in July during the World Cup. Is it time to brand Croatian tourism with its world-famous ambassadors?

"This World Cup presented a unique opportunity to raise awareness about the country’s existence. To break the first barrier of every marketing campaign: brand recognisability." Iva Glavinic's excellent blog on the World Cup Effect and Mediatoolkit's monitoring of the surge in interest in the tiny nation which dared to dream gave a very rational breakdown in terms of date of the very irrational events of the footballing summer of 2018 in Russia. 

Where is Croatia?

Where is Croatia? became one of the most-searched terms on TCN that month (although quite some way behind 'Croatian President bikini' for some reason...), and with literally hundreds of millions of hearts around the world newly in love with this incredible sporting achievement and its fabulous travelling supporters, 'where is Croatia located' searches indicated a huge desire to learn more about the country which already welcomed 18 million tourists a year, their business bringing in 20% of the country's GDP. 

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And it wasn't just the football that captured so many hearts all around the world. Everything about the Croatian presence in Russia was adorable, down to the young kids of the players joining on their pitch in miniature Croatian shirts. 

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And although the main story was taking place on the pitch, Croatia's travelling support was magnificent. So many new friendships were made, and so many people were coming into contact with Croatia, perhaps for the first time. And they obviously liked what they saw - searches for 'where is Croatia' were going through the roof. 

It wasn't just the beauty, enthusiasm and hospitality of the fans, though - there was something distinctive and uber-cool about THAT shirt. The red and white chequers of Croatia were very distinctive and instantly recognisable. There was something super cool about being associated with this cool, tiny country. Croatia shirt sales went nuts.  

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And just when you thought the story could not get any better, with pictures of an emotional and photogenic Croatian president hugging everyone in the rain after defeat in the final, as President Putin looked on holding the only umbrella in the room, it DID get better. In what must arguably be the greatest sporting homecoming of all time (certainly for the size of the country), some 550,000 people descended onto the streets of Zagreb to welcome their heroes home. 

It was an unforgettable occasion, and images were beamed around the world. 'Where is Croatia' searches went into overdrive once more.  

In case you missed it, or what to relive those crazy summer moments as winter descends, check out this excellent homecoming to Zagreb video above.  


Seven months before the World Cup started, the Croatian National Tourist Board released a new promo video, which showcased Croatia through the World Cup squad introducing their hometowns. It was extremely well done and successful (and we have an interview with the agency who made it coming shortly), winning a prestigious travel video award, as previously reported by TCN. Did someone have a crystal ball about Croatia's imminent success? Whatever the reason, having such a video on hand as the world hungered for more information about Croatia, here were the World Cup heroes getting up close and personal about so many gorgeous places to see in Croatia. 

Putting Croatian Tourism on the Global Map, One Goal at a Time

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Interest in Croatia was insane. More than 60 BILLION mentions over the World Cup period, according to the media-monitoring service, Mediatoolkit - more than all online mentions of Croatia in the 28 years of the existence of the modern Croatian state, COMBINED!

A marketing and promo gift, as well as an international branding image embedded all over the globe. With the power of football these days, the likes of Luka Modric are known about in almost every town in the world. 

So why not use it as a cornerstone of Croatia's ongoing campaign? 

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As Glavinic's data showed, not only was the spike in interest in Croatia during this World Cup, but also during previous tournaments, as well as the European Football Championships. 2016, 2014, 2012, 2008, but not 2010, the year that Croatia did not go to the World Cup. What is the biggest factor in generating interest in Croatia? Football.

As a longtime resident here, I think the combination of sporting success, passionate and welcoming fans, and yes, that distinctive shirt, is a real winner, and I think it would be very productive to include it more in the country's tourism branding. Where is Croatia? Ah, yes that wonderful country with great team spirit, warm, passionate and hospitable fans, what is it like for a holiday?

Croatia SHOULD experience a mini-boom in tourism from the World Cup - maybe too late tor this summer, but certainly for next.

Unique Selling Points and Promoting Croatian Tourism


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This post has its origins in an excellent Croatian health tourism branding seminar which took place at Bagatin Clinic in Zagreb recently, with leading medical travel branding guru, Ilan Geva. Among the many topics he covered that day, USP - Unique Selling Point - was one. He had a really great slide with about 30 logos of tourism boards around the world. Although some were slick in design, they all had one thing in common - their colours were all very similar, it was as though a class had been given 7 pencils and asked to draw tourism logos. I didn't take a picture of the slide, unfortunately, but here are a few random ones I pulled from the web to illustrate the point. 

"Which one of these stands out and is showing its unique selling point?" asked Geva.

Which one indeed? I quite like the Croatia logo, but just as with the others, there wasn't really a USP, and none them stood out from the crowd. 

And then I thought back to those crazy scenes in July, when Croatia was on the lips of billions. Thanks to that shirt, those incredible fans and even more incredible players (no need to play that well at Wembley today, by the way...), Croatia has a distinctive visual identity now recognised all over the globe. So why not use it and combine it with one of the things Croatia is most famed for - its hospitality. There are more experienced designers out there to make a much better logo, but you get the basic concept:


Croatia, Full of Hospitality - come visit the land of the tiny country which dared to dream, reconnect with its passionate fans, and enjoy its famed hospitality. 

What do we think?

To learn more about Ilan Geva, visit his official website

To learn 'where is Croatia' and lots of other things about this slice of paradise in south-east Europe, why not follow TCN on Facebook?