Thursday, 26 January 2023

E-Tourism: New Set of Digital Public Services for Croatian Tourism Launched

January the 26th, 2023 - Meet E-tourism, a brand new set of digital public services for the ever-important field of Croatian tourism has been launched in time for this summer season.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, E-tourism is a brand new set of digital public services for the field of Croatian tourism which has been made available from today via the e-Citizens (e-Gradjani) system. The new E-tourism service has otherwise been created as part of the three-year project involving Croatian digital tourism or e-tourism, the final activities of which were presented on Wednesday this week by the Croatian Ministry of Tourism and Sport (MINTS).

Presenting the brand new E-tourism project and its aims for the tourism sector at the press conference, its leader and director of the Directorate for Strategic Planning, Digitalisation and EU Funds, Natalija Havidic, explained that the project has actually been being implemented since back at the beginning of 2018, and will finally be completed at the beginning of February this year.

The goal of the project and all the resulting electronic services is to improve the efficiency of public services and communication between people and tourist entities within public administration.

Three new e-services for tourism were created as part of that project - TuStart, TuRiznica and TuRegistar, which are under the jurisdiction of MINTS. Two more were previously upgraded in the process - eVisitor as a system for the registration and de-registration of tourists and the portal Croatia.hr, which presents the entire Croatian tourist offer and various types of information, both of which are under the jurisdiction of the Croatian National Tourist Board (HTZ/CNTB).

The TuStart service, according to Havidic, is intended for the online start-up and registration or change of tourist activities, TuRegistar is a tourist central register that will include all enterprises and individuals engaged in Croatian tourism, including the categorisation of facilities and more, and TuRiznica is a system in which one can see and submit requests for the allocation of all grants in tourism transparently online.

"The importance of this E-tourism project lies in the fact that now the paper-based issuing of various permits, solutions and so on can all be done online, and that all these solutions are digitally mapped. The accuracy of the data entered, for example, in the TuRegistar system should be verified by MINTS and the competent county, and then it will all be visible in that system," concluded Havidic.

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated news section.

Thursday, 19 January 2023

10 Things I Learned from my SLAPP Lawsuits in Croatia

January 19. 2023 -  SLAPP lawsuits in Croatia (Strategic Lawsuits against Public Participation) are a well-established tool to dissuade criticism. Having just emerged from a 2.5-year SLAPP experience, here are some thoughts and observations.

It all starts with the blue letter. 

The postman knocks, requiring a signature. There is rarely good news inside the official blue envelopes. 

"It is from the Municipal Court in Zagreb," said my wife. 

I wonder what they want, I thought to myself. I haven't done anything wrong, to the best of my knowledge. Nevertheless, my heart started beating a little heavier. I had no dead relatives in Croatia to inherit property from, so in all probability, there was bad news inside.

A lawsuit from the Croatian National Tourist Board seeking 50,000 kuna in compensation for defamation. Now my heart really started to beat. Plus costs. And interest. For an article that I did not write, on a portal that I do not own, which quoted me. 

My mouth went dry. 

Two weeks later, it was Groundhog Day. ANOTHER blue letter, another lawsuit, and another 50,000 kuna demanded, this time for a meme I posted on my private Facebook page, where I changed the official tourism slogan from Croatia, Full of Life to Croatia, Full of Uhljebs. 

 (The lawsuits made the national news)

1. Self-Doubt

What the hell to do? I was panicking. I didn't have that kind of money spare, and what did this mean for my future writing? I was comfortable that I had done nothing wrong, but how to prove that in the Croatian legal jungle and where to turn for help? Perhaps I should stop writing anything critical and just concentrate on saying how beautiful Croatia was. 

In my panic, I failed to analyse the message being sent, turning this into a major situation instead:

The plaintiff points out that in the case of a public apology made by the defendant, done so in a manner that fully corresponds to the manner of publishing the disputed statements, i.e. in the same or equivalent place, it is ready to accept without the further continuation of this litigation.

I. The defendant is ordered to pay the plaintiff the amount of HRK 50,000.00 together with the corresponding statutory default interest rate from 04.08.2020 as the date of filing the lawsuit until payment at the rate of the average interest rate on loans granted for a period longer than one year to non-financial companies calculated for the reference period preceding the current half-year, increased by three percentage points, within 15 days under threat of enforcement. 

With a little more detachment, the message was clear. Publicly apologise and lose credibility among your readership, be silent in the future, and all this goes away. Otherwise, the lawsuits will take their course. I had 15 days to respond.  

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2. Costs include 8% interest

As I was weighing up my limited options, the route to a public apology looked the most likely, especially when I learned that there would be 8% annual interest fee, I believe, from the moment the lawsuit was issued, until the verdict. I had heard that these cases could go on for years. It had somehow taken 2 months for the issuance of the lawsuit from the court to be delivered to my home. Some 8% divided by 6 of 100,000 kuna. The clock was ticking. Should I just apologise and move on?

The only person I could think to ask for advice was a smart young lawyer called Vanja Juric, regarded as the best in the region for media law, and a very successful defender of Croatia's biggest and most controversial news portal, Index.hr. Index owner Matija Babic, a personal friend, had kindly made Vanja's advice available to me a couple of years earlier when the Mayor of Jelsa, Niksa Peronja, announced in a public meeting that he was suing me over my reporting of a questionable tender - you can read more in Mayor Niksa Peronja: If Carpe Diem Really is Coming to Jelsa and Zecevo, Then...

Here is Mayor Peronja publicly announcing the lawsuit against me. He never actually followed though, and 4 years later, I await the lawsuit he promised. 

But the announcement of the lawsuit shook me up, and Vanja gave me some great advice. And so I knew that she would be the person to turn to with the case of the Croatian National Tourist Board. The first thing she told me was to relax, there was no way I would lose. 

And from that moment, I started to relax, and I decided that I would document the whole experience in a mini-blog on TCN called Diary of a Croatian Lawsuit

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3. Delays

And yet, despite Vanja's considerable reassurance and calming influence, that 8% would not leave me, especially when I learned that the first hearing of the first case would not be until the following April, and the second one in May, 8 and 9 months respectively after the lawsuits were issued. Around 6,000 kuna in interest, and we had not even started!

And then when I went to my first hearing, only to have the prosecution lawyer present an additional motion one minute before the hearing started, which necessitated an adjournment of 3 months (1,000 kuna more), and then their lawyer double booked not once, but twice, necessitating a delay in the other case from May to November (2,000 kuna), I began to have my doubts. It was almost 18 months from the lawsuit to the first hearing that actually took place. 

Delay, delay, delay. Perhaps it was all accidental (this was the Kingdom of Accidental Tourism after all), but it felt a little more coordinated. After all, the lawyer who had double-booked twice was from a firm with 50 lawyers. This was hardly a complicated case, and yet no other lawyer was able to take his place. 

On not one, but two occasions, their lawyer submitted last-minute motions to my lawyer literally one minute before the hearing started on each occasion. The apologetic excuse was that he had had health issues. There was no mention of the other 49 lawyers in his office who could have helped out. Perhaps these were all genuine reasons, but I slowly began to form the opinion that all this seemed to be a deliberate tactic. This feeling was solidified for the hearing where I was supposed to give evidence on the meme, Croatia, Full of Uhljebs, as was Director of the Croatian National Tourist Board, Kristjan Stanicic. 

The hearing was announced in July 2021, to take place on Thursday, January 20, 2022, so 6 months to prepare. Although I speak Croatian quite well, Vanja advised that I hire a court interpreter, which I did. Six days before the hearing, late on a Friday evening after office hours, Vanja received an email stating that Director Stanicic could not attend the hearing the following Thursday as he had to go on urgent business to a tourism fair in Madrid, attaching the director's flight details (Tuesday to Friday). The Madrid fair had been announced 6 months before, about the same time as this hearing, but for some reason, this trip had been put in the calendar at the last minute. I cancelled the interpreter, and Vanja advised me to attend the hearing, but not to give evidence in his absence. 

And so the following Tuesday came, with the director presumably off to Madrid. And Wednesday. The hearing was scheduled for midday on Thursday. At around 09:00, Vanja received an email to say that, in fact, the director was not in Madrid after all and would be attending court and giving evidence. He had presumably known this on Tuesday when he was supposed to fly, but for some reason waited until the last minute to tell us. Trying to find an available court translator with less than three hours notice was an almost impossible task. Almost. 

If I had been a cynic, I would have questioned the additional motives behind some of these delays and double bookings, as hearings which were scheduled before elections managed to get delayed until after elections, thereby avoiding any negative publicity. But obviously, I am not a cynic... 

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4. Filming 

One of the most interesting aspects of the whole process was learning that I had the right to apply to photograph and film proceedings if I applied to the court more than 48 hours in advance. The chance to put the absurdity of what I was subjected to on YouTube was very appealing. It would have greatly added to showcasing my story. I applied as advised and was stunned at the speed of the reply, an email just one hour later. My request was denied, as filming was only applicable to cases deemed to be in the public interest, which mine was not (despite being all over television and the national media when the story broke). A second email to Vanja at the same time gave another reason why I would not be filming any time soon - the case suddenly got delayed 6 months (lawyer double-booking) - another 2,000 kuna in interest.  

5. Intimidation

I can only imagine going through this process without the expertise and calming support of Vanja. Once she told me to relax, I knew I was going to be ok. But without her, this would be a terrifying ordeal, as I am sure it is for the many others who are subjected to SLAPP lawsuits here and elsewhere. Indeed the support of certain sections of the media (big shout out to Index, Telegram, Morski, RTL and N1) was a huge boost, as was MP Marijana Puljak calling for the dismissal of Director Stanicic, the withdrawal of the lawsuit, and the introduction of anti-SLAPP legislation (see video below).

We are shocked by the bizarre news about the lawsuits of the Croatian National Tourist Board against Paul Bradbury, journalist and owner of the Total Croatia News portal. It is a classic way of intimidating and stifling freedom of speech, in order to silence criticism of the dysfunctional system of the Croatian Tourist Board, which spends a lot of taxpayers' money. We demand the immediate withdrawal of the lawsuits and the removal of director Kristjan Staničić.

The CNTB should see a partner in Paul Bradbury. He is a man who has undoubtedly indebted Croatian tourism with his actions, and instead they are trying to intimidate and destroy him. This is just another proof of the justification of our request for the introduction of voluntary membership in the CNTB. If taxpayers were given the opportunity to choose who to finance, many would certainly prefer to invest money in tourism promotion in the knowledge and work of experts like Bradbury, rather than in any of the 300 or so directors of tourist boards.

The Center Party will always vehemently oppose any form of intimidation and attacks on journalists, activists and citizens. Any attempt to restrict freedom of speech, and we witness them in Croatia almost every day, we consider unacceptable, so we will send to the procedure legal changes that would prevent such lawsuits from occurring at all.

Freedom of speech is the cornerstone of any democratic society and the first line of defense of all other freedoms. In addition to believing that an open public debate on any topic has no alternative, history teaches us that persecuting and silencing dissidents throughout

it makes society intellectually but also economically poorer. Only an open exchange of ideas, but also criticism, is the guarantor of intellectual and economic progress.

I was grateful for all the support and fully aware that many others facing SLAPP lawsuits do not have such exposure. I felt the whole process to be quite intimidating. As I stated in a previous article, I get the impression that the CNTB lawyer is a pretty cool guy that I would enjoy having a drink with (he was always very friendly outside court, making a point to shake my hand each time), but his questioning and tactics in the courtroom were very intimidating. I spent an hour on the witness stand being cross-examined about the meme on topics such as how many Facebook fans did I have, what was I doing before I moved to Croatia in 2002, how many employees did I have, and did I speak French. 

My favourite moment in the second hearing was seeing a HUGE file with so many papers inside that a whole forest must have been sacrificed. On the front of the file, two words - Paul Bradbury.

If that file was full of documents about me, just how big was my legal bill going to be on top of the interest and claim? Intimidating. Or at least it would have been without Vanja. An intern who watched proceedings asked me after if I also thought that a lot of the pieces of paper in the folder were blank. 

As I could see that this was an intimidating process, I decided to document my case from start to finish. Knowing that the cases would take years to resolve, I started a mini-blog called Diary of a Croatian Lawsuit on TCN. Apart from being extraordinary free PR for me (thanks, CNTB!), keeping the case in the public arena could only help my cause, especially if I detailed all the absurdities. But I also wanted to show others going through the same process that they were not alone. And that it was possible to win. 

But had I had to face that alone... And then there was the option to publicly apologise and it all goes away...  

When talking about intimidation, I thought back to the Mayor of Jelsa, Niksa Peronja, who publicly announced he was suing me, but never did as mentioned above. Just the threat of a lawsuit - it does focus the mind on writing about less controversial topics in the future.  There is not much net reward for writing a great article and then having to pay thousands in court for the privilege. There is a reason why these lawsuits are called Strategic Lawsuits against Public Prosecution. 

6. Doors close and the stigma

I am currently in the search for a new identity. For the last two years, I have been known as the 'guy getting sued by CNTB.' That's it. My epitaph on my tombstone. I have lost count of the number of people I have met who have only heard about me for that one reason. It is something that I guess will be with me forever. it is not something I would have chosen to be remembered by, but I have tried to turn that into a positive and approach this reality with humour. 

What has been a quite extraordinary lesson, however, has been how people and institutions in Croatia reacted to being sued by a state institution. It was the same with the threatened lawsuit from Peronja and the national tourist board. Certain people unfriended me on Facebook, looked the other way when I walked down the street, and generally distanced themselves from me. To be seen to be with me (and this was especially true in Jelsa 5 years ago) meant that there were in the enemy camp. Why risk a cafe concession of an extra two tables as a cafe owner by being friends with the pariah?

The reaction of the Croatian media was very instructive, and it was then that I could see clearly who were the most independent media (named above) and those who were not. Not only was my case not covered, but in one famous example, I was completely erased from history on a big media report from the opening of a conference I co-oganised, as well as being told I would not be allowed to speak at the opening of my own conference, as I would be sharing the platform with the Deputy Minister of Tourism. 

Paid contracts dried up. Sorry, Paul, we hope you understand, but you are being sued by CNTB...

The lawsuits became the big elephant in the room, particularly in topics where I was very active (digital nomads being a prime example) where the national tourist board was starting to get involved (and with a budget to spend). Sorry Paul, the national tourist board are funding this so... 

It was a lesson, and one I am glad I had, for it forced me to diversify, which I have done. And now I am in a much better space. So thanks to all for that. 

7. Winning is not the aim

As time went on, I began to realise that finding me guilty and actually winning the case was not the main aim of these lawsuits. It was intimidation and an invitation to silence. Zoran Pejovic, a respected tourism expert and defence witness in my case, who had also been quoted in the article that got me sued, reflected on his day in court as a witness in the case on LinkedIn (you can read Zoran's full post here):

Ever since I learned of the case against Paul I have reduced my Croatian media appearances. Several times I was asked to comment on some of the ongoing challenges of Croatian tourism and I politely declined. It only today dawned on me that I chose the path of lesser exposure to stay out of the limelight and avoid similar litigations, regardless of how pointless and ultimately unsuccessful they tend to be.

Perhaps they never aimed for victory in court.

The verdict in the first case was set for January 13, 2023. After the fabulous testimony in the hearing last November of both Zoran and Kresimir Macan, as well as Vanja's magic, there was no way in a normal country that I could lose. There simply was no case. Recognition of that fact came (again at the last minute - delay, delay, delay) when Vanja receive a request to withdraw the first case, giving us 8 days to agree. Just enough time to inform the court the day before the verdict. If they withdrew, they would not lose, I suppose was the logic. Their justifications for withdrawing the lawsuit were quite special, an explanation of which I may save for another time. 

What started 2.5 years ago as a demand for a public apology or 50,000 kuna plus costs ended with a polite request to forget about the whole thing. If I accepted, the case went away and my costs would be paid. If I refused, the court would deliver its verdict, an expected victory for me, and another PR own goal for the Kingdom of Accidental Tourism. I decided to try and put an end to the whole farce by suggesting that if they dropped both lawsuits and paid my costs, then I would agree. If they only wanted to drop one, then I would refuse. Their counter-offer was quite special (but let's leave that for another time), and we agreed that they would withdraw both.   

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8. Accountability 

And so here we are, 2.5 years later. A public institution sues someone using public money, demanding either a public apology or compensation of 100,000 kuna plus costs. Two and a half years later, having wasted an enormous amount of time, energy and public money, they withdraw the cases and are required to pay all the costs - with public money, of course. 

And accountability? 

Absolutely zero, and nothing to stop this happening again to someone else, someone who might be a little more intimidated than I was (post-Vanja reassurance).  

9. Legacy 

And the legacy? 

I will be known as the guy who got sued by the Croatian National Tourist Board, and apart from that?

Plus ca change. 

At least by highlighting my case on TCN (and soon on my YouTube channel with a very detailed look at it), we have raised a little awareness of the realities of SLAPP lawsuits in Croatia. I have been very encouraged by the number of European lawyers who have been following my case on LinkedIn, and their messages of support have been very welcome.

10. Remarkable individuals are building a better Croatia

 And where to end but with my fabulous laywer. 

Over the years, I have met several people who are passionate about their niche, and whose determination and dedication have brought positive change. Marko Rakar is one of my all-time heroes, and his efforts to hold the government accountable and to improve the system are truly admirable. One of his biggest achievements was effecting the removal of 800,000 fake names from the electoral register - this in a country of 4.2 million people at the time. 

In the media space, you may love him or hate him, but Matija Babic, the owner of Index.hr has made a considerable contribution over the last 20 years with his portal's reporting and exposing of corruption. 

And Vanja, as a bastion of protection of free media speech, is right up there in her own niche. As Vice President of GONG, she was also appointed expert group member of a European task force on SLAPP lawsuits. And only last week, she held the first GONG workshop on SLAPP lawsuits. I feel honoured that my case is one that is highlighted.

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Vanja is also using the case in her education of the next generation of lawyers. Perhaps this will be the best legacy of all for Croatia, Full of Uhljebs...

You can follow the whole story, including the publication of both lawsuits in English, in Diary of a Croatian Lawsuit.

****

What is it like to live in Croatia? An expat for 20 years, you can follow my series, 20 Ways Croatia Changed Me in 20 Years, starting at the beginning - Business and Dalmatia.

Follow Paul Bradbury on LinkedIn.

Subscribe to the Paul Bradbury Croatia & Balkan Expert YouTube channel.

Croatia, a Survival Kit for Foreigners is now available on Amazon in paperback and on Kindle.

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Thursday, 8 September 2022

New CNTB Campaign Seeks to Strengthen Continental Tourism

September the 8th, 2022 - The new CNTB campaign is focused primarily on boosting continental Croatian tourism, with so many sights and experiences to be enjoyed far away from the coastline.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, the Croatian Tourist Board (HTZ) and the Ministry of Tourism and Sport have launched the second part of this year's CNTB campaign which focuses on the rural parts of the country with the aim of generating stronger tourist traffic during the post-season. This new CNTB campaign is primarily promoting Lika and Senj, Posavina and Pozega, Podunavlje and Konavle in the extreme south of the country, the CNTB reported.

"Th new CNTB  campaign puts Croatian rural destinations in the foreground, as well as Croatian guests, with whom we're discovering the charm and beauty of continental regions through creative materials. Croatia offers much more than sunshine and the sea, and our task is to bring that wealth closer to both domestic and foreign tourists," said CNTB director Kristjan Stanicic.

He also emphasised his satisfaction with the results of the CNTB campaign so far, which, according to him, has been confirmed by the increase in tourist traffic in the continental counties of the country where - excluding the City of Zagreb - around 1.7 million overnight stays have been achieved so far this year, equal to an impressive 40 percent more than last year.

The Minister of Tourism and Sport, Nikolina Brnjac, noted that the goal of sustainable tourism development across Croatia is the stronger use of the continental part of the country's rich potential and year-round tourism.

"The rural areas of Croatia offer tourists all year round a lot of content, a handful of which we show in this new campaign, from activities in nature, enjoying an authentic gastronomic offer to exploring historical attractions and getting better acquainted with the culture and lives of the local population. Such content is increasingly attracting modern tourists, as evidenced by the fact that in the current part of the year, the tourist traffic in continental Croatian counties has reached 95 percent of the numbers realised back during the same period in 2019,'' said Minister Brnjac.

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated travel section.

Sunday, 24 July 2022

Croatian Tourist Board Launches New Campaign at Split Airport

July the 24th, 2022 - The Croatian National Tourist Board (CNTB/HTZ) has launched an innovative new campaign involving the senses at Split Airport, and it appears to be winning over the many tourists passing through there at the moment.

As Morski writes, the CNTB is referring to their newly launched Split Airport campaign as a new, interesting and innovative one, which they claim delights foreign guests entering the country. Many passengers, leaving the planes and entering the area of ​​the Split Airport, can feel the specific smells of the Mediterranean - sea, pine trees, fresh citrus, lemon, orange, lavender, white cedar, and the list goes on.

According to research carried out the field of marketing and promotion, as much as 75 percent of a person's emotions are invoked by smells, which is one of the most important sensations in shaping reality, mood and concentration. Based on this, an interactive panel which displays the words "Croatia - Immerse your senses" was installed at Split Airport, which emits Mediterranean scents with appropriate animations.

''We at the CNTB follow modern trends in the promotion of tourism all the time, which has been confirmed by this interesting campaign that attracts the attention of many passers-by, that is, our guests at the most frequented locations, and in the middle of the peak summer tourist season, that is certainly at airports. We want to be innovative and immediately give our guests a feeling of summer, rest and comfort, and at the same time interest them and inform them about other Croatian destinations and parts of our overall tourist offer,'' said the director of the Croatian Tourist Board, Kristjan Stanicic, adding that this activity will be being carried out until the end of July.

The campaign also includes several additional locations in the City of Split, where digital panels are set up on which shots of other Croatian destinations are displayed.

Activities are also being carried out further south in Dubrovnik Airport (Cilipi), where the so-called ''digital towers'' that display video material work to promote the overall offer of Croatia as a tourist destination and showcase some of the most beautiful and attractive landscapes of the country to new arrivals.

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated travel section.

Thursday, 23 June 2022

6th ACAP Conference in New York: CNTB Representatives Discuss Developing Croatian Tourism

June 23, 2022 - The Croatian National Tourist Board (CNTB), as well as the CNTB Office in New York, participated in the 6th Annual ACAP (Association of Croatian-American Professionals) Conference, which was held last week in New York - under the motto "An Evolving Mindset: Innovation, Collaboration, and Sustainability." 

Kristjan Staničić, director of the CNTB, pointed out the following during the conference: “The conference gathered more than 300 professionals, many of them Croats with very successful foreign careers and business projects, and many potential partners interested in Croatia. In such an environment, our goal is to highlight the best of Croatian tourism, for which our country is the most recognizable in the global context. We are sure of many positive effects for our country as a whole, because during the conference, in addition to tourism, we talked about many other sectors and areas where there is room for exchange of ideas, additional networking and cooperation that will ultimately result in concrete projects. Staničić further emphasized that the US market is also the most important distant market for Croatian tourism, from which we generate the largest tourist turnover. The conference was also attended by Nikolina Brnjac, Minister of Tourism and Sports of Croatia, who delivered a strategic address. 

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The cooperation between the Croatian Tourist Board and the Association of Croatian-American Professionals referred to the CNTB's host in the evening program of the conference, but also as part of the panel discussion "Building a Sustainable Tourism Ecosystem". The panel discussion was moderated by Leila Krešić-Jurić, Director of the CNTB Office in New York, and was attended by Ognjen Bagatin from the Bagatin Polyclinic, Iva Bahunek, Head of the CNTB Office in Los Angeles, Jeana Havidich, Head of the Working Group for Medical Tourism in Dartmouth-Hitchcock, Jan De Jong, co-founder of Webpower Adria and Antonija Urlić, director of the Association of Unique Croatian Hotels STORIES. Among other things, it was pointed out that Croatia is very well recognized in the world as a destination with extremely preserved and rich natural heritage, while the activities of STORIES were cited as a positive example of sustainable tourism through carefully selected small and unique hotels in Croatia. "The ACAP conference is the first business gathering of professionals from various economic sectors in Croatia and the USA after the pandemic, and the CNTB is a proud partner in the conference, which we expect to bring concrete business results through networking of Croatian companies and American investors. This is not just about tourism, but about various interdependent sectors, where tourism is a link, and often just the first step towards concluding business cooperation, "commented Krešić-Jurić

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At the same time, business workshops and presentations of the Croatian tourist offer were held in Chicago as a result of cooperation between the Croatian Tourist Board and Signature Travel Network, a well-known American association that brings together the most successful and prominent stakeholders in the tourism industry. In addition to the CNTB, the Dubrovnik Tourist Board presented itself in Chicago. According to the eVisitor system, Americans have made more than 135,000 arrivals and more than 420,000 overnight stays in Croatia so far this year, which is an increase of 385 percent in arrivals and 211 percent in overnight stays compared to the same period last year. 

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For more, check out our dedicated lifestyle section.

Wednesday, 25 May 2022

Bol Tourist Board Director Markito Marinkovic Consults Constitutional Court on New Law

May the 25th, 2022 - The new Law on Tourist Boards and the Promotion of Croatian Tourism, more precisely the legal provisions which entered into force on the 1st of January this year, has made it so that the term of office of elected directors of tourist boards will now last for four years, and contracts concluded for indefinite periods will be changed to fixed-term contracts. Bol Tourist Board director Markito Marinkovic has taken his argument all the way to the Constitutional Court.

As Dalmatinski portal writes, this resulted in some very serious headaches to multiple local tourist boards. More and more tourist boards are publicly pointing out the illogicality of legal changes that have now put directors at a disadvantage. Criticism was directed primarily at the relevant Ministry of Tourism and Sport, the initiator of the disputed law, holding it responsible for what they consider to be such poor legislation.

Everything is actually happening at a very untimely moment, at a time when local communities are preparing seriously and diligently for the rapidly approaching summer tourist season, which, according to all projections, is expected to surpass last year's. There's no doubt that the most is expected from the tourist boards during this preparatory time. They are all already designing and planning their tourist programmes and facilities, organising events, and offering training sessions for private renters so that everyone is ready to accept tourists. Instead of all energies being directed to the best possible preparation of tourist destinations, the leaders of tourist boards, as well as the local governing units are having to spend their precious time dealing with the election of their directors, Brac danas (Brac today) writes.

The directors of local tourist boards are outraged at the move

It was these elections that caused an avalanche of dissatisfaction, and the tourist boards were forced to act according to legal provisions which, according to the public, don't really seem very logical, justified or meaningful. The negative reactions are mostly coming in from out in the field, and the directors of the tourist boards are indignant. I can't believe what they're doing at the moment and how, in their opinion, the Ministry is overstepping when it comes to their rights and everything they've done and are doing for the development of local tourism. One of them, the long-term director of the Tourist Board in Bol, Markito Marinkovic, went through all the joys and sorrows of engaging in work related to tourism, in that particular island tourist Mecca, won numerous awards, and is now full of astonishment at the controversial decisions being made by the Ministry of Tourism and Sport in the form of a law which applies to the directors of tourist boards.

Marinkovic warns: This provision is applicable only in pro futuro sense...

''After 27 years of work, the Ministry of Tourism and Sport is questioning my employment contract, which I've concluded for an indefinite period of time,'' said the current director of the Bol Tourist Board, Markito Marinkovic, who is also a signatory of the request for constitutional review of the Law on Tourist Boards and the Promotion of Croatian Tourism. After consulting with legal experts, that request was sent to the address of the Constitutional Court, requesting that the Constitutional Court address this issue, which, as he said, will result in some serious legal consequences.

Marinkovic is ready to show the documentation with which he's armed himself, including the request he sent to the Constitutional Court, emphasising that the main problem of legal norms is their application to current (read existing) directors of tourist boards, instead of having them apply solely to any new directors.

''This provision is applicable only pro futuro (for future actions) and only for new employment and concluding employment contracts with directors of tourist boards who were employed after the 1st of January 2022. We can't apply this provision to directors who concluded their employment contracts for an indefinite period of time before the entry into force of the new Law on Tourist Board, because in that case, there'd be a violation of Article 90 Paragraph 4 of the Constitution of the Republic of Croatia on the prohibition of the retroactive application of the law,'' Markito Marinkovic says when reading part of the request that has now been sent to the Constitutional Court, not hesitating to say that this is a law that is unconstitutional and illegal.

The Ministry of Tourism wrote back in 2012: There are no obstacles to the conclusion of an indefinite contract

In an interview for Brac danas, Markito Marinkovic openly asked the following:

''Why would I agree to have my contract for an indefinite period of time terminated and instead accept an offer a contract for a part-time job?'' He noted that he signed his employment contract back on December the 15th, 2009, for an indefinite period of time as the tourist board director there. His contract was concluded in accordance with the provisions of the then Labour Act, the Law on Tourist Boards and the Promotion of Croatian Tourism, as well as the provisions of the Statute of the Tourist Board of the Municipality of Bol. The fact that there is nothing disputable in his contract was confirmed by the Ministry of Tourism in its interpretation on June the 27th, 2012, to which Marinkovic refers, and in which he unequivocally points out that ''there is no obstacle to concluding an employment contract for an indefinite period in accordance with the Labour Law as the regulator''.

Marinkovic also pointed out the absurdity of these new legal provisions, claiming that tourist boards will elect directors who already have employees within the tourist board.

Marinkovic: We'll end up with two directors, one for an indefinite period and the other for a definite period...

Formerly ''protected'' directors of tourist boards, who were employed indefinitely with their employers, will now be elected for a fixed term, more precisely for a term of four years, as determined by the now disputed law. Current directors will now find themselves at the mercy of their employers who, according to instructions issued to the tourist boards by the competent Ministry, should terminate existing contracts and offer them amended contracts with a specific duration attached to them. Such a thing is simply not acceptable for Markito Marinkovic, which is the reason why he didn't apply for the position of head of the Bol Tourist Board.

''It seems that we're going to have two directors by the will of the ministry; one for an indefinite period of time, and the other for a definite period, which will be elected by the Tourist Council under the new Act,'' he added, noting that the instructions, written back in December last year and subsequently sent out to the country's local tourist boards, are also confusing and difficult to follow properly. According to the guidelines signed by the Ministry of Tourism and Sport's Monika Udovicic, current directors who aren't selected in a tender and those to whom the institution doesn't offer another job within the tourist board will receive a termination of their employment contract.

''How is it possible for a director to become an organisational redundancy, and for someone else to be hired for that position? The Labour Law stipulates that a business-related dismissal (contract termination) can only be given if the need to perform a certain job ceases. In addition to that, another person can't be hired following that for the next six months,'' Markito Marinkovic said, clearly terribly surprised by the numerous illogicalities that the Ministry somehow keeps on coming up with owing to their controversial decisions and interpretations of things.

Why was the tender for the position of the director of the Bol Tourist Board cancelled?

When it comes to the tender for the election of the director of the Tourist Board of Bol, it became somewhat unstuck on the very first step. After the tender deadline expired, and interested candidates submitted their applications and received notification(s) of the presentation of the programme at a session of the Tourist Council, the same council, at the suggestion of the President of that body of the Tourist Board, Katarina Marcic, agreed to the cancellation of the tender. The explanation for that was:

''We want to eliminate every single slight suspicion of illegality of the procedure. According to Marcic's announcement and her public attempt to explain the reasons why the tender was annulled, these aren't serious irregularities, at least not according to the statement of the Ministry to which Marcic refers. It's true, the tender was open for 21 days, while the recommendations lasted from 8 to 15 days. Experts on the election procedures we contacted are of the opinion that the tender deadline which is longer than the deadline recommended by the competent ministry should not call into question the legality of the election procedure. All in all, a new tender will be drawn up, a check by the Ministry will be awaited, and then another tender will be announced. Whether it's really an election procedure or some other reason why the Tourist Council decided to return everything to the beginning, only time can tell.

The Constitutional Court has since confirmed: The case has been assigned to a judge-rapporteur

Brac danas contacted the Constitutional Court. They were interested in what happened to the request for a review of constitutionality under the controversial Law on Tourist Boards and the Promotion of Croatian Tourism, and when the request would be on the agenda. The Constitutional Court confirmed that it had received a motion for assessment.

''The case has been assigned to a judge-rapporteur, and at this moment it isn't possible to predict when it could be sent to the session of the Court to decide on the proposal,'' said the Secretary General of the Constitutional Court, Dr. Teodor Antic. Back in mid-April, Markito Marinkovic addressed the Constitutional Court yet again, this time in a hurry, at a time when the tender for the position of director was open.

''Considering that in the meantime, more precisely on April the 1st, 2022, the Tourist Council of the Tourist Board of Bol announced a public tender for the election of the director for a term of four years referring to the provisions of ZTZ, and ignoring the employment contract concluded on an indefinite basis between me and the Tourist Board of Bol for the same job for which a public tender has now been announced. It's obvious that the implementation of this tender will violate my employment rights,'' Markito Marinkovic wrote in his letter. He emphasised, in addition, that the above-mentioned actions of tourist boards will generate numerous lawsuits in the near future due to the disputed provisions of the law.

The Ministry of Tourism and Sport isn't responding to press inquiries on the matter

Given the fact that only the competent ministry is looking at the disputed tender for the director of the Bol Tourist Board, and especially at the request sent to Prisavlje 14 in Zagreb by a concerned resident of Bol, asking for the tender to be annulled, the ministry was also asked to comment on the topic. A press inquiry with specific questions was sent to the Press Service on May the 1st, as Brac danas had received an anonymous letter to its editorial e-mail about a possible illegal tender being announced by the Tourist Council.

The aforementioned publication still hasn't received a response from the Ministry of Tourism and Sport. On several occasions, they also tried to contact the Media Service by phone and find out what this delay was about. After several calls, they were once connected to the press service, and in another case, an official of the ministry apologised for not providing a timely response. A reminder of the inquiry was then sent to the cabinet of the same Ministry, on May the 6th, asking for answers to the questions which had been sent already. However, the main cabinet of the Ministry of Tourism and Sport hasn't yet responded or attempted to clarify any of the issued mentioned in this article.

For more, check out our politics section.

Tuesday, 19 April 2022

2022 Croatian Easter Tourism Figures Beyond Expectations

April 19, 2022 - The 2022 Croatian Easter tourism figures are impressive, with most tourists visiting from Germany, Slovenia, Italy, and Austria and many domestic tourists, too. 

The director of the Croatian Tourist Board, Kristjan Staničić, said that we could be more than satisfied with the 2022 Croatian Easter tourism results, reports Dnevnik HRT.

"We recorded even more than 140,000 overnight stays on Saturday, which is the largest number so far in this part of the tourist year. Most guests were from Germany, Slovenia, Italy, and Austria and domestic guests. We must be satisfied because we have exceeded last year's Easter figures many times over," he said.

He reminded us that we had not had a pre-season for the last two years due to the pandemic, while this year is different.

"We have a trend that we have been following since the beginning of the year. We are above 90 percent of realizing tourist traffic, our goal this year. We are now at 96 percent. Today, there are over 120,000 tourists in Croatia, and I hope that we will have a good May and June and enter the main tourist season on a good basis," said the Croatian National Tourist Board director.

Many European countries have a strong campaign to promote holidays in their own country due to inflation and fuel prices.

"In the last two years, we have shown that we know how to resist all challenges. I believe that the tourism sector will know how to respond to price competition. It is important to stick to quality and provide something more for a certain price, and I believe that even then, results will follow," he said.

When asked if we could relax and believe in a good season, Staničić said there was no time for relaxation.

"This is the first passing time, and so far, we can be satisfied, but the main work is yet to come. We will intensify promotional activity, marketing campaigns, and tourism markets. Minister Brnjac and I are convinced that we have an excellent position in the Czech market, which also applies to Austria and Germany. We will take it a step further and present Croatian tourism in the USA. We have over 460 announced airlines, which is the level of 2019, but there is no relaxation; there is a lot of work ahead of us," he concluded.

For more on Vir tourism, check out our travel section.

Sunday, 3 April 2022

The Guardian Features Hidden Croatia: Where to Visit Off the Beaten Track

April 3, 2022 - The Guardian recently featured 'hidden Croatia' or the lesser-known gems in the country you should visit this year. 

The British daily The Guardian published an article about Croatia as a tourist destination, emphasizing hidden destinations it recommends visiting this year, including Silba Island, Papuk Nature Park, Tribunj, Mrežnica River, and other locations, the CNTB reported.

This is a special series in The Guardian about hidden destinations worth visiting this year the first of which is dedicated to Croatia.

The article about Croatia and its tourist offer is featured on four pages of the printed edition and online and was created as a result of the cooperation of the CNTB with the editorial board of The Guardian. The Director of the CNTB office in London, Darija Rejić, believes that the publication will reach millions of readers and positively impact the perception of Croatia as a quality, attractive, and sought-after destination.

"This extensive presentation of the Croatian tourist offer and lesser-known sites on four pages is the result of quality cooperation with the editorial board of The Guardian. We are extremely pleased when, with logistical support in the field and quality cooperation with journalists, we, in turn, receive valuable media releases that reach millions of readers, which significantly affects the perception of Croatia as a quality, attractive and sought-after destination," said Reić in detail. 

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The article on Croatia suggests places and destinations for this year's tourist discoveries, natural beauties, distinctive and picturesque towns, and preserved and untouched landscapes of seven lesser-known Croatian regions, said the expert and multi-award-winning journalist Mary Novakovich.

This is how The Guardian thus showcases Tribunj and its rich historical heritage, Papuk Nature Park as a wooded and exciting UNESCO Geopark, the island of Silba for its preservation, the river Mrežnica for its beautiful environment enriched with 93 waterfalls, and the cities Karlovac and Slunj. The journalist also mentioned the Neretva Valley, Dinara Nature Park, and more prominent destinations near these sites and presented the authentic gastronomic offer of local restaurants, the unreal beauty of Croatian beaches, and numerous bike trails.

Rejić also points out that the added value of this publication is confirmed by The Guardian's position as a leader in the growth of online subscribers, with a reach of one million readers in the UK.

For more, check out our travel section.

Friday, 18 March 2022

Croatian National Tourist Board on Hunt for Representation Directors Abroad

March the 18th, 2022 - A tender is being announced by the Croatian National Tourist Board (HTZ/CNTB) for six new representation directors who will be placed to work their terms abroad.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Marija Crnjak writes, a tender is being announced for the selection and appointment of directors of Croatian National Tourist Board representative offices in six markets, given that the contracts of the current directors in the markets of Austria, the Czech Republic, China, Hungary, Slovenia and Sweden will expire at the end of June this year.

The decision to announce the tender was made recently at the Tourist Council of the Croatian National Tourist Board, chaired by the Minister of Tourism and Sport, Nikolina Brnjac, in the presence of the director of the Croatian National Tourist Board, Kristjan Stanicic.

"Despite the fact that the geopolitical situation for the tourism sector has brought with it uncertainty and modified the original plans for 2022's tourism, we're continuing to work intensively to adjust our activities to maintain our status as a responsible and desirable tourist destination. In addition to the message of destination responsibility and flexibility of reservations, we're also sending out a message of environmental, economic and social sustainability to our emitting markets. The decisions made at the recently held session of the Tourist Council will enable us to adequately respond to the challenges currently facing tourism, and also maintain Croatia's position as one of the most successful destinations in the Mediterranean,'' said Minister Brnjac.

"In addition to the coronavirus pandemic, which has strongly affected the travel sector over the last two years, the situation in Ukraine is now having an impact on overall trends. As a negative consequence, the Croatian tourism sector is currently noticing a trend of the slowing down of bookings and reservations, but there have been major cancellations, nor a decline in general interest in travel. Our goal is to maintain Croatia's market visibility and its quality relationships with partners, and we want to position the country as a safe and well-prepared destination that attracts its guests with an attractive and top quality offer. The decisions of the Tourist Council are aimed at achieving those goals,'' said Stanicic.

The members of the council also adopted decisions on announcing the Call/Invitation for expressions of interest for the implementation of marketing cooperation with the organisers of top events for the year 2022, and the Call/Invitation for expressions of interest for the implementation of marketing cooperation with top Croatian athletes in 2022.

The goal of cooperation with the organisers of top events is to raise people's general level of awareness of the Republic of Croatia as an attractive year-round tourist destination with a diverse tourist offer, which will have a positive impact on increasing tourist traffic and general consumption. Additional visibility of the national tourist brand will be ensured through cooperation with Croatian athletes through the implementation of various promotional activities on communication and advertising channels.

For more, check out our lifestyle section.

Wednesday, 23 February 2022

Croatian National Tourist Board, DNA Croatia Join Forces

February 23, 2022 - The Croatian National Tourist Board has joined forces with the Digital Nomad Association Croatia. Great news, and time to talk about the elephant in the room. 

Croatia's digital nomad story is gathering pace, and the energy is real. Johannes Voelkner, owner of the first and largest digital nomad business travel club is in the country finalising the location for his next NomadBase conference from May 9-15 (as exclusively announced on TCN), Saltwater Nomads - in partnership with TCN, Zagreb Tourist Board, Dubrovnik Tourist Board, and the City of Dubrovnik - will shortly announce two fantastic nomad conferences for May and June, and the work of DNA Croatia to bring together the community and connect initiatives all over the country is beyond impressive (read more in Cohesion, Unity & Planning at Croatian Digital Nomad Reflection Day 2022). My recent meeting with Minister of Tourism and Sports, Nikolina Brnjac, had a large focus on the DN opportunity. And next week sees the 2nd Split Winter Tourism Roundtable, with 2 of the 5 presentations dedicated to the DN opportunity. 

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And then, last week, this LinkedIn post from the driving force of the Croatian digital nomad permit and President of DNA Croatia, the legend that is Jan de Jong:

With some 2.000 digital nomads coming to Croatia every single month - we are slowly but surely becoming a DN-hotspot in Europe.

For that reason - the Digital Nomad Association Croatia is excited to start working more closely together with the Croatian National Tourist Board on promoting Croatia internationally.

This year we have some many amazing initiatives planned for digital nomads all across the country. Therefore - the timing to start working together with CNTB couldn't be better. Thank you Kristjan Stanicic for your support.

Pozdrav iz Zagreba,

Jan de Jong

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I knew the announcement was coming, and I smiled when I saw Jan's post - even more so when I checked my messages one hour later. Had I seen this, what did I think? Did I know about it? Was I involved? A good opportunity to finally address the elephant in the room, the ongoing lawsuits against me by the Croatian National Tourist Board. If you are not up to speed, the TCN series, Diary of a Croatian Lawsuit really is an entertaining read, and one which will go all the way to the European court in Strasbourg in 2063 if necessary - check it out here.  

So it may seem strange of me to congratulate the Croatian National Tourist Board and its director, Kristjan Stanicic, on this excellent initiative with DNA Croatia (there is a reason I don't congratulate them often), but good initiatives deserve to be recognised. 

There has been a lot of ego in the Croatian digital nomad story (and I don't exclude my own from the story), but things are settling down, as key stakeholders are putting community and collaboration ahead of their private interests and agendas.  TCN has been writing about the nomad opportunity for Croatia since May, 2019 and is the biggest media on the topic, and the national tourist board would be a natural partner in normal circumstances. Ah, Croatia. 

I actually presented the nomad opportunity for a pilot in Trogir to two senior members of the national tourist board in February, 2020. One didn't seem to understand the opportunity, the other did but said they could not support, as there was a tax issue. And she was right, as things stood then. And then...

 A few weeks later, Jan de Jong called me and asked for some advice on tourism for a conference he was speaking at. I send him some articles to read, and he called me back an hour later raving about this concept called digital nomad tourism. This could be amazing for Croatia. Here is Jan, introducing the concept at the conference in May, 2020. 

And the rest is history, as Jan did what I certainly could not. This private initiative, which enlisted the support of Prime Minister Plenkovic and five ministries, resulted in Europe's second digital nomad visa/permit less than 8 months later. And with changes in the tax legislation to help nomads on the permit. the national tourist board was free to push the initiative, which it did through its terrible and highly ineffective Croatia, Your New Office campaign. Just how ineffective you can read shortly on TCN. To think what DNA Croatia would have done with that budget... 

Things then got a little strange. Bizarre articles started appearing on portals which had never written about me before. A comprehensive article about the opening of Zagreb Digital Nomad Week managed to completely airbrush me from the event and with no mention of TCN whatsoever, as four out of the five speakers even had a photo in the article. I was not quite airbrushed out, as my bald patch made it into the corner of one of the photos

Dubrovnik for Digital Nomads, Zagreb Digital Nomad Week & Ambassador Program, Dubrovnik Digital Nomads-in-Residence, not even a mention that I came across - not even when the last two picked up 4 international awards at Conventa 2021 in Ljubljana, despite the national tourist board being present at the same conference. And yet, for a project I was not involved in - the red carpet rolled out. A sponsored article and the head of global PR at the press conference launch of a private initiative I was not part of. 

I didn't mind, nor did I expect, anything less from an organisation suing me, but it felt wrong for Croatia that those whom I worked seemed to be tarnished by association. Or so it seemed to me. There have been several occasions where I have been told I cannot come to a meeting 'because of the lawsuit.' I don't mind, but it was clearly an issue for some. 

Although I am not part of DNA Croatia, I work closely with them (on bringing NomadBase to Croatia, for example), and for me, the best news about this Croatian National Tourist Board/DNA Croatia partnership is that two natural partners can finally work together, where previously there seems to have been a reluctance. So I do sincerely congratulate Director Stanicic on this initiative, and I hope that all funds will be transferred to DNA Croatia, so that they are not wasted as they were with Croatia, Your New Office (more on that soon). 

Would I want to work with the national tourist board again? Clearly not until there is a change of director (and I am hearing encouraging noises on that score), but depending on who the new director is, I would consider making an appointment if I can see that there might finally be a new direction and proper strategy.

Until then... 

For more news and features on digital nomads in Croatia, follow the dedicated TCN section.  

 

 

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