Friday, 29 October 2021

PM Tells Young People Tourism Needs Them

ZAGREB, 29 Oct 2021- Prime Minister Andrej Plenković on Friday opened a conference on the future of Europe and young people in tourism as part of Croatian Tourism Days, telling young people the sector needed them.

Despite the demanding circumstances due to the pandemic, tourism has recorded good physical results this year to date and the value of fiscalised receipts is at 89% of the value in 2019, he said in Župa Dubrovačka.

Plenković voiced confidence that this year's tourism revenue will be close to the revenue generated in 2019. He said the government would continue to support tourism and that during the pandemic it had paid HRK 4.8 billion in aid to 36,000 employers for 190,000 employees in tourism.

As a result of that, Croatia is among the countries with the best tourism results in the Mediterranean this year, Plenković said, adding that the key part in that was played by the people working in the sector.

We need sustainable, innovative and resilient tourism, for which we have ensured HRK 2.2 billion in the National Resilience and Recovery Plan, as well as a sustainable tourism strategy. That will be part of the activities whereby we wish to stabilise the economy in the next decade, Plenković said.

Sustainable tourism development requires qualified personnel and to that end the government has invested HRK 388 million in competency centres across Croatia, he said, adding that the government will continue to increase funds for tourism scholarships.

The prime minister said the latest projections put this year's GDP growth at 9%. "We rebounded quickly," he said, "and tourism played a brilliant part in that."

Scholarships to be increased to HRK 2,000

Tourism Minister Nikolina Brnjac said scholarships for tourism and hospitality secondary school students would be raised from HRK 1,200 to 2,000, adding that 2,000 scholarship contracts have been signed so far.

She said the promotion of jobs in tourism and hospitality would be intensified, adding that a survey of 300 persons aged 16-29 shows that 9% work in tourism or attend tourism school, and that one in 10 of those working in tourism do not plan to make a career out of it.

One-third are neutral about a career in tourism, and 60% seek additional training, Brnjac said, adding that the main incentive to work in tourism would be higher salaries, which are now below the average Croatian wage.

We want young people to stay in Croatia, and encouraging them work in tourism is a challenge in many countries because there is a labour shortage everywhere, Brnjac said.

Šuica: Young people important for EU

The European Commission vice president for demography and democracy, Dubravka Šuica, said the Conference on the Future of Europe she initiated included measures and policies for young people.

She called on young people to propose, as part of the Conference, what kind of future they want.

It would be pointless to think about and plan for the future without them, including in tourism, and it's necessary to invest in them, Šuica said, adding that this year's tourism results were better than last year's and that revenue per hotel room increased by 68%.

She said the Commission would soon propose a European pact for skills, including digital ones, for high quality service in tourism.

Fuchs: 9% of secondary school students in tourism schools

Education Minister Radovan Fuchs said only 9% of secondary school students enrolled in tourism schools this year. He added that only 30% of secondary school students enrolled in vocational schools in Croatia, as against 45% in the EU.

"That's why we are reforming the education system. Something needs to be done because hospitality and its workers are key to our economy," he said.

For more news, CLICK HERE.

Thursday, 30 January 2020

Days of Croatian Tourism Begins in Moscow

January 30, 2020 - Days of Croatian Tourism in Moscow is a business event organized by the Representative Office of the Croatian National Tourist Board in Moscow because of the great importance of the Russian market, the steady growth of Russian tourist arrivals in recent years, and the interest of the Croatian and Russian tourism industry.

HRTurizam reports that Days of Croatian Tourism is a significant b2b event where the leading people of Croatian and Russian tourism are expected. Russian and Croatian colleagues will lead the panels, while there will be business workshops (general, nautical and medical tourism), and the leading Russian tour operators and agencies present.

This event is an ideal opportunity for all representatives of Croatian tourism to start or expand cooperation with the Russian tourism sector, as well as to significantly increase tourist traffic from the Russian market, which has been recovering and growing for years.

“The growth of tourist traffic from the Russian market compared to last year will amount to almost 14 percent, and the interest of Russian tourists and the Russian tourism sector for Croatian destinations is constantly increasing. Considering that Russian tourists are at the top of the list in terms of consumption, it is really important to constantly work on promoting Croatia as a top destination for Russian tourists,” said the Director of the HTZ Representative Office in Russia, Rajko Ruzicka, adding that Croatia is again in the selection of the Russian edition of National Geographic magazine, listed among the top three destinations for family vacations.

“We are convinced that this event is an ideal opportunity for all representatives of Croatian tourism to start or expand cooperation with the Russian tourism sector and to significantly increase tourist traffic from the Russian market, which has been recovering and growing for years. January is the right time for business deals, since tour operators and travel agencies in Russia are intensively preparing trips to Croatia and finalizing their summer programs to market,” the Croatian National Tourist Board said.

At the event, a business workshop called "Sell Croatia" (B2B workshop) is held between Croatian tourist entities and foreign partners.

Namely, “Sell Croatia” connects representatives of the Croatian tourism industry (hotel-tourist companies, travel agencies and DMC, Tourist Board systems) with foreign partners, business meetings with partners and negotiate services and/or packages.

To read more about travel in Croatia, follow TCN’s dedicated page.

Monday, 7 October 2019

After Days of Croatian Tourism in Slavonia, What Happens Next?

It was quite a show. 

Days of Croatian Tourism was held in Slavonia for the first time last week, easily the most high profile tourism event to be staged in the region. It was a chance for Slavonia to shine - and shine it did, oh so brightly - and for over a thousand tourism experts and workers to get to know Croatia's least discovered region a little better. 

And judging from the selfies and many postings on social media, it would appear that many of the event's visitors - some on a first-time visit to Slavonia - discovered plenty of interest. I certainly did, even though I have been to the region on a number of occasions. Here are 10 things I didn't know about eastern Croatia last week, for example

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Days of Croatian Tourism had its centre in Osijek, but an attempt was made to spread it around the region, so that visitors could experience as much as possible in a short time. The newly renovated palace in the centre of Virovitica is almost ready for its grand reopening. It looks magnificent and will be a major asset to both the town's tourism and its entertainment programme. 

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The programme for Slavonski Brod took place at a restaurant just outside the town, which meant that most participants missed out on the star attraction, the magnificent Slavonski Brad fortress. A reason to return soon. 

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Wine lovers headed to Pozega and Kutjevo for a Grasevina feast, taking in the magnificent cellars of Kutjevo and the amazing 6 barrels which tell the story of its 800-year history - you can learn more here

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Vukovar, the City of Heroes, which is most associated with the tragedy of war and siege in the 1990s, but which is also a beautiful city rebuilt on the Danube. And nowhere is more glamorous than Eltz Palace which hosted the opening night. 

Move over Rome, and visit the Vucedol Museum, which documents a stunning portrayal of life 5,000 years before Christ. The Vucedol Museum (get a flavour in the video above) is one of Croatia's most popular and most impressive museums. 

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And for more ancient heritage, look no further than Vinkovci, the oldest continuously inhabited town in all Europe, dating back 8,300 years. Birthplace even to no less than two Roman Emperors. 

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And some went in search of nature, where the nature parks of Papuk and Kopacki Rit (Mario Romulic photo, above) have plenty of diversity to enjoy. 

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A magical region, where time has stood still in certain ways. (Photo credit Romulic & Stojcic) 

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Some made it to the paprika festival in Lug, just north of Osijek. (photo credit Romulic & Stojcic)

Paprika is just one of the ingredients that make up the famous Slavonian cuisine, and there are a number of niche food festivals which celebrate its goodness. 


And food is finally at the centre of some excellent branding, with the Head on East/[email protected] at the core of events last week, including a great street food festival.  


I spoke to several people in Slavonia last week, both locals and visitors. The general consensus from the visitors who are used to celebrating Days of Croatian Tourism in comfortable coastal resorts on the coast was that Slavonia had not only put on a great show but had really gone above and beyond expectations. And the locals I spoke to were both proud and I think a little surprised that things had gone so well. Osijek old town in particular was magnificent on the last night, and the live television coverage of the awards ceremony was beautifully done. 

That level of surprise that Slavonia had exceeded expectations got me thinking as I came to the obvious question after the party had finished, the hospitality tents dismantled and the fancy lights turned off:

What happens now?

The Croatian National Tourist Board told me that they have invested significantly in bringing in foreign bloggers and influencers to promote continental Croatia, and all promotion is of course welcome. 

I wonder, however, if something closer to home might be more cost-effective, help to build a better longterm tourism base and be implemented in time for next season. 

Two simple ideas. 

1. I am constantly amazed at how little people living in other parts of Croatia know about the east of their country. It is not a criticism, it is just an observation and a reality. I often ask people where exactly is Slavonia, which parts of the east are included and which not? There is a real black hole in many people's knowledge of what is out there east of Zagreb, something I completely understand. The east is sadly known mostly for the war and suffering, for the tragedy of Vukovar, and for the crushing emigration which is ongoing. As I said in a previous article, it is often treated as a poorer cousin with a disability which is in need of sympathy and protection, rather than being allowed to stand on its own two feet. 

The one place that everyone knows about in the east, of course, is Vukovar, and it is entirely right and fitting that the country remembers the terrible events of 1991 each November 18, the anniversary of the fall of Vukovar. Schoolchildren visit Vukovar as part of their education in 8th grade, and for many, that is the sum of their physical association with Slavonia and the east. Little wonder that local people do not associate Slavonia as a desirable place to visit or go on holiday. 

And yet it is. Just ask each and every person who attended Days of Croatian Tourism last week. I would be genuinely surprised if there was even one person who did not have a good time. 

And so imagine what might be achieved if we took this concept further and started educating. The Croatian Chamber of Commerce ran a big Buy Croatia campaign a couple of years ago. 

Why not a domestic campaign to Head on East and discover the magic of Slavonia?

At the recent Croatia 365 conference, the Austrian speaker from ITB Berlin was talking about how Austria developed its tourism. I was surprised to learn from him that foreign tourists make up only 50% of Austria's tourists, with the other half locals. According to his numbers, the corresponding ratio in Croatia is 86:14. And while it is true that a large number of locals are not counted in the tourism statistics as they do not register when they go to their homes on the coast for the summer, the Croatian balance of local to foreign is far from the Austrian 50:50. 

There is another great reason to educate Croatians about tourism in Slavonia - it is INCREDIBLY good value. The sad reality is that prices on the Croatian coast continue to rise, and it is becoming less affordable for more Croatian households. Slavonia, on the other hand, offers excellent value for money (and far more generous portions in the restaurants). It also offers an excellent, albeit different, holiday experience to the coast, and with things happening throughout the year. And if, like me, you visit Slavonia and want a bit more (I am returning with the family in 2 weeks for the weekend), a steady and loyal tourism base can begin to grow, tourism can expand, and it will be even more attractive to foreign visitors.

2. My second idea involves engaging with the diaspora. Without the financial muscle of the diaspora, the Croatian economy would be in even more trouble - last year, for example, Croatia received more in remittances from its diaspora than from foreign investment. 

They also have an incredibly strong love for the homeland. Encourage the diaspora to take a greater interest in Slavonia and to include it in their next holiday plans. Unlike many appeals to the diaspora from the homeland, there is no humanitarian element to this. If the diaspora do come to visit Slavonia as part of such an initiative, they are going to have such a fantastic time that they will be saying thanks for pushing them into the eastern region for reasons others than remembering the tragedy of Vukovar (and they can, of course, pay their respects at the same time). 

Give a man a fish and he will come back for another tomorrow. Teach a man to fish, you know the rest. 

Slavonia has SO much potential, but not only potential. It is ready now. Just ask the 1000 plus tourism professionals who were there last week. 

Want to learn more about eastern Croatia? Here are 25 things to know

Sunday, 6 October 2019

Days of Croatian Tourism: A Thank You to HR Turizam's Goran Rihelj

October 6, 2019 - Lots of congratulations and self-congratulations in Slavonia this week, with one notable exception. A thank you to Goran Rihelj and his determination to promote tourism in Slavonia. 

I have to confess that I thought he was nuts at first. 

A tourism blogger from somewhere in the east of Croatia, who signed his emails with Best regards from the oldest town in Europe.


And then when I researched, I found out that yes indeed, there was a town in Slavonia which was called Vinkovci and which had been continuously inhabited for 8,300 years. Hell, two Roman Emperors were even born there. 

And I had never even heard of it until this Goran Rihelj chap started sending his regular greetings. And if I had never heard of it... 

From his blog on Vecernji List to his own portal HR Turizam, this Goran Rihelj was establishing himself as quite a tourism authority in Croatia. And he was not afraid to speak his mind and to talk about tourism topics that were perhaps not the most convenient to be discussed in public. 

And then, an initiative, which confirmed he must indeed be nuts - a campaign to bring Days of Croatian Tourism to Slavonia! The great tourism gathering at the end of each season where all the tourism kings congregate in a pretty coastal resort for 2-3 days of relaxation, partying and prizes. Locations so far which have hosted Days of Croatian Tourism - Opatija, Bol (both twice), Rovinj, Sibenik, Dubrovnik, Zadar, Porec, Mali Losinj and Hvar.

What was this Goran Rihelj talking about, taking this wonderful relaxing holiday away from the coast to come to Slavonia? 


A campaign was officially launched, and Rihelj enlisted the thoughts of Minister of Tourism Gari Cappelli, who acknowledged that the initiative was Rihelj's and that while he supported it, there were logistical challenges to be overcome, not least finding accommodation for 1,000 people. 

The campaign was launched in June, 2017, with the hashtag #DHTSLAVONIJA2018, but hopes that the event might be staged on the continent were dashed when it was announced that Days of Croatian Tourism 2018 would be held in Hvar Town. 

The voices from Slavonia got louder, and some boats from the Pannonian Sea from Pozega came down to remind people about Slavonia at Days of Croatian Tourism 2017 in Mali Losinj. 

Soon afterwards, an announcement that I personally thought would never come - Days of Croatian Tourism 2019 would be held in Slavonia!

I congratulated Goran on his success, but he dismissed it as a success not for him but for Slavonia. But he did remind me that I had promised to visit him in the oldest town in Europe. And what better time than during the first Days of Croatian Tourism on the continent. It was an honour to accept the invitation, and several fabulous days followed - here are 10 things I learned about eastern Croatia this week alone.  

The event was a major success, with many of Croatia's tourism workers in Slavonia for the first time, and many, many of them enthusiastically sharing their experiences of Slavonia on social media. And locals were also engaged - the atmosphere in Osijek old town on Friday night was magical. 

And there were prizes, so many prizes, given out by Minister Cappelli and the other tourism chiefs - from destination of the year (Rovinj) to categories such as tourist inspector of the year. 

But a word of thanks for Goran Rihelj, the man whose initiative started everything? Sadly, nothing. The 2017 acknowledgment of Rihelj's initiative seems to have been lost in 2019, with the tourism chiefs full of congratulations and self-congratulations at their initiative to bring the event to the continent. 


Not everyone forgot Goran's initiative and determination to make Days of Croatian Tourism come to his beloved Slavonia, and several colleagues paid tribute to his efforts. 

As I do now. Thank you, Goran, for showing the way. May it be the start of a brighter future for Slavonia. 

To learn more about eastern Croatia, here are 25 things to know

To follow Goran Rihelj's HR Turizam portal, click here



Sunday, 6 October 2019

10 Things I Learned at Days of Croatian Tourism in Slavonia

October 6, 2019 - Head on East - Hedonist: the new slogan for Slavonia and the east. Ten things I learned about Baranja, Slavonia and Srijem over the last few days. 

Anyone who was anyone in Croatian tourism (and one fat Brit) headed on east this week, as Days of Croatian Tourism was held in continental Croatia for the first time. TCN was there the entire time, taking the opportunity to get to know this region less travelled a little better. It is a region I do not know as well as I should, and so I decided to use the opportunity to explore the region a little more, in addition to the official events, to see what I could discover. 

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It was a fascinating few days, so much so in fact, that I am heading on east again in a couple of weeks to explore the region a little further with the family. There were surprises at every turn, not only finding an old British telephone box in the centre of the oldest continuously inhabited town in Europe. 

Here are 10 things I learned about eastern Croatia that I did not know last week.  

1. Baranja is Croatia's closest connection to the most connected airport in the region - Budapest. 


In my mind, I had always thought of the gorgeous wine region of Baranja as being at the end of the world in terms of Croatian geography. Which I guess it is if you start from the island of Hvar, where I lived when I first visited several years ago. 

However, if you close your eyes and have a little reset about perceptions of geography and tourism, the reverse is actually true. As I was touring Popovac Primary School close to the Hungarian border, it suddenly occurred to me that the most important international airport in the region, Budapest, is not that far away. In fact, there is nowhere closer to Budapest in Croatia than Baranja. With current roads (in the process of being upgraded), the journey time from the airport to Baranja is two hours. And Budapest connects with pretty much anywhere, 12 months of the year - the home of WizzAir and popular destination for many low-cost airlines. 

Far from being far away, Baranja is actually very accessible, and if we can develop a message to convey that, the region immediately becomes more interesting from a tourism perspective. 


2. Osijek Fortress is a MAGNIFICENT festival venue (and let's hear it for Eltz Palace in Vukovar too).

Osijek Tvrda fortress was GORGEOUS during Days of Croatian Tourism. The historic old town shone, and the accompanying food festival and concerts were a total hit. Many locals were wandering around in wonder at the beauty of the city, while the visiting tourism chiefs (some for the first time) were totally impressed. It felt a little like Advent in Zagreb but with more of an authentic gourmet feel, as well as a more historic heritage backdrop. With the imminent reopening of one of the main squares and a continued project to upgrade the old town, things will only get better. Osijek showed it could stage a spectacular festival, and it was a privilege to have been there. 

And it wasn't just Osijek. Eltz Palace in Vukovar hosted the first evening of Days of Croatian Tourism. And for those who thought that Vukovar is all about the suffering and the war, the event at Eltz was a real eye-opener. As you can see below, a stunner. 

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3. The process of metal casting began in Slavonia.

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I knew that Vinkovci was the oldest continuously inhabited town in Europe, dating back some 8,300 years, and that its Vucedol culture had several world firsts, but I didn't know that they included the first metal casting in the world. Just one of many things you can learn on a walking tour of the historic centre, just one of many things you can pick up from the excellent tri-lingual signage (Croatian, English and German) around the town. 

Goran Rihelj, the man behind the excellent HR Turizam and the initial instigator to bring Days of Croatian Tourism to Slavonia, has been inviting me to stay for years. It was a pleasure not only to meet and stay with his family during this, his finest hour, but also to walk the Vinkovci streets with him to learn more of their secrets. 

4. Vinkovci has a river which flows in both directions.

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I need to research this one a little more, but there are only a handful of rivers in the world which can flow in both directions. The River Bosut, which flows through Vinkovci, is one. Apparently, there is a very slight incline as the Bosut passes through the town (0.8%) and when the wind gets up, the water heads backwards. 

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5. There is a quality British pub literally in the middle of nowhere.

So why is there a British phone box in the middle of Vinkovci? It is due to one legendary man from Leeds, apparently, who came to the region in 1991 to help defend Croatia. I have yet to meet Steve Gaunt or read his story in any detail, but he was apparently wounded in the fighting and became a Croatian citizen in 1994. 

In addition to bringing the phone box, Gaunt also recently opened an authentic English pub in a village close to Vinkovci. Actually, it is not in a village at all, more in the middle of nowhere and then a little further. 

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I managed to find The White Boar eventually, which was sadly closed. Steve replied by text that he had to pop back to the UK, so we will save that pint for the next visit in a couple of weeks. There will be a separate story on my journey to The White Boar soon. While you wait, here is where you need to be if you fancy popping in for a pint.

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6. Baranja has international ice cream tourism, a Mecca for ice-cream loving Dinamo fans. 

"But did you know that Baranja has the best ice cream in all Croatia?" I was asked. Ha, this to a boy from Jelsa - no chance. 

And so I set off in pursuit of a rather curious story which is bringing a totally different type of tourism to Croatia - ice cream tourism. Not one for Hajduk fans perhaps, but Slasticarnica Dinamo in Baranjsko Petrovo Selo is located just 2km from the Hungarian border. The ice cream is so good (and it really is) that many Hungarians come over for an ice cream. 

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And with prices at just 5 kuna a scoop and the scoops the size of small footballs, this is what you get for 15 kuna. Or coffee and Cedevita for 10 kuna...

7. A craft beer named after a beer-loving Roman Emperor who was born in Slavonia.


So much Croatian tourism potential and history in this photograph, and the only thing I didn't know already (and this will shock some of you) was the bit about the beer. 

The Valens craft brewery in Vinkovci, another recent addition to Croatia's vibrant craft beer scene, and another part of Slavonia's impressive gourmet offering. Named after Roman Emperor Valens, one of two Roman Emperors born in Vinkovci, Valens is the latest chapter in the Slavonian beer tradition which dates back 5,000 years to Vucedol culture. While most emperors drank wine, Emperor Valens was such a beer lover apparently that he enjoyed the nickname Sabaiarius, or 'Beer Belly'. 

And why is the pub called Orion? After the world's oldest calendar which was discovered in... you guessed it, Vinkovci. 


8. A Slavonian train village and Murder on the Orient Express. 

A couple of days before I headed east, there was a story in the Croatian media about a small village called Strizivojna which had laid claim to the location as the village near where the famous Murder on the Orient Express killing took place in the Agatha Christie classic. There was talk of turning this into a village tourism attraction with a themed wagon museum and a themed cafe. I decided to pop in, but sadly found myself a little ahead of time, but it will be one more curiosity when it does come to fruition. 

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9. Life in a Baranja school - wow!

And while everyone else attending Days of Croatian Tourism was understandably there for the tourism, the part I was looking forward to most was visiting a school in northern Baranja which had reached out to TCN a couple of years ago. 

My expectations of what I would find there were low, but what I found was beyond inspiring. The energy, creativity and attitude of the teachers, the well-maintained school and the very happy kids were the undoubted highlight of my few days in the east. Much more on the fabulous Popovac school coming on TCN - a new feature I think many will like. 


And the other undoubted highlight was a visit to a very dear friend of mine who is undergoing a complete change of direction in life - and one which was awesome to observe at close quarters. 

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10. Organic Slavonia - gourmet paradise and a model for the future?

TCN readers will be familiar with the incredible photos and timelapse videos of Mario Romulic and Drazen Stojcic. Arguably the best in the business in Croatia and surrounding area, the Osijek maestros have generously supported TCN with their work from day one. But young Mario has had another passion in his head for many years now, and one which he is now giving his undivided attention to - an organic farming lifestyle. 

Just a one-night stay took away the stress levels. I had expected to be awoken at dawn by the free-range hens, but instead it was an Osama-lookalike with deep booming voice who woke me from my considerable slumber at 09:40. I can't remember the last time I slept that long. Located 1km from Kopacki Rit Nature Park, OPG Mario Romulic is an absolute gem, and that is before you come across the passion of the man behind the project. And with 3 hectares of land next door owned by Mario waiting to be developed into an organic tourism resort, this has the potential to become one of the top detox spots in all Croatia. 

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"Tea or coffee with breakfast?" asked Mario, while scrambling his organic eggs and putting together a health Slavonian platter. 

"Tea please. That mint tea yesterday was fantastic."

"So you see the mint in the garden out there? Go and pick some for your tea."

Three days away from motorways, laptops and the daily grind, and a relaxing journey back in time and pace of life. They talk about the relaxed 'laganini' lifestyle in Dalmatia, but Slavonia has something similar. 

"So much potential here. This could really be an organic tourism powerhouse."

And, as I found myself back in the garden collecting more mint, I found myself agreeing. And while agreeing, also thinking about that Croatia 2.0 reset. 

Slavonia is treated as a poor cousin with a disability at times in Croatia, at least according to my observations. If it was left to breathe instead, the results would be great. 

But I also think that with a little resetting of focus and the way the world is going, regions like Baranja and Slavonia, which boast great nature, a warm people and great gourmet and cultural offers may yet surprise and find themselves as a magnet for those who want to work remotely and enjoy a healthy and clean-living lifestyle. 

And now I have Slavonia in my blood, much as I do Dalmatia as well. More to come on our next visit in a couple of weeks. In the meantime, if you want to learn more about this fascinating region, here are 25 things to know about eastern Croatia

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Days of Croatian Tourism 2019 Programme: Will Hedonists #HeadOnEast to Slavonia?

September 11, 2019 - Days of Croatian Tourism 2019 will take place in Slavonia next month - the full programme has just been published by the Ministry of Tourism.

I am not sure how to describe the Days of Croatian Tourism annual event, which takes place in October each year. It is certainly full of pomp, with the awards ceremony broadcast on live television. The event is like a who's who of the movers and shakers in Croatian tourism, and it is usually held in one of Croatia's top destinations. Apart from being a pretty backdrop to the occasion, it is also a chance for tourism officials to decamp to a top destination on the coast away from Zagreb for a few days of relaxation and 'work'. Last year's event in Hvar Town was VERY well attended. 

I am curious to see how many of those same official workers come for the entire event at Days of Croatian Tourism 2019. After pressure from several quarters, the government seems to be taking more of an interest in Slavonia, and this year's event will take place in Slavonia. A gorgeous region with so much potential, but without the 4 and 5-star relaxation of more developed coastal destinations. 

And the programme looks great (at least for those who can read Croatian - would it be too much trouble to provide an English version for those interested? If nothing else, it sets a good example for Croatian tourism in general). I really like the slogan - HeadOnEast for Hedonist - and there is plenty to see in the three-day event. Virovirica, Slavonski Brod and Vukovar on Day 1, Slavonski Brod, Pozega, Kutjevo, Papuk Nature Park and Jankovac Park, Osijek and Vinkovci on Day 2, and a full day in Osijek on Day 3. Full programme in Croatian below.



Thursday, 6 December 2018

Five Slavonian Counties Sign Agreement on Joint Cooperation

The agreement on cooperation between five Slavonian counties, which is the foundation for their joint participation in the preparation and implementation of the development projects in Eastern Croatia, was signed in Osijek-Baranja County, reports on December 6, 2018.

It took more than 20 years for officials to finally realize that it is only with the synergy that Slavonia can grow and develop. Still, better late than never, and it is never too late. Only those who are proactive, creative, innovative and those who want to deal with market-based development can progress.

Osijek-Baranja County, as the seat of scientific, economic, cultural and numerous other institutions in Eastern Croatia, is the leader in the development of Eastern Croatia. The initiative for joint representation towards the national, European and other sources of funding was initiated by Osijek-Baranja County Prefect Ivan Anušić, and supported by prefects of Požega-Slavonia, Brod-Posavina, Virovitica-Podravina and Vukovar-Srijem Counties.

“We want to work and act in synergy as a region and act in that way towards both the Croatian government and the European institutions through the office in Brussels. This will strengthen our status, our lobbying efforts and influence with the European Commission as a region, as well as with the Croatian government,” said Ivan Anušić, the prefect of Osijek-Baranja county.

He stressed that the five Slavonian counties were still grouped in the NUTS II statistical region together with the city of Zagreb. "I will remind you that Zagreb is at 125% of the EU development average, which means that it is more developed than the EU average. Our counties and their financial potential are definitely below the EU level but, in this way, we have been administratively categorized to be at the same level of development as Zagreb, which prevents us from implementing EU projects because we have to participate in their financing with a very high percentage of funds. In the future, a new statistical region will be created which will include just our counties without the city of Zagreb, as is the practice elsewhere in Europe where major cities belong to separate regions and are not merged with rural areas. This is the first step in that direction, and I am sure we will do an excellent job for our five counties, as well as for whole Croatia,” said Prefect Anušić.

The agreement creates the preconditions for the joint representation of the five Slavonian counties in Brussels through the office of the Osijek-Baranja County Development Agency, a project whose implementation is expected in the coming year.

One of the first joint projects will be the Days of Croatian Tourism 2019, which will be held in Slavonia and will jointly showcase the tourist potential of Eastern Croatia, which could become a national and international tourism brand.

Synergy was one of the main goals of the initiative to hold the Days of Croatian Tourism in Slavonia. First of all, it is necessary for the whole of Slavonia to be presented as a single tourist brand ؘ– Slavonia – which is already underway. To achieve this, it is required to develop the synergy among all local tourist boards and stakeholders, as well as to create a joint development and promotion plan. The second step is to define the joint tourist offer and attractions, which must be accessible through a single platform. The next step involves travel agencies which have to be introduced to the destination since they are the ones selling tourist packages and bringing tourists. That is why, as part of the #DHTSlavonia (Days of Croatian Tourism Slavonia) initiative, negotiations were held with the UHPA (the Association of Croatian Travel Agencies) to hold the UHPA Days in Slavonia, which has been confirmed.

Thus, all of Slavonia will have an opportunity to present its tourist offer to travel agencies and directly meet with the agents and representatives of travel agencies. When everything is done and defined, the grand finale of the Days of Croatian Tourism (DHT) will be an icing on the cake and a great free marketing campaign.

The DHT in Slavonia will generate thousands of earned media reports (valued in millions) before, during and after the event. This is an opportunity to tell a positive story about Slavonia, a chance to promote the whole destination, an opportunity to impress all the DHT guests, a chance for them to become the destination ambassadors.

Thus, the year 2019 will undoubtedly be a major positive turning point for Slavonia since both the UHPA Days and the Days of Croatian Tourism will be held in Slavonia (in Vinkovci and Osijek, respectively). We hope that this will be a moment that will awaken and shake up all the tourist industry representatives and that the destination will know how to take advantage of this for the long run.

Synergy is critical for the potential actually to be realized. Slavonia does not have time to wait for another next ten years for things to change for the better. Slavonia does not need aid, but market-based development. And tourism is an opportunity which Slavonia has to take advantage of due to its incredible potential.

For more on the Days of Croatian Tourism event, which was held on Hvar this year, click here.

Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Days of Croatian Tourism: How Were the Finalists Chosen?

October 31, 2018 - The recent Days of Croatian Tourism event on Hvar was attended by almost 2,000 Croatian tourism professionals. TCN has had lots of feedback to our articles on the winners. The Croatian National Tourist Board has kindly explained the methodology behind the nominations. 

Last week TCN attended Days of Croatian Tourism on Hvar, the most important awards ceremony in the Croatian tourism calendar, and an event we have been examining in greater detail in the last few days. As very little is usually written in English about the Days of Croatian Tourism event, there has been considerable interest in these articles, one of which in particular attracted lots of comment and questions to the TCN inbox - Bosnian restaurant Taj Mahal in Dubrovnik being named the second best restaurant in Croatia for 2018.

A lot of people were not only surprised at some of the finalists and winners, but also wanted to know what criteria were involved and how the process worked. I could not recall any explanation on the night, but the PR department of the Croatian National Tourist Board (who, for the record, are by far the most response PR unit of any state institution I have dealt with) were sure to know, and so I asked for an explanation on behalf of our readers. 

It turns out that the selection process is very thorough indeed. The tourist board's response to my question about the selection for Days of Croatian Tourism in full:

"Within the category of „Destination of the Year”, six of the best destinations are awarded in the following sub-categories: Best City Break Destination; Best Croatian Continental Destination; Best Summer Vacation Destination; Best Authentic Seaside Destination - “malo misto”; Best Rural Destination; Best Health Tourism Destination.

"The entire selection process for destination of the year is comprised of 3 assessment rounds, while only destinations nominated by representatives from the ten Croatian tourism clusters are considered, each submits for their respective cluster. In the first round the grading is performed by an assessment team comprised of representatives from the head office of the Croatian National Tourist Board and the Ministry of Tourism, where they review all of the submitted candidacies, where for each of the respective sub-categories five destinations are put forward for further selection rounds in each sub-category.

"Once each of the 5 destinations for each sub-category has been selected via assessment criteria, representatives from each of the destinations are invited to present their destination in person before a broader assessment committee comprised of representatives from the Croatian National Tourist Board, the Ministry of Tourism, the Croatian Chamber of Economy, the Faculty of Economics – University of Zagreb, Faculty of Tourism and Hospitality Management – Opatija and Juraj Dobrila University of Pula. In this second assessment round three destinations are selected for each sub-category.

"Finally, for the purpose of the third and final assessment round, six assessment committees are formed, one for each sub-category, where these committees then visit each of the 3 destinations selected in round 2 for the given category. Each committee is comprised of one member from the CNTB, the Ministry, as well as a Faculty and media representative.

"In each of the three rounds the criteria used in the selection process include the following: activities in the destination, public and private infrastructure, destination accessibility, image, human resources, destination prices. Considering each of the criteria the assessment committee gives each destination an overall grade based on the points accumulated in each category, which are crucial in the selection of the awarded destination for each sub-category."

To follow the Croatian National Tourist Board, follow their official site here.

For more on Days of Croatian Tourism, here is the TCN coverage so far

Monday, 29 October 2018

Suncani Hvar Adriana Named Best Wellness Hotel in Croatia

More recognition for Suncani Hvar Hotels at Days of Tourism 2018, as Hotel Adriana wins the Best Wellness Hotel in Croatia award on October 25, 2018. 

It has been quite a year for the island of Hvar. Just six years after celebrating the 400th anniversary of the oldest public theatre in Europe, built way back in 1612, Hvar is this year celebrating another European first in 2018 - 150 years of organised tourism in Europe, following the founding of the Hvar Health Society, on May 15, 1868. 


So it was somewhat fitting that Hotel Adriana, just a few metres down the road from the original accommodation for Europe's first organised health tourism, was the 2018 winner of the category of Best Wellness Hotel in Croatia at last week's Days of Croatian Tourism awards. Hvar has so much to offer with its tourism - beaches, nightlife, culture, heritage, food and wine - but last week Hvar tourism turned full circle after 150 years with its focus on health tourism. 


“We are honored to receive 1st prize for the best wellness hotel in this particular category. This award additionally confirms our continuous efforts to conform to world trends in the spa industry”, emphasized Dubravka Novak, general manager of Adriana, hvar spa hotel. “We are honored to receive 1st prize for the best wellness hotel in this particular category. This award additionally confirms our continuous efforts to conform to world trends in the spa industry”, emphasized Dubravka Novak, general manager of Adriana, hvar spa hotel. 


After undergoing complete refurbishment of all public spaces in the previous year, Suncani Hvar Sensori Spa now has 8 luxurious treatment rooms, VIP couple’s room with private Finnish or infrared sauna, 4 types of saunas (two Finnish saunas, one of which is with a panoramic view of the city, steam, salt sauna, infra-red), Relax room, Spa lounge, Vitality bar, a brand new fitness studio with possibility of private lessons from experienced instructors, weight training and yoga classes. Moreover, it received a new indoor pool with possibility of aerobic classes.


And while Adriana has been winning numerous national and international wellness awards in recent years, it is not the only wellness option in the Suncani Hvar offer.


Bonj les Bains, the 1930's colonnade in front of another Suncani Hvar hotel, Amfora, is another historic setting in this town which oozes heritage at every turn. And what a setting! The Suncani Hvar wellness experience at Bons les Bains comes with an unbeatable waterfront view, complete with private cabins and massage services. Relaxation with a view!


The wellness facilities on offer at Suncani Hvar are part of an increasingly enticing selection of facilities and activities on Croatia's premier island, which are helping Hvar position itself as a more diverse destination than the stereotype of summer sun and beaches. Hvar's Mediterranean diet was inscribed as UNESCO intangible heritage back in 2013, the fifth UNESCO attraction on Hvar, making Hvar the island with the most UNESCO heritage in the world. Hvar's wines are now exported all over the world, and a series of new adrenaline and sporting events is positioning Hvar as an increasingly important adventure tourism destination.  


And when you have the best wellness hotel in Croatia, you know where to come to relax! 

For more information about Hotel Adriana and its wellness offer, click here

For the latest news from Suncani Hvar, check the dedicated TCN section.

Monday, 29 October 2018

Filming in Croatia: Lessons from Days of Croatian Tourism on Hvar

October 29, 2018 - Filming in Croatia is a topic which has attracted a lot of attention in recent years, more so after the shooting of Game of Thrones. But is Croatia maximising its tourism potential from this niche?

Continuing our look at various aspects of the recent Days of Croatian Tourism conference on Hvar, the opening panel of the two-day event was centred on filming in Croatia and the relationship between the film industry. With global blockbusters such as Game of Thrones, Mamma Mia 2 and Star Wars filmed here in recent years, the film industry has a significant role to play in Croatian tourism, both in terms of revenue and promotion. 


In a very nice touch to the film theme, there was free popcorn available on either side of Hvar's historic Arsenal. The panel and panellists were advertised as follows:

Panel discussion "Film Industry and Tourism"Panel discussion "Film Industry and Tourism"Croatia has recently become a natural scenography of numerous blockbusters, series and reality shows. Why are they filmed in Croatia, what does it bring to locals and what is the situation in movie industry and tourism in other countries of the European Union and worldwide?

·  Morocco: director of  Moroccan Film Institute (Centre Cinématographique Marocain), Mohamed Sarim El Haq Fassi Fihri
·    Hungary: director of National Film Office Miklós Taba
·    Croatia: Nebojša Taraba (Novine)
·    Croatia: Vanja Černjul (Marco Polo, Crazy Rich Asians)
·    Croatia: Gordana Restović, director of Pula Film Festival
·    Croatia: Ministry of Culture, State Secretary Krešimir Partl Moderator: Director of the Croatian Audiovisual Center, Daniel Rafaelić


It was an interesting panel, and the two contributions from Morocco and Hungary helped to put the filming in Croatia story into context. I had not realised, for example, that Morocco's filming tradition dates back 100 years and includes an A-list portfolio, or that Budapest is now becoming known as the 'Hollywood of Europe.' 


According to the numbers provided, the rise of Budapest as a film location, now eclipsing Prague, is no accident. Some serious investment in supporting the film industry in Hungary, a trend which is increasing significantly with time. 

Sadly there was no time for questions, and the panel did not really touch on the relationship of film and tourism once the production has been completed. It is an important subject for Croatia's tourism and one which, in many ways, reflects to the approach to tourism in general. 

Croatia's core tourism business over the years has been centred on sun, sea and beach. With such great natural beauty, it is hard to fail, and tourists don't need much promotion to be attracted to this one-dimensional tourism. But where is the additional offer on the coast, and what is there to do when it rains? Things are improving in this regard in recent years, and full credit to the Central Dalmatia Tourist Board, for example, who are working hard to diversity the tourism offer, and indeed Central Dalmatia is now the leading destination in Croatia for overnight stays in October, where beach tourism is not the main factor. 

So too with filming in Croatia. To me at least, there are two tourism aspects to this story - the initial work done to attract the production company to shoot the movie, and enhancing the tourism experience for fans wanted to visit the locations afterwards. I don't know enough about the former, but Croatia could REALLY improve the appeal of its spinoff tourism from filming in Croatia. At the moment, the strategy seems to be little more than the self-congratulatory 'Game of Thrones was filmed in Croatia - so many people are coming to visit'. It reminds me a little of the tourism 'strategy' of 'we have beaches so they will come.'

The following is intended - as always -  as constructive criticism, but I am sure it will not be viewed as such in some quarters.  

Filming in Croatia: the Tourism Promotion

The filming in Croatia of Game of Thrones has been huge for the country, and Dubrovnik in particular, with tens of thousands of tourists interested in visiting the real Kings Landing. Lots of private tours have sprung up,and this has become a nice business niche for several agencies. But how is Croatia promoting Game of Thrones tourism, and how does it compare with somewhere like New Zealand, which was also presented with a global blockbuster?

During the panel discussion, I decided to compare the two via the national tourist board websites, with a view to asking a question at the end of the discussion. Here is what I found.


 Searching the Croatian National Tourist Board website for 'Game of Thrones' using the custom search box, I found several results, but none - not one - which had anything to do with the HBO series and Game of Thrones tourism. The top results were attractions in Rijeka, Zagorje and Karlovac. 


The New Zealand Tourist Board website was an altogether different experience. Not only were there 379 relevant experiences, but a very helpful dropdown sidebar menu featuring locations, tours, article and even accommodation was all beautifully arranged. Plan your entire Lord of the Rings adventure to New Zealand from one website over a coffee. Game of Thrones fan heading to Croatia? Good luck! 

Filming in Croatia: Can You Name the Movie Filmed Here Which Won 3 Oscars?

The thing is, Croatia has some incredible filming heritage, which almost nobody knows about, and which - with a little imagination - could be turned into a fantastic, 12-month opportunity. How many of you, for example, can name the movie filmed in Croatia which won no less than THREE Oscars?


You can learn all about the filming of Fiddler on the Roof in Lekenik, just 30 minutes from central Zagreb, in this TCN article.  We took a trip out to Lekenik earlier this year to try and find the house where most of the action was filmed, and found it we did, but not due to any tourism signage. It was a forgotten non-descript house down a small road. Although there was some mention of Fiddler on the Roof in Croatian (that language most tourists do not speak), not a word about it on the English page of attractions of the local tourist board. And as pleasant as Lekenik is, it is not blessed with millions of reasons for tourists to visit. In fact, almost no mention of the fact that this globally-famous movie was filmed in Croatia. That is not to say that there is no tourism to the film location - there is, a private agency bringing groups of Jewish tourists. 

Filming in Croatia - the Day Clint Eastwood and Donald Sutherland Filmed in Istria

I was just as surprised to learn that Kelly's Heroes, Clint Eastwood, Donald Sutherland et al. was filmed in a village in Istria, and even more surprised to hear about a group of airsoft enthusiasts who reenacted the film last year. You can learn more about the 1969 original filming and the 2017 airsoft reenactment (video above) here.

Filming in Croatia - the Day Orson Welles Made a Movie on Hvar


And just a few metres from where the panel was taking place in Hvar Town, Orson Welles was busy in action just over 50 years ago, filming The Deep.  

Filming in Croatia - Murder on the Orient Express



Looking for more filming in Croatia hooks? The most famous train murder in history took place between Slavonski Brod and Vinkovci in Slavonia - Agatha Christie's classic, Murder on the Orient Express. 

The list goes on. The potential is huge, and the benefits significant. Tourism and filming in Croatia? There is a lot of work to do.  

Listening to Your Customer: Some Golden Opportunities


If those interested in boosting tourism and filming in Croatia niche have read this far, I leave you with another tip from the presentation which followed - Al Merschen's overview of  what Americans are looking for more tourism in Croatia. You can read a more detailed look at Merschen's excellent presentation here. Game of Thrones sites are the 7th thing of interest, but there are also others in this list which have very little official organised promotion. 

Wine and wineries, for example. There is no website with detailed information about Croatia's incredibly wine story, 130 indigenous varieties, home of Zinfandel. It is why we started Total Croatia Wine to meet that need. And it is nice to be able to meet the tourism needs of the many visitors, as well as make a little money shipping Croatian wine to the USA and all over the EU. We have not done Total Croatia Olive OIl yet - we will leave that opportunity to others. But, as Merschen's research shows, the demand is there. 

Filming in Croatia, Croatian wine, Game of Thrones and olive oil -they will always be important factors in a strategy of accidental tourism, but Croatia could - and should - be doing so much better. 

Or is it enough that the sun is shining?

To learn more about filming in Croatia, follow the dedicated TCN page.

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