Monday, 27 September 2021

Croatian 2021 Tourist Season Leaves Producers With Empty Shelves

September the 27th, 2021 - The excellent Croatian 2021 tourist season which few could have possibly expected to have gone so well back at the beginning of this year has left some producers wondering how they're going to prepare for next year already. Many Istrian cheese, oil and wine producers have been left with empty shelves and much fuller pockets at last.

As Barbara Ban/Novac writes, this summer in Istria went like a dream, with the sort of numbers you'd expect to be recorded in global capitals. Reservations for the best restaurants were waited on for periods of ten days, and every night a line of tourists could be seen standing in front of Istria's many bars. There was no such crowding to be seen in this part of Croatia even during the best pre-pandemic seasons, and all this shows that the consumption was very good and that visitors, tired of their lives being controlled by various tests and measures, simply wanted to enjoy themselves a bit and relax.

Fiscalised receipts/invoices

Croatian wine on the Adriatic flowed into the glasses of visitors in streams, cheesemakers were left without their cheeses, olive growers without oil. Stocks were depleted, even those from the first year of the coronavirus back in 2020, which initially threw everything to its knees on a global scale and in a way we've never experienced before. However, it is not yet known precisely how high consumption in Istria has actually been in the Croatian 2021 tourist season, which was visited by the largest number of guests this summer.

It should, of course, be significant, because the prices in restaurants and bars were quite a bit higher than they were back in 2019. According to the director of the Istrian Tourist Board, Denis Ivosevic, he will soon request information on the fiscalised receipts issued on the Istrian peninsula, which, he believes, will confirm the fact that a lot was spent locally during the Croatian 2021 tourist season.

Record prices

''Hotels achieved record prices, in restaurants where you had to book a table, guests waited for a reservation for seven or even ten days. In ordinary restaurants you could see a line of ten to twenty people and they certainly consumed some of the absolute best products from Istria, such as wine, oil, expensive local truffles and everything else you might imagine. We’ll know that on a much deeper level when we get fiscalised data on spending. It’s never been this way, and it all happened because two things happened at the same time. First of all, Istria raised its quality, and the competition helped us because it was weaker than us due to bad epidemiological conditions. That's why we're the winners of the Mediterranean in tourism this season,'' Ivosevic thinks.

The producers of oil, cheese, wine and prosciutto confirmed that they had a more than good season in Istria. For example, the company Oio Vivo from Vodnjan was left without a complete supply of its extra virgin olive oil which has won international awards for its sheer quality.

''We worked very hard and we're out of stock. Everything worked brilliantly - from the sale to the olive grove, where we arranged a new space, to the wholesale, restaurant and webshop. There was a great demand everywhere. Last year we produced about 22,000 litres, and from the year before we may have had about 1,000 litres left. Now we have almost nothing left and we can't wait for the new harvest to come,'' said Velimir Juric from Oio Vivo, which will have a good harvest and expects at least 45,000 litres of oil and an even better year. Although the harvest of the others will be much worse due to the winter and snowy conditions, they will have a full better harvest and say they will not raise their prices.

Production never stopped...

The famous cheesemaker Sandi Orbanic from Zminj and the prosciutto factory Bursic from Vodnjan weren't left without cheese and prosciutto, but only because they work constantly. Orbanic is more troubled by how preparations for next year might go.

''We worked really well and that was unexpected for us. We just didn’t know how to prepare for the Croatian 2021 tourist season. In the end it ended up being great. We haven't been left without cheese, but only because we're constantly producing it. Sales to hotels, shops, restaurants and on the doorstep were also excellent,'' pointed out Orbanic, who annually produces about 120 tonnes of products in his cheese factory.

''We do manage to place everything. But given the decline in 2020 and consumption this year, we don't know what quantities to plan for 2022,'' he added.

Robert Lisjak from Vodnjan prosciutto also said that this year has been truly fantastic compared to last year.

''We always have everything because we're constantly producing sausages, bacon, and even prosciutto. We worked a lot throughout the pandemic with the domestic market and we sell a lot on the doorstep, and this year we noticed a greater demand for the restaurants themselves,'' stated Lisjak.

For more on the Croatian 2021 tourist season, check out our dedicated travel section.

Tuesday, 9 February 2021

Denis Ivošević of Istria Tourist Board: We Want to Achieve Even Better Flos Olei Results

February 9, 2021 - Denis Ivošević of the Istria County Tourist Board revealed that olive oil producers in the region have prepared earlier than ever to achieve even better results in the 2022 Flos Olei guide, and that their work with olives won't stop there. 

Glas Istre reports that at the end of January, the Istria County Tourist Board launched a campaign and sent an invitation to all producers to apply for and deliver extra virgin olive oil for the new edition of the 2022 Flos Olei guide.

According to the Istria Tourist Board director, Denis Ivošević, they began collecting Istrian extra virgin olive oils much earlier this year to reserve the first spot at the tastings. He adds that it may sound unusual, but the order of evaluation is already significant for the outcome and maintaining the reputation of Istria as an international olive oil destination.

"The fact is that every year, more and more is invested in knowledge, but also the acquisition of new skills, so we believe that we will collect a record number of samples that will allow us to approach new records - not only in the number of listed Istrian olive growers but also that for the first time, one of the Istrian olive growers reaches the prestigious 99 points. This is the result we hope for, which would mean a lot to all of us and bring additional momentum to the development of olive growing and confirm the top reputation of Istria as an olive growing destination," says Ivošević.

Recall that Istria has been part of this unique guide since 2005, when only two Istrian producers from the region were included. The Ipša family from Ipši and the Beletić family from Novigrad had the honor of being the first. The guide was then published under the name L'Extravergine, and from 2010 it changed its name and publisher to a new, today recognizable name, Flos Olei. Since the first edition of the guide under this new name in 2010, Istria has taken an important role and positioned itself as the second-best olive growing region, just behind Tuscany. However, every year the advantage of Tuscany was smaller. Finally, in 2016, Istria took the top spot that it has maintained to this day, but with a far greater advantage than Tuscany previously had on Istria. 

"It sounds unreal, and I would say pretentious, but Istria has been declared the best olive growing region in the world for the sixth year in a row. How it looked last year is sufficiently shown by the fact that Istria had 71 olive growers and Tuscany 43. However, it is even more important that more than a thousand samples from all over the world arrive for evaluation, that a professional panel of verified tasters in the organoleptic sense tastes all the received samples, that after that, a selection of the 500 best in the world is made, which is impressive," the director of the regional Tourist Board proudly points out.

The flattering accolades should be taken as motivation for further investment and growth.

"During the corona crisis, I would say the most challenging year in recent history, when there were almost no investments and those planned were stopped in time, only the field of olive growing, among the few, achieved what was intended. Thus, the largest investments were made to raise the quality of processing, storage, and the presentation and sale of Istrian extra virgin olive oils. Total investments exceed HRK 50 million, which is an extremely great achievement for such a specific, niche product. On the one hand, investments have been made in new modern and technologically advanced processing plants. On the other hand, investments have been made in architecturally interesting building solutions with designer-equipped new tasting rooms and boutiques. So last year, the Chiavalon family opened a new olive growing center in Vodnjan, a modern building that includes a special line of Mori olive processing, with a new cellar, tasting room, sales point, storage space. The Ipša family also continued with investments, which also opened an attractive olive growing center in Ipši near Oprtalj. It is a renovated and revalued traditional building where there is a new line of Mori olive processing, with a new cellar, tasting room, point of sale, Istrian tavern, and warehouse. The interim director of the Fund for the Reconstruction of Earthquake-Affected Zagreb, Damir Vanđelić, and his family have opened a new olive grove and center along the road from Bale to Rovinj. The new oil mill is also a refurbished and revalued traditional building housing the new Mori olive processing line, with a new cellar, tasting room, and sales outlet, combined with fruit and vegetable production, given that the olive grove center is located on a 67-hectare-large family farm.

We should also mention the significant investments of the Galić family, which opened a new cellar for extra virgin olive oils in Kostanjica near Grožnjan, a tasting room, and a sales point and a panoramic terrace, as well as Oleum Maris, where a new olive center opened along the road between Vodnjan and Pula. It is a modern building with a new basement and sales point and continues with a new tasting room and projections and a panoramic terrace. Finally, thanks to an investment by the Beletić family from Novigrad, a new, modern Pieralisi olive processing line was opened.

This list is only part, or the most significant investments of Istrian olive growers, with a handful of smaller ones that complete the picture of how much importance is attached to raising new olive groves, acquiring new knowledge and skills, improving production and the technological process, but also new models of presentation and sales of the final product - extra virgin olive oil of premium quality.

"In Istria, olive growing has become the ultimate question of identity and national pride!" says Ivošević.

"Olive growing in the broadest sense of the word is not just producing extra virgin olive oil. If we have proven that we are capable of producing high-quality extra virgin olive oil, that we know how to promote, brand, advertise, and sell it, we must certainly try in other disciplines that come from the basic product - olives," says Ivošević, and delves into the areas where there is potential for further growth. He says it is the production of table olives, which is rarely used commercially on the Peninsula today.

"We have almost no serious producers who have found their niche or specialization in this area, and that is the part we definitely miss, especially since the demand for such a product is extremely high, especially given the developed gastronomy in Istria and Croatia. The use of table olives can definitely be used in a wide range of Istrian gastronomy presentation. For example, it can be used in various forms and techniques of preparation as an introductory greeting from the kitchen, as a separate snack, or in combination with other products as a supplement to various tastings. It can also be used as an appetizer, hot or cold, as an addition to the main course, and why not as part of a dessert? But, most importantly, we would avoid importing the worst quality of such olives, which we import almost without any quality criteria and health control," explains Ivošević.

One of the directions is certainly a stronger focus on niche cosmetic production of olive-based boutique cosmetics. In this part of dedicated production, he recalls, we have pioneers who began using extra virgin olive oil in cosmetics, not only through sales in specialty stores but also in increasing use in wellness, beauty, and health treatments.

It is unnecessary to explain that extra virgin olive oil, in the way it is produced in Istria, is a natural product and contains many qualities. It is naturally rich in unsaturated fatty acids. It has a high content of phenols that have a beneficial health effect because olive oil polyphenols help protect blood lipids from oxidative stress. Extra virgin olive oil is also a natural source of tocopherol, a precursor of vitamin E, which helps protect cells from oxidative stress when present in sufficient quantities. Tocopherols in the presence of phenols act synergistically, i.e., enhance their antioxidant effect.

"It has long been known that extra virgin olive oil is a natural remedy, and now the globally known Jennifer Lopez has launched a cosmetic line based on olive oil "JLo Beauty Olive Complex," which will certainly encourage some to try the same in that specific niche of cosmetics and natural remedies," says Ivošević.

In the end, he says, the waste generated by processing olives can be used wisely, by using firewood seeds. In this way, the potential of olives would be fully used, and the problem of disposing of that waste would be partially solved.

"With new directions, such as this, Istria will show that in addition to the prestige in the production of premium extra virgin olive oil, we turn to other disciplines that include an extensive range of opportunities - from the segment of health, nutrition, and psychophysical fitness, beauty treatment and rejuvenation, wellness treatment, in the broadest sense of the word, all the way to sustainable and responsible development in terms of waste management for heating," concludes Denis Ivošević.

To read more about lifestyle in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Tuesday, 8 September 2020

Mostly German Tourists in Istria, Can September be Saved?

September 8, 2020 - The Istria County Tourist Board director Denis Ivosevic said that there are mostly German tourists in Istria, and revealed what needs to happen to save the season. 

Glas Istre reports that sixty-seven thousand guests stayed in Istria during the first weekend of September, most of them Germans - 40 thousand of them - which, according to the director of the Istrian Tourist Board, Denis Ivosevic, is quite expected considering that Germany is the only country in the region that did not put Istria on the red list of epidemiologically uncertain areas.

The Istrian police said that from Friday to Sunday at 12 pm, 33,536 passengers entered, and 35,678 passengers exited Croatia through the three largest road border crossings in Istria - Kaštela, Plovanija, and Požana. Foreign citizens account for 80 percent, and among them, Ivosevic confirms, most are Germans.

There are guests from other countries, which, under normal circumstances, represent a larger part of tourist traffic, such as Austria and Slovenia, but much less, says Ivosevic. Altogether, last weekend, he reveals, there were one hundred thousand fewer guests than at the same time last year. As before, due to epidemiological recommendations, tourists mostly opted for overnight stays in camps and private accommodation.

"The main part of the season is over. Now we are left with the hope that Slovenia could regionally select us as a safe area. That way, we would save the coming weekends," says Ivosevic about saving September and what's left of the tourist season.

Asked if the Istria County Tourism Commission, an expert and advisory body established in April to help coordinate activities to save the tourist season, has a plan and program for the postseason, Ivosevic said that the Commission acted when the repertoire was a different topic. Now, he says, the situation is a completely new story.

The main part of the season, the peak in August, is over. Ivosevic confirmed that they recorded more than good results.

"I look at the results of August from two different aspects. The first is the positive one, and that is that despite all the predictions about the weak season, we still managed to achieve more than a good result. Tourism peaked in the first half of August, and that’s great. Unfortunately, this is followed by the second, negative aspect. It refers to the fact that we managed to score an own goal and miss the opportunity to become true champions of this year's tourism by the end of August and September," says Ivosevic and continues:

"Instead, we ended up on the red list in many countries, which is very bad for the reputation and the end of the year, and can be a serious handicap in promoting the destination for next season," said the director of the regional tourist board after August.

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Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Gourmet & Wine Lovers App Launched in Istria

Istrian County Tourist Board presented a mobile app which brings the entire Istrian wine and gastro offer to your phone