Tuesday, 20 October 2020

See Together Challenge: Diocletian's Palace to be Live-Streamed to Viewers Around the World

October 20, 2020 - UNESCO World Heritage Site Diocletian's Palace will be live-streamed to viewers around the world on Thursday, October 22, as part of the 'See Together Challenge' by Seoul company Magenta. 

Magenta, a documentary production company based in Seoul, South Korea, is launching a new project titled ‘See Together Challenge’. 

The project is co-hosted by SK Telecom, the National Korean Committee for UNESCO, and Magenta, and is funded by the Ministry of Science and ICT, and supported by the Korea Radio Promotion Association.

‘See Together Challenge’ was envisioned to lift spirits during the COVID-19 pandemic and to raise awareness of UNESCO World Heritage Sites and the importance of their preservation.

Namely, project participants will film and live stream UNESCO World Heritage Site(s) to global viewers for 1 hour and then pass on the live stream to the next participant, who will film for an hour at their location, and so forth. The videos will be live-streamed on Youtube and will run 24 hours a day, for one week, beginning on October 21, 2020.  

The videos will also be edited into a two-part documentary on social distancing, which will be aired on KBS, a national broadcaster in South Korea.

Since Croatia boasts some of the world’s most spectacular UNESCO World Heritage Sites, it comes as no surprise that the country will be featured in this admirable project. 

Thus, among the various Croatian UNESCO heritage sites is the breathtaking Diocletian's Palace. Famous Split tour guide Ivica Profaca will lead viewers through its ancient stone walls and unveil its history to future travelers around the world on October 22 at 10 am.

To find out more about our project, you can visit the official website and watch the official promo video HERE.

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Saturday, 4 April 2020

Diary of a Split Tour Guide in the Age of Corona - Part 3

April 5, 2020 - Part 3 of Ivica Profaca's Diary of a Split Tour Guide in the Age of Corona - and some good news!

This is an easy job to do. I can just start every part of this series with something announced, or predicted in the previous one. Last time I was hoping that my application for financial aid through the Government's program aiming to help industries affected by COVID-19 would be accepted. And it was. It was great to get an e-mail with a PDF document attached saying "your request has been accepted", or something like that. Sure, it's nothing even close to those notes, now almost forgotten, with sentences from another world: "Are you available on that-and-that day for a tour?". From time to time, I read some of those still sitting in my inbox, just as a reminder.

Anyway, me and a whole bunch of fellow guides (and thousands of others) will get State aid, and with the second package that the government prepared, now things look a little better. Or, if you want, as well as can be expected, because I guess nobody is too excited at being on State aid. With the second package, the monthly payment will go up to 4,000 kuna, with paid tax, health and pension insurance, for a wider population affected by these measures. It means that the government finally accepted the demands coming from people in the business world. Problems are probably yet to come, because the national budget masters will have to find that money somewhere. We'll think about it tomorrow, Scarlett O'Hara would say, hopefully someone is making plans.

Speaking of plans, everything really depends on how long the pandemic will last. That's a zillion dollar question, and only a few dare to give any prognosis. I mean those who might really know something. There is a whole army of those others, much louder, making it difficult to differentiate what is worth listening to. Will it be June, or we can't expect any good news before September, with prospects of a second wave next autumn and winter? The phrase "anything is possible" these days has a special meaning. Besides, with the death toll rising minute by minute, what's the point of looking for anything else, but how to stop this horrible chain of events? 

When it's done, other things should come back, including tourism. easyJet, an extremely important airline for tourism in Split and Dalmatia, is already advertising Summer 2021 Holidays. Just a little bit more optimistic is their Winter 2020/2021 advertising. Unfortunately, still no sign of an extension of seasonal flights to Split by any airline. Maybe when that priceless question gets some more firm answers there will be someone who will come up with the idea of turning November into the new April, just like Zoran Pejović suggested in his Total Croatia News article. There are still no ideas how to do it by  the Croatian tourism authorities, but maybe they could take this idea into consideration. In previous parts of this series I have already mentioned that I still have more postponements than cancellations, and that trend is still the same. Maybe it will change sooner than I want, but so far it's like that. Some of those bookings still don't have a new date, but are waiting to see how the situation develops, but they are still active. The last one I got of that kind is a group of hikers from Taiwan who wanted to hike Kozjak mountain mid-June. The date is cancelled, but with a note "they will definitely come when crisis calms down". It's a thin hope, but what else do we have?

Speaking of easyJet, like all other airlines, they have their planes grounded (except for emergency flights). However, you can still book a flight from London to Split from May 1. All those before that date are marked as "sold out", it's probably some IT solution for not to delete flights. I can only try to imagine the level of lack of information with someone who would really book a flight as early as the beginning of May. Or perhaps they know something we don't know. But seriously, who can even remotely believe anyone would travel in just a few weeks from now? Not only by air, but by any means of transportation. It would be fun to make that booking, just for the sake of imagining the faces of those who would receive a notification that someone wants to fly. I would offer a free tour.

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Of course, this little anecdote about easyJet is not something that should be taken as a strategy foundation. When I get first queries for availability, or at least some info request, that will be something to build on. Everything else is still in "one day it will pass" domain. For example, recently I saw an article on Travel Pulse, US-based website specialized in travel news. Pledging that "all is not lost", they found five destinations as "beacons of hope". Guess what? Croatia is one of them, and main photo of the article is the one from Split. Or, what about predictions made by Luxury Travel Advisor?

It worked twice so far; I mentioned something in these articles, and it happened before the next part of this series. Maybe the same will happen with those two. Stay posted, and if you know someone who would need a tour this summer, let me know. Until then, #StayHome.

We will be following Ivica Profaca's journey through the rocky weeks ahead.

If you find yourself in Split, or are planning a post-corona visit, check out his range of tours on his website - families, look out for the kids tour of Diocletian Palace. It will not only entertain your kids while allowing you to absorb this unique UNESCO World Heritage Site, but it will bring out the inner child in you too. Learn more about it here

You can read other parts of Ivica's Split Tour Guide in the Age of Corona series here.


(To be continued)

Saturday, 28 March 2020

Diary of a Split Tour Guide in the Age of Corona - Part 2

March 28, 2020 - The second installment of popular former TCN writer Ivica Profaca's diary of the new reality as a tour guide in waiting in an era of no tourism. 

If you read the first part of this series, you might remember it finished with the word "survival". And it had been proven as a keyword for something we still like to call the "season".

Between that first article and this second installment, new cancelations have arrived, plus a few postponements to later months, usually September and October. Actually, what puzzles me the most is this kind of optimism some of my guests are showing by still not cancelling. At this very moment, I still have some 20 dates booked in May and June. Those numbers are just a joke compared to the almost daily tours I had in those two months last year, but it's amazing that there are still people expecting to be able to travel in less than two months from what most of us see as the Apocalypse. To make the picture even less bright, some of those dates are for cruisers which means they will be dropped off knowing that most cruise companies have put operations on hold for an indefinite time.

Contrary to some optimism drawn from those dates which were still not cancelled, but "only" postponed, there are no new bookings. It would be pretty insane to expect any these days (and a sign of insanity of those wishing to travel right now), but when I get the first one it will be well worthy of opening the finest bottle of wine I have at home. By the way, recently I heard probably the craziest question ever arriving from some tourist. Someone I know rents a villa close to Dubrovnik, and they pretty much gave up with most of the season, like most of us in the business. However, some ten days ago they got an e-mail from a potential guest, who said they plan to arrive in late April, so they wanted to know if the pool has heated water. Because it's the biggest problem.

All this is just for some personal encouragement, for the struggle for survival is much more bitter.

Many were relying on desperately expected government aid measures to help the economy recover. When they finally came, most of the business world wasn't very enthusiastic. "Wasn't very enthusiastic" is, of course, an understatement, for the general opinion was trashing those measures as insufficient. I'm not an economist, so I can only talk about those measures I hope I can count on. Tourism was immediately declared as an industry which will need a big injection. However, officials were mostly talking about hotels, restaurants, companies with employees, etc. They all have huge problems, and the unemployment rate will go sky high very soon. On the other hand, a whole army of independent, freelance tourism workers were almost ignored. I'm talking about all those accommodation owners, guides, drivers, skippers, all those self-employed sole traders, whose only source of income are the assignments they do. If I don't have a tour any given day, or week, or month, there is no salary like in smaller or bigger companies with employees having a (good, or not so good) contract. In normal times, it's usually a blessing not to depend on anyone. In times like this, which remind me of the plot of the Walking Dead, it's a curse.

The government measures triggered zillions of questions in the guiding community, with one big super-question floating above our heads: where are we in this? Going through the rules was like passing a bar exam, and trying to get some answers from any institution involved wasn't much easier. Initially, there was not a single mention of self-employed people, not even by the tourism ministry. There were some traces of our category carefully hidden behind bureaucratic phrases, but only for more careful readers. The Croatian Tourist Guides Association made an effort to make it easier to understand, and by pressuring institutions in charge, along with Croatian Chamber of Trades and Crafts, so we were given more clarity. The biggest help came through personal experiences and ideas shared on social networks, some on the Association of Tourist Guides Split Facebook group, but mostly through a Messenger group a bunch of us created in Split. That one was, and still is, real community and the one we need when in trouble. With some official clarification coming from the Croatian Employment Service, which is in charge for all measures, it was finally possible to apply. So I did, for both things I'm eligible for; monthly payments of the minimum wage for three months, and a three-month delay of tax and insurance payments. I'm still waiting for a reply, which will hopefuly be positive. I'm one of over a quarter of million workers who have applied, and it will take time to solve it. I hope I will start part three of this series with some good news.

Will it help? Not completely, especially that we will need to pay our duties later from income which won't come. However, it will at least delay, or soften the disaster. My advice to fellow guides (and others in a similar situation): apply. If you don't know how, ask those who did it, exchange everything you know, and look for explanations from colleagues who are maybe more literate in legal matters. Ask institutions, they have to reply, and read all the documents as carefully as possible.

In the meantime, what lies ahead? The number of positive cases from Coronavirus is still growing, and talking about tourism, or business in general, sounds like a fantasy. Or, if you want, complaining about it in the world where people die in thousands is like spoiled whining. Still, read this excellent account on 2020 tourism possibilities written by Paul Bradbury here on Total Croatia News. It offers some directions about the near future.

(To be continued)     

We will be following Ivica Profaca's journey through the rocky weeks ahead.

If you find yourself in Split, or are planning a post-corona visit, check out his range of tours on his website - families, look out for the kids tour of Diocletian Palace. It will not only entertain your kids while allowing you to absorb this unique UNESCO World Heritage Site, but it will bring out the inner child in you too. Learn more about it here

Saturday, 21 March 2020

Diary of a Split Tour Guide in the Age of Corona - Part 1

March 21, 2020 - After a long break, TCN is delighted to welcome back one of our most popular writers from the early days - Ivica Profaca, with a new series called Diary of a Split Tour Guide in the Age of Corona. 

It was supposed to be a season to remember. the first bookings for 2020 arrived as early as July 2019, and by the end of January, there were some fifty dates marked in my calendar.

And then, it happened. At first it was nothing really serious looking from our part of the world. News about the coronavirus broke in Asia, but most of my fellow guides - including me - were still going like "Oh, there might be some problems, but fortunately I don't have that many Asian groups". As news spread, especially with the virus coming much closer to our European neighbourhood, bookings just stopped. It wasn't like they faded out gradually, but at one point I (and others) realized that it had been some time since we had taken the last reservation. In February, there were still no cancellations, I even had two or three jobs, but e-mails and phones went completely silent. As time went on, silence was broken in a way nobody wanted, but we all expected. Usually, the message would start with "Unfortunately, due to the coronavirus situation, our guests decided to...", and then there were two possible sentence endings. The first one is relatively better, saying that they decided to postpone their trip, usually to September or October. The second one was "cancel".

Well, it will still be a season to remember, for different reasons. If it can be called a "season" at all.

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By now, it's clear that tourism as an industry has been put on hold in the whole world, leaving many people - especially those working on their own, as freelancers - without almost any income. Compared to getting sick and even dying, it is a lesser evil. However, the question remains - when the virus finally leaves us alone, what will happen? Will we ever travel on a scale we got used to? There is no answer, just waiting. There is no comfort in that, but it is a global issue. There is nobody to blame, it just happened. You want an example of just how global it is? This year I planned to do something on my travel bucket list, walk the Hadrian's Wall Path in northern England. I booked it through a small English family agency, they did an excellent job sorting the whole itinerary out. Now, in the strange version of a domino effect, if I don't have my usual quantity this summer, I won't be able to go there, damaging someone else's business. I really don't remember any other situation when we were all in the same shoes, anywhere.    

While it still looked like there might be a season, I was preparing for it, like any other guide I know in Split and Dalmatia. Recently, I got a guiding license for Šibenik-Knin county, broadening my market. I have agencies I work with, but I also approached some others, too. With a little help from dear colleagues mediating, contacts and some nice deals were made. Furthermore, I turned even more to online platforms, after AirBnB Experience proved to be a success. In addition to my web site, now I also have tours on Trip Advisor and Viator. I applied to different guiding services, created new products, etc. My whole winter was dedicated to making this year as good as possible.

Everything is now on hold, in some cases literally, and the city looks like a ghost town with everything but food stores closed. For example, AirBnB Experience has stopped all booking until April 3, or until further notice. All flights are cancelled, and the low-cost season is postponed. easyJet, as the biggest operator flying to Split, has grounded their planes even before they even started coming, on March 24. Most cruise companies, like Costa, cancelled their trips, too. Knowing that most of ships come to Split from Venice, it makes sense, and it's questionable when they will resume their operations, with the current disaster still ongoing in Italy. It's not connected with the guiding job, but for tourism in Split, especially accommodations, another blow might come with possible cancellation of Ultra Europe. To be honest, knowing how many people arrive for that event - many of them caring about nothing but the party - maybe it would be best if Ultra is cancelled.

So, that's the current situation. While I'm writing this on March 21, the national crisis headquarters has announced that in the last 24 hours there were more about 80 new cases of COVID-19 in Croatia, and nobody knows where it will stop. This is the moment is to save lives, and to obey orders to contain the virus as much as possible. If it's possible.

However, the future without coronavirus is coming. How soon? Optimistic versions say sometime from July or August, but it's impossible to predict. Many guests - especially those coming on small, private tours - have postponed their trips to September or October. Fortunately, that means that my calendar for that part of the year is filling up. There is still a chance that the situation won't get better until then, but we hope it will. Talking with other guides - it always helps to be in touch with those in the same situation - the usual prediction is that resumption will come at some point, but hardly before August.

Actually, when I think about this situation, there is one thing I can't imagine what it will look like. What has to happen that someone in charge will be able to say "OK, we're fine, go fly, drive, sail, travel"? Even when it happens, how long will it pass before people dare to sit on a plane, or board a ferry without holding social distance to everyone else?

In the meantime, besides taking all precautions not to get infected, the economy is collapsing right in front of our eyes. As a freelancer, and small business owner, I might expect some of the measures announced by the Croatian government will apply to guides, and other similar jobs. Those measures are not perfect, but anything might help, when it comes. Right now, looking to the near future, day-to-day survival is the name of the game. Personally, I can still count on some writing and other jobs to fill up the family budget, many others have only guiding as a source of income. If this is prolonged, we will really talk about survival.

(To be continued)

We will be following Ivica Profaca's journey through the rocky weeks ahead.

If you find yourself in Split, or are planning a post-corona visit, check out his range of tours on his website - families, look out for the kids tour of Diocletian Palace. It will not only entertain your kids while allowing you to absorb this unique UNESCO World Heritage Site, but it will bring out the inner child in you too. Learn more about it here.  

Thursday, 1 August 2019

Creating Quality Content: Ivica Profaca Diocletian Palace Walking Tour for Young Kids

August 1, 2019 - Want to learn the secrets of a fabulous UNESCO World Heritage Site but have your small children in tow? Now you can with Explore Split With Your Kids, a new Diocletian's Palace by Ivica Profaca.

As parents, we have all been there.

On holiday in a historic and cultural place and desperate to explore the heritage and learn more of the fascinating history of the city we are visiting. 

But we are on holiday with the kids... 

There is absolutely no chance of you being able to enjoy a fascinating 2-hour walking tour of a historic place with bored kids pestering you every 5 minutes for ice cream or to do something more interesting. 

Until now. 

Meet Ivica Profaca and his (relatively) new Explore Split with Your Kids 2-hour walking tour of Diocletian's Palace and central Split. 

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Longtime followers of TCN will be familiar with the name Ivica Profaca. He was arguably the most popular contributor to the TCN project during his time as the main writer for Total Split, and it was with heavy heart that we agreed to part due to his increasing commitments elsewhere. He taught me more about Split than anyone has about any city in the world, and I doubt there are many people alive who know their home town as well as young Ivica. 

Although busy schedules have prevented a catch-up cold one for some time, we keep in touch by Messenger, and I often send him things about Split he might not know about, but he always does. And then one day a few months ago in the bank in Varazdin, I came across a rather unusual painting of Diocletian's Palace surrounded by water. No, he knew nothing about it. Ha! Finally, after 6 years, I had found something about Split that was unknown to Profaca.

I digress.

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Ivica's new direction was tourism and he took all the exams to qualify for a tour guide. With all that knowledge, a journalist background, time spent in the States, a great sense of humour and a great personal rapport with people, now he could make a living talking about the thing he loves as much as anything - his native city of Split. 

A few years ago, a friend asked me to organise a private walking tour of Diocletian's Palace for a world-renowned cathedral architect. He was gushing in his praise after Ivica's tour. Young Ivica is also a lot more proactive than most, offering the Expats meet Split group a free walking tour, so that they could learn more of their new home, meet new people, and fall in love with - and recommend - Ivica's tour. It was a hit. 

But his latest move is genius. Explore Split with Your Kids. Before I tell you about it, here are a couple of the several 5-star reviews so far: 

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Ivica's tour was wonderful. We took the tour he offers aimed for children and it wasn't just the 8 and 6-year-olds who loved it; myself and my husband found it fascinating too. We definitely felt like we got to see parts of Diocletian's Palace that we would never have seen on our own. Ivica engaged our kids really well during the tour, not only using age-appropriate language and examples but also maps and tick charts for them to follow along; he also had personalised certificates for them at the end (plus a sweet treat). I cannot recommend this tour highly enough.

We organised this tour for our 8-year-old son. We got to see the city and keep the boy busy and engaged. We would not be able to interest him in a city tour otherwise...which I believe is quite important for kids development/education. It was equally interesting for us, as adults. Would recommend for anyone visiting with children.

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As a loving father, Ivica knows all about dealing with children and how to make things more interesting for them. Here is how he introduces his tour:

It can be difficult to make children interested in historical tours, and Split is no exception. This is one of the very few children-friendly tours. I will give you an insight into historic attractions in a more simple and children-suitable way. As a father myself, I know stories and legends connected with Split. We will look for ancient hidden wall inscriptions and Egyptian sphinxes, pass through Roman gates, make a wish by rubbing a toe of Bishop Grgur's giant statue. Depending on when the tour takes place, we will attend the re-enactment of the Roman guard ceremony and Emperor Diocletian's salute, which takes place every day at 12. At the end, we will visit the oldest pastry shop in Split, tasting traditional homemade style treats. 

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You can learn more about the tour and how to book it here.

Ivica has lots of other tours, of course, and you can follow Ivica Profaca's guide Facebook page - it is a great way to learn more about Split. 

And if you do go on the tour, tell him to contribute an article to TCN from time to time... 

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Booming Split, a Changing Destination: Interview with Journalist/Tour Guide Ivica Profaca

Split is in the middle of a tourism boom, a destination which has changed a lot in the last ten years. TCN caught up with local tour guide and journalist Ivica Profaca to found out how his native city is changing.