Saturday, 3 August 2019

Little Luxury, Pricey Mass Tourism: TCN Interview with Tportal on Croatian Tourism

August 3, 2019 - Total Croatia News featured in a big article in Tportal today, entitled 'Crazy Englishman from Jelsa' - Guys, snap out of it, Croatia does not have a luxury tourism product and is too expensive for mass tourism. Here is what I suggest' by Damir Petranovic. An English translation.  

Seventeen years after he first set foot on the island, the '’crazy Englishman from Jelsa’' - as the locals quickly took to calling him - has given this little Hvar town a real tourism strategy.

"Some Simple Steps to Improve the 2 Star Tourism Strategy in Jelsa on Hvar" is the title of an extensive article published on Bradbury's Total Croatia News (TCN) portal, which easily diagnosed the causes of stagnation and suggested a number of coherent and concrete proposals for a radical turnaround. In an interview with tportal, he explained what he wanted to achieve, but as now a great connoisseur of opportunities, he also addressed the possible implications at the national level.

This Brit has been known for many years as one of the best promoters of Croatian tourism, but at the same time one of the biggest critics of how it is being managed: among the most well-remembered are, let’s say, his devastating analysis of the ‘'Croatia 365’' project or the recent announcement that ‘’there would be no less tourists coming tomorrow if we abolished the Croatian National Tourist Board’’, Still, the positives prevail, and so Bradbury’s biography boasts a series of remarkable ventures.

Firstly, upon his arrival to Hvar, he issued the first complete tourist guide on the island, then realised that there was enough news there to launch a local portal, then on the same principle as Total Hvar, he launched Total Split, Total Inland Dalmatia, Total Zagreb and Total Dubrovnik, and finally Total Croatia News, named the most influential Croatian medium in the English language, affiliated with Google News. This was followed by the launch of portals specialised in cycling, wine and sailing, followed by the unofficial title of the most influential Croatian blogger, various workshops and entrepreneurial ventures. A few years ago, he moved to Varazdin.

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He is the only person to win the FIJET Marco Polo award at the National Society of Journalists twice – in 2014 for best international promotion of Croatia, and in 2017 for a feature on Advent in Zagreb – and he has been invited to submit his work on medical tourism to the inaugural Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council media awards in Kuala Lumpur later this month.

Bradbury, a man with a rich biography and over 90 travelled countries, ended up almost by accident in Croatia. He admits that he lived in a kind of bubble until he realised the meaning of the word '’uhljeb’', and from that period on, his observations were unavoidable reading for a better understanding of Croatian reality, while at the same time, his Facebook profile was both fun, sad, and educative. and instructive.

Just last month, he began posting short videos there from the July peak season in Jelsa. Snapshots of the half-empty town square were an overture to him in anticipation of the results of this year's tourism statistics, but also the basis for the great article mentioned in the introduction. In it, he referred to the ‘'all-inclusive'’ practice that has little or no benefit to the local community, excursion boat tours that bring thousands of tourists to Jelsa just to get ice cream there and look back confused because they have no idea how to fill those few hours, as well as today's unsuccessful branding of a place with exactly 108 years of organised tourism.

And then he suggested some concrete measures - from promoting Jelsa as the Dalmatian wine capital, organising sports events and optimising cooperation with neighbouring towns and islands, to, say, a concrete connection with a Norwegian town also called Jelsa. We will not retell Bradbury's theory, because the article is really worth reading (English version link at the top of this article, Croatian version here), like his suggestion for branding Croatia and improving tourism at the national level and resetting Croatian tourism - Branding Croatia: 5 Trends and Gifts to Focus On.

We therefore asked Bradbury to look at some other, related topics in a quick, layman-like way for tportal.

What are the reactions in Jelsa to this article?

I am not in Jelsa at the moment, so I can't really answer that question. Perhaps the most interesting response was a public one from the phenomenal Run Croatia project, who are very keen to work with Jelsa to initiate the first-ever Run Croatia Week. A great first step to restoring Jelsa's sporting traditions. The way that Run Croatia is expanding, having Jelsa as a flagship first destination for a Run Croatia Week could be the start of something beautiful. As you see below, they are only waiting for Jelsa's call to get started.

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You mentioned a lawsuit from the Mayor – can you be more specific?

You will have to ask the Mayor. He chose to announce it in a public meeting in Vrboska a year ago. As I still haven't received the lawsuit, I am not sure what it is about.

What was the motivation for doing this kind of story?

My main motivation was sadness. Sad that such a lovely destination which has been so good to me over so many years is offering such poor tourism, and friends in the tourism business are suffering for no reason. As you can see from my article, my suggestions are not rocket science. They are simple to implement, cost mostly nothing, and will have a very positive effect as soon as next year. See Run Croatia above.

Is this problem specific for Jelsa, or can some of this advice be applied to Croatian tourism in general?

Yes, I think almost all of it can be applied elsewhere. There is nothing complicated in what I suggested, but sometimes it takes a foreign eye to give a different viewpoint. The big question is what does Croatian tourism offer on the coast? And the answer, sadly, is very little apart from the sun and the sea. And as we have seen with the weather this season, we can't even guarantee that now. Does Croatian tourism have a Plan B when climate change really kicks in?

What are your impressions of Croatian tourism in general – this season, and compared to 2002?

Everyone got really excited in the last few years as tourism was booming, as though it was due to some kind of strategic plan, and everyone was 'doing tourism' and making cash which meant to them handing over an apartment key and taking the cash. In reality, due to terror attacks and other circumstances, tourists to Egypt, Turkey, Tunisia, even Greece to a point, were looking for somewhere to go. Croatia couldn't lose. And did they try and see if they could win these guests for the long term? No. The prices were high, the service poor, and there was nothing to do apart from the sun and the sea. So when Turkey etc were safe once more, where do you think they went?

So Croatia can't compete in terms of price with these cheaper destinations in the mass tourism market which offer much better value. And it cannot compete at the luxury end, as there are no hotels (there are about 6 billion euro in blocked projects on the Adriatic). Check how many luxury hotel brands there are in tiny Montenegro (6 times less coastline, only 11 islands), for example, then check in Croatia.

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Business Insider researched luxury tourism providers to find out where the top 15 countries billionaires were visiting in 2019. Montenegro was in there, so was Rwanda. Croatia? Not a chance.

So in 2019, after years of being Full of Life, what is Croatia as a destination? Hardly anything to offer the luxury market, too expensive for the mass market. I think Istria is an exception to this, and tourism is working much better there. But there really is no brand, and no real offer, and it is expensive.

I have been doing a series of interviews on tourism businesses having record years in recent days to find out what they were doing. Vanja from Adriatic Travel Collection is doing incredible things in top luxury tourism in Croatia and I recommend her interview to your readers.

And I couldn't agree more with this sentence:

I am also tired of people who always complain. They have to start changing their offer, finding their niche. 80’s tourism is in the past and the majority are still offering just that, sun and sea. It is actually that simple.

I have never been one just to criticise without offering something constructive. I think Croatian tourism needs a complete reset, and here is how I would do it.

Jelsa in 2002? I obviously have a very romantic memory of that time, having just arrived and meeting my future wife in the Jelsa library, so it is hard to compare. But it seemed that locals tried harder with their tourists back then, that there were more relationships. Tourists were more loyal to destinations back then, these days it is all about the Instagram checklist.

Lately there was a lot of talk about the Croatian National Tourist Board, some people said it's useless an no one would notice if it was shut down. What is your opinion on that?

Well I gave an interview in the Croatian media last week which was read over 100,000 times called Brit who lives in Croatia: If the Croatian National Tourist Board was abolished tomorrow, there would be no fewer tourists. Maybe the title answers the question.

Where do you see Croatian tourism in the next few years?

It could be incredible, really incredible. Or it could be a worsening version of what we have today. As in every other section of Croatian society. I think we all know what the main problem in Croatia is.

Many international experts agree, for example, that Croatia could be in the top 10 in the world within 10 years for this lucrative, 12-month, and rapidly expanding medical tourism industry. If Croatia could gets its act together and the stakeholders unite. Learn more in Can Croatian Officials Unite to Exploit Huge Medical Tourism Opportunity?

But that is the story of every part of Croatian society. The system has to change, but will people get on the streets and demand change? They only get on the streets to celebrate football and heroes like Oliver. I suggested recently that we name a National Keyboard Warrior Offline Day, and get all our keyboard warrior heroes who spit hate and dissatisfaction to go offline for one day and all assemble in Zagreb and demand change. Haha, right, as though that might happen.

Read the original Tportal article here

Saturday, 3 August 2019

Why Jelsa's Tourism Future is Bright: Explained in 1 Tourist Facebook Post

August 3, 2019 - While Jelsa may be having a poor season with its current 2-star tourism strategy, the future is very bright indeed - listen to what the tourists are saying after they discover the secrets Jelsa doesn't share. 

I have spent a bit of time this summer looking at the current state of tourism in my beloved Jelsa on Hvar. Saddened by the poor quality in a destination which could do so much better, I decided to give something back to the town which has given me so much - a proper tourism strategy, much of which can be implemented in time for next season. You can read Some Simple Steps to Improve Jelsa's 2-Star Tourism Strategy on Hvar, as well as a Croatian version here

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One of the key failures of Jelsa currently, after 108 years of tourism, is that nobody knows what Jelsa's brand is. There is something vague about it being a relaxing place, family-friendly, good wines. Nothing more. One local probably summed the general feeling better than most:

Jelsa today is not "branded". Now regarding the type of destination, I'd say it's a reasonably pleasant, family-friendly town

It doesn't exactly get you booking your flight, does it?

My suggestion (and you can read more in the link above) is to brand Jelsa as the Relaxed Family Lifestyle in the Dalmatian Wine Capital.

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I want to tell you about one guest who rented our place recently. After arriving in Jelsa (and possibly through the information we made available, but not necessarily), he heard that there was a British Master of Wine somewhere near Jelsa, the only one in all Croatia. 

With no car, the couple went off in search of the winery of Jo Ahearne MW, but ended up in the wrong village, in Pitve, before finally tracking down the winery in Vrisnik. They were disappointed to find it closed (Jo does tastings by appointment generally, as she is a one-woman band and there is plenty to do elsewhere). I am not in Jelsa at the moment, and when I spoke to my wife that evening, she mentioned that the guests were very keen to taste her Rosina rose in particular. Jo is a good friend of mine and I knew that she was playing with her Posip grapes on Korcula. I messaged her to find out when she was back, and it turned out there was a window before the guests left the island where she could accommodate them. As they had no car, my wife happily drove them to Vrisnik. As for the rest, I leave it to the Facebook comment on Jo's winery's Facebook page:

We did not know anything about the Dalmatian wine scene before coming to Hvar, and was prepared to drink beer and water as we have done on previous occasions. To our great surprise the island of Hvar has an immigrated master of wine in Jo Ahearne (you will only find around 400 masters of wine in the world, it is not like any other college degree), living only ten minutes drive from where we stayed in the beautiful city of Jelsa. We booked a tasting of her bottled wines (two whites, one rose and two reds), and was blown away by the quality of her winemaking. She uses mostly local grape varieties (Posip, Drnekusha and Plavac Mali). This is a totally different ballgame than other wines we have tried in Croatia, and absolutely worth a trip if you are into wine. Drenkusha is for example an indigenous grape found on the island, almost extinct, and in Jo´s hands turned into top-notch rose (which also landed a 90 point rating in the English wine magazine Decanter this July). Thank you for a great visit, we look forward to drink all the bottles that we brought home.

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Fantastic, a win all round. Very happy guests, a successful tasting and some money in the pocket of a local business. Bottles purchased to take home and sample, perhaps with friends who could then learn more about Dalmatian wine and its capital. 

But the post got me thinking. Everything about the story was 'slucajno' - accidental. The guest happened to hear about the Dalmatian wine scene, then about Jo. The tasting was finally arranged late at night (after 10pm) because the host happened to be a friend of the Master of Wine. 

What IF the guests had known about the Dalmatian wine capital before arriving? While Jo is the undoubted star of the Hvar wine scene, there are many other winemakers in and around Jelsa who provide diverse and fascinating wine tasting options. I went into this at some length recently with my concept to brand Hvar as a gourmet destination - The Dalmatian Wine Capital with the UNESCO Mediterranean Diet

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What if instead of Jelsa today is not "branded". Now regarding the type of destination, I'd say it's a reasonably pleasant, family-friendly town, we changed it to the Relaxed Family Lifestyle in the Dalmatian Wine Capital.

"Hey honey, take a look at this place, it looks perfect. It is the capital of Dalmatian wine, with some great tasting experiences. The island's Mediterranean Diet is UNESCO-protected, so I bet the food is healthy and good. This Jelsa place apparently has great beaches, has a chilled lifestyle, great day trips, is very safe, laid back and family-friendly with a great little square for morning coffee and croissants. So lots to do with the kids, and all those indigenous grapes look really exciting to explore. Heck, they even have a British Master of Wine doing tastings of her wines made from indigenous Hvar grapes. What do you say, shall I see if I can find some nice accommodation with a terrace and sea view? It looks gorgeous."

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Learn more about the Jo Ahearne MW tasting experience just a couple of kilometres outside Jelsa

Interested to learn more about Jelsa? 25 things to know about Hvar's (and Dalmatia's) wine capital.

Friday, 2 August 2019

Lies, Damned Lies and Croatian Statistics Said Mark Twain, Kind Of

August 3, 2019 - A deeper look into the tourism statistics in Jelsa on Hvar points to the realities of season 2019 in Croatia beyond the headline numbers.  

Statistics are such useful things. On the one hand, they can be used to track progress on things, while on the other, they can be interpreted in certain ways to fit a particular narrative. 

And when - as is the case with the Croatian tourism chiefs - the powers that be decide that statistics (and their interpretation of them) will be the biggest barometer of success, then having control of public opinion of the interpretation of those statistics becomes crucial. 

And so when the Ministry of Tourism decided to restrict access to the transparent, award-winning, real-time eVisitor statistics reporting system, I was not the only one who was suspicious that there was something 'going on.'

Some people think I am a tourism expert because I write a lot about Croatian tourism. I am not. I am a former male chambermaid turned wine merchant turned aid worker turned English teacher in Japan turned real estate agent turned writer. My first article published online was less than 8 years ago. 

My understanding of Croatian tourism is still evolving, and I - like many others - was impressed at the growth of tourism in Croatia. Record number of tourists, record overnight stays. It was all good. 

Or was it?

The overtourism debate in Dubrovnik started to spill over to other places on the coast, and somewhere along the way, the charm of the Dalmatian coast (I am referring mostly to the Adriatic coast here, and would also like to point out that little of this refers to Istria) seemed to be getting lost with an ever-increasing influx of tourists on the mainland. Were all these extra tourists a good thing, and were they actually spending to compensate for the inconvenience?

There has been a growing call in recent months for cruise ships to be limited, to have a general rethink on the tourism strategy. This mass tourism strategy is not healthy, and anyway Croatia cannot really compete with the likes of Turkey, Tunisia and Egypt, who are all now back in competition after recent terror attacks. And as there is a severe lack of quality hotels, luxury tourists are looking elsewhere. 

But the statistics. If statistics are the thing you have decided to be judged on, then statistics you must deliver at any cost. The quality of the tourism has become less important than the statistics. If Minister Cappelli can announce that last year's record overnights of 106 million (54 million more than in 1990) has been exceeded, then he can officially declare the season a success and a vindication of his 'strategy.'

But is it? Is judging a tourist season by its arrivals and overnight stays the way to measure success? If we all worship at the Temple of Record Overnight Stays and feed it more and more overnights to make the temple bigger, is that what we call success? Or a strategy? 

Statistics. As Mark Twain famously wrote, there are lies, damned lies and statistics. Let's take a closer look. 

As readers of TCN will know, I have been following the season very closely in my adopted hometown of Jelsa on Hvar this summer. I felt saddened enough by the low-quality tourism that this lovely town is now enduring, while at the same time enjoying a lovely summer - the empty Jelsa of summer 2019 is as nice as I have known it. And if you have not booked a holiday yet, then come! There are some great offers for an affordable holiday, as we will discover below. 

 

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The statistics for the 2019 season to the end of July are now finally available, so let's dive in to see how Jelsa is doing, as it seemed so empty in July. And remember, statistics can be interpreted to suit any narrative. 

The first surprise in such a seemingly empty destination is that tourist arrivals are actually UP! By 1.44% compared to this time last year. Is this the World Cup dividend finally coming to light?

But then, if you wanted to write a negative narrative, you could say that the overnight stays were down 0.91%

Either way, this is a good season, isn't it? What the hell is that fat, pink Brit complaining about? 

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Here are the arrivals and overnight stays by country for the first 7 months. In Minister Cappelli's Kingdom of Accidental Tourism, All Overnight Stays are Equal.

As a foreign fly on the wall, I beg to differ. I think that overnight stays from countries who are also going to spend in the bars, restaurants and on tours are worth more than those bringing their own food and drink and looking for the cheapest option to have their summer holiday on the beach. But he is the minister and I am just a blogger, so what would I know. 

If we look at the overnights so far, the only countries which are up are from Eastern Europe (big welcome to our friends from Ukraine, up 177%). If we look at who is down, we have Austria (-20%), Norway (-19%), UK (-12%), Italy (-14%). The higher spending East Europeans are also down (Poland and Serbia - 10%).

Not great news for the restaurants. 

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These are the numbers for July, the month I was documenting - while Norway was down almost 30%, Bosnia was up 12%. We will figure out why in a moment. 

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If we look at the hotels in Jelsa, they are having a great season - at least the main two are - 15% more arrivals than last year. Great news for Minister Cappelli's spreadsheet.  

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So who is staying in the hotels, and where are the biggest increases coming from? Ukraine (269% on overnight stays), Slovenia (30%) and Bosnia (20%). It is nice to see that there are 13% more Croatians in Jelsa this year - many complain that the coast is too expensive for them these days, especially islands such as Hvar. So why the big increases in the hotels from places like Bosnia and Ukraine, for example? 

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Could it be something to do with price, perhaps? An example of some of the offers for Jelsa hotels being discounted already this summer. In the cheapest offer of them all (available for the first three weeks of July), 2 adults (1,750 kuna each) and one child under 12 (free) could have a week in a hotel room close to the sea and a great beach, with breakfast and dinner, free WiFi and parking for just 3,500 kuna inclusive. 

Or 166 kuna per day per person. 

That includes the agency fee, taxes, running costs, and all the rest.

Expensive Hvar? Never was it so affordable! We live 100 metres from the hotel and only half-jokingly talked about moving in for a week to save money. A REALLY good value holiday, and with such an excellent beach and everything in the hotel, no need to go and spend downtown. Perhaps on an ice cream for the little one. 

In Minister Cappelli's Temple of Record Overnights, All Overnights are Equal.  

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And just in case you are cursing yourself for missing out on such a bargain, relax. There is still time. It will cost you 39 kuna a day extra now in August, but that family of three can enjoy magical Jelsa for just 205 kuna a day. Book here. 21 more overnights for the hallowed spreadsheet.

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How is it going in private accommodation? Up with East Europeans, down with Germany, Austria and Norway.

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Camping has always been one of Jelsa's accommodation strong points. With several camps within walking distance of the catamaran, it is the perfect place for camping tourists to base themselves when coming to Hvar. 

Not this year. 

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Perhaps the most surprising - and alarming - statistics are in this table. 

After 108 years of tourism in the town, nobody still has any idea what Jelsa's brand is. Most people talk about it being a family destination. More a destination for old people and teenagers these days it seems, rather than young families and parents aged 25-44. 

So what have we learned?

Jelsa is extremely good value, with bed, breakfast and dinner available even today from 205 kuna per person per day. Tourists from the region are taking advantage of those offers and then staying within the hotels, while the traditional higher-spending guests from places like Germany, Austria and Norway are going elsewhere, which is leaving the restaurants and the town considerably emptier. 

It is the worst kind of tourism Jelsa could have, but Minister Cappelli will be able to preach from the pulpit at the Temple of Record Overnight Stays about how well Croatian tourism is doing. 

Just make sure you don't ask him to explain the World Cup tourism dividend.

In this era of manipulated information, some will cry Fake News. Others will not believe something unless they see it. A quote from my recent blueprint to improve Jelsa tourism, Some Simple Steps to Improve Jelsa's 2-Star Tourism Strategy on Hvar

I posted quite a few of these on my Facebook wall (apologies to my FB friends) because I wanted to document the reality when the inevitable will happen when the statistics are announced. We will be blinded by science and spreadsheets about numbers and overnights. Those Ukranian 21 overnights will cover up the real situation to save some ministerial embarrassment. As the hotels are filling with low-cost half-board tourists, the restaurants are complaining that the higher-spending guests, such as Norwegians, are a lot less this year. Does 21 Ukrainian half-board overnights equal 21 Norwegians in private accommodation and eating in the restaurants and drinking in the bars? For the spreadsheets, they are the same. For tourism revenue to Jelsa businesses, I would put the ratio at 21:3.

For the more visual types, a selection of videos of Jelsa's tourist season in July, shot at different times of the day. I am sure Minister Cappelli can only see packed tables and a main square Full of Life. 

July 8, 2019. 19:25

July 8, 2019. 20:45

July 8, 2019. 22:00

Jelsa, 18:45, July 13

19:45, July 13

21:00, July 13

21:45, July 13

July 16, 2019, 20:35

July 16, 22:55

July 20, 12:30

July 20, 12:40

July 20, 19:10

July 20, 2019 at 21:00

July 21, 20:30

July 21, 20:40

July 21, 22:40

July 22, 19:35

 

Sunday, 28 July 2019

Neki jednostavni koraci za poboljšanje turističke strategije 2 zvjezdice u Jelsi na Hvaru

26. srpnja 2019. - Proglašena najboljom destinacijom bivše Jugoslavije 1983. godine, ove godine Jelsa, prema riječima mnogih domaćih, ima najgoru sezonu u posljednje vrijeme. Stoga, saznajte kakva je situacija na terenu i, još važnije, može li se turizam popraviti? Studija slučaja koju je proveo TCN kaže da može, relativno lako.

Prošlo je gotovo 17 godina otkako sam došao trajektom iz Drvenika u Sućuraj, 15. kolovoza 2002., posjetiti Hvar po prvi puta tražeći kuću. Nakon što sam se provezao praznim selima istočnoga Hvara, bilo je pravo zadovoljstvo doći u Jelsu u punoj sezoni. Bila je to ljubav na prvi pogled, a Jelsu sam napustio niti 48 sati kasnije, nakon što sam pronašao malenu kuću u starom gradu koja će mi uskoro postati dom.

Bilo mi je dobro u Jelsi kroz sve ove godine dok sam tamo živio s divnom suprugom i dvije prekrasne kćerke, sve dok se prije par godina nisam preselio u Varaždinsku županiju. Svih sam tih godina tužno gledao kako izostaje razvoj turizma u takvom prekrasnom mjestu, ali ništa nije bilo baš toliko loše kao ovo što sam doživio ove godine. A kad kažem 'loše', mislim na broj i kvalitetu turista - Jelsa je zapravo prekrasna ove godine, i ako tražite neku kasnu opciju za doći na odmor, postoje mnoge opcije. Dođite, posjetite Jelsu!

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Jasno da je odluka gradonačelnika Jelse da javno objavi da će me tužiti prošloga ljeta malo promijenila moj pogled. Siguran sam da ću saznati o čemu se točno radi u toj tužbi kad ona konačno stigne, no u međuvremenu, želim mu odati priznanje za značajne uspjehe koje je ostvario pri privlačenju EU fondova te unaprjeđivanju infrastrukture i izgleda grada, uključujući i novu rivu. Neću se praviti da mi se sve promjene sviđaju, ali svakako stoji da je napravljeno mnogo toga.

No, kad se radi o turizmu, to ne vrijedi - barem po mom mišljenju.

Prije nekoliko godina, mali usputni blog koji sam pisao postao je najvažnija priča u Hrvatskoj na jedan dan, kao i tema lokalnih rasprava tjednima (The Politics of Christmas Decorations: We Don't Celebrate Christmas Here). Neki domaći su prigovarali na činjenicu da se na glavnom trgu kao ukras nalazila zvijezda petokraka, simbol Jugoslavije. Tijekom jedne pauze za ručak, skinuta je i zamijenjena Betlehemskom zvijezdom, čemu sam osobno prisustvovao i napisao post na blogu o tome.  Reakcije na to su bile iznimno glasne i podijeljene točno prema podjelama u hrvatskom društvu. Bilo mi je malo žao gradonačelnika, jer se nalazio u situaciji u kojoj nije mogao pobijediti, ali sam mu odmah savjerovao da ne učini ono što je planirao. Bila je to dobra ideja, ali...

Njegov vrlo razuman kompromis bio je da stavi obje zvijezde, što ne bi bilo loše u nekom ne-turističkom gradu.

"Dobra je ideja, ali ako to učinite, službeno ćete Jelsu proglasiti prvom turističkom destinacijom s dvije zvjezdice u Hrvatskoj."

Dvije zvijezde su ostale, a s njima i turistička strategija dvije zvjezdice. Što je i razlog zašto je Jelsa u tako osiromašenom položaju.

A ne bi trebala biti.

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Mogu razumjeti da se gradonačelnik više koncentrirao na velike planove o razvoju Jelse i njene infrastrukture, a manje na turizam. U krajnjoj liniji, sada imamo četvrtoga direktora Turističke zajednice Jelse u posljednjih 5 godina, od čega se već 4 radi na novoj web stranici.

Posljednjih sam par tjedana MNOGO razgovarao s ljudima u Jelsi o toj destinaciji, skupljajući njihove stavove. Dokumentirao sam dijelove trenutačne sezone, te sam primijenio nešto svoga znanja i opservacija iz perspektive stranca, te nudim svoje preporuke i rješenja koja bi turizam u Jelsi mogla učiniti boljim već sljedeće sezone. Da bismo došli do preporuka, smatram da je važno da otvoreno i pošteno vidimo koliko su stvari postale loše. Tek tada možemo priznati sadašnju situaciju i potražiti načine da se ona poboljša.

Fasten your seatbelts. 

Gdje je Jelsa sada?

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Budući da je Ministarstvo turizma odlučio ograničiti pristup transparentnom, međunarodno nagrađivanom sustavu eVisitor, teško mi je potpuno kompetentno reći koliko je sezona zapravo loša, ali znakovi postoje čim pogledate oko sebe.

Jelsa nije mjesto blagoslovljeno najboljim hotelima (više o tome kasnije), ali njihove lokacije su fantastične. Kao i cijene u njima. Rezervirajte danas i dobit ćete 7 polupansiona, besplatan WiFi i parking, za par s djetetom ispod 12 godina za ukupnu cijenu od 3980 kuna, što ispada 535 eura za tročlanu obitelj. Ne morate potrošiti ništa novca u gradu, sve imate u hotelu s plažom, posebno ako sa sobom dovezete pića i neke sitnice. I ta tročlana obitelj pridodat će 21 noćenje statistici Hrama Rekordnog Broja Noćenja. 

To su cijene danas, dok pišem ovaj članak. Ako tražite neko ljetovanje u zadnji čas, molim vas, dođite u Jelsu. Jelsa je PREKRASNA u ovom trenutku, a ovo je zaista dobra ponuda odmah uz fantastičnu plažu. Evo i linka na stranice agencije koja prodaje ovaj paket. Kada oduzmete agencijsku proviziju, poreze i operativne troškove, pretpostavljam da ne ostane gotovo ništa. Ali, barem imamo dodano 21 noćenje u onu Svetu Tablicu.

Makarski Jadran - 12:30, 20. srpnja

Drugi glavni izvor turizma, zapravo ovih dana to bi bio prvi, su turistički brodovi koji dolaze iz Makarske na sat ili dva. Radi se o brodovima s ribljim piknikom, koji staju u Bolu i Jelsi (ponekad Vrboskoj), a onda se vraćaju u Makarsku. Najpoznatiji je legendarni Makarski Jadran, koji svakako razbudi grad svaki put kad pristaje i odlazi. Da dobijete dojam kako to izgleda, kao i da vidite kako je Jelsa izgledala u 12:30 na 20. srpanj.

Čini mi se da svaki brod plaća 25 kuna po metru za dolazak u Jelsu (nekad je bilo kunu po putniku, rekao bih, ali molim da me netko ispravi ako sam u krivu) - iako mi je netko rekao da se za zaustavljanja ispod dva sata plaća niskih 2 kune po metru broda. Ako itko zna koliko točno plaća Makarski Jadran, naprimjer, javite mi, dodat ću u članak. Oko 1000 posjetitelja dođe u Jelsu svaki dan na tim brodovima. Godinama ih već gledam. Siđu s broda, najčešće ne znaju niti gdje su niti što bi sa sobom. Uglavnom krenu prema glavnom trgu, koji izgleda kao centar. Onda krenu u stari grad, ali se brzo vrate, zastajući samo na sladoled ili pivu i čekaju brod koji odlazi sat ili dva kasnije. A onda, kao što vidite gore, grad se vraća u san. To je prekrasno, posebno u ovo doba pretjeranog turizma.

Glavni trg - 8. srpanj, 20:45

Naši gosti koji paze na troškove uživaju u zalasku sunca u hotelima, pa to ostavlja mnogo mjesta u barovima i restoranima u gradu. Čini se da je više restorana u Jelsi zatvoreno nego otvoreno, prvi put u posljednjih mnogo godina. Glavni trg u 20:45, 8. srpanj.
 

Glavni trg i cjelokupna riva te posjet Lavandermanu - 20:30, 21. srpnja

Kako su se cijene paketa u hotelima još snizile u srpnju, stvoreno je više svetih noćenja, ali to se nažalost nije preslikalo na pune stolove restorana. Duža šetnja glavnim trgom i rivom u 20:30, 21. srpnja.
 

Glavni trg - 21. srpanj, 22:40

Možda su svi zauzeti i nisu mogli stići tako rano. Glavni trg u 22:40 iste večeri. Mnoge sam ove snimke postavio na svoj Facebook zid (isprike mojim FB prijateljima), jer sam htio dokumentirati stvarnost za onaj neizbježan trenutak kad budu objavljene statistike. Bit ćemo zaslijepljeni znanošću i tablicama o brojevima i noćenjima. To ukrajinsko 21 noćenje zasjenit će stvarnu situaciju, da bi se nekog ministra spasilo sramoćenja. Dok se hoteli pune gostima nižeg standarda u polupansionima, restorani se tuže da gosti koji su bolji potrošači, poput naprimjer Norvežana, gotovo da ni ne dolaze ove godine. Je li 21 ukrajinsko noćenje u polupansionu jednako 21 norveškom noćenju u privatnom smještaju, uz objedovanje u restoranima i pijenje u barovima? Za tablice, oni jesu jednaki. Ali, u kontekstu turističkog prihoda za one koji posluju u Jelsi, ja bih taj omjer stavio na 21:3.

I molim vas, nemojte misliti da imam nešto protiv Ukrajinaca - volim Ukrajinu i uživao sam dok sam živio tamo (niže možete pročitati krasnu ukrajinsku priču iz Jelse) i Ukrajinci su u Jelsi dobrodošli. Pronašli ste sjajan popust na paket na sjajnoj lokaciji uz sjajnu plažu. Uživajte!

No, čini se da je trenutačno stanje turizma u Jelsi takvo da imamo tisuću putnika s brodova svaki dan koji stvore nekoliko tisuća kuna prihoda od pristojbi (možda čak i dosta manje) i koliko već potroše na sladoled, hoteli vjerojatno ne zarađuju gotovo ništa s obzirom na to koliko niske cijene nude, a restorani očajnički pokušavaju privući sve manji broj gostiju koji su bolji potrošači.

A ne treba biti tako. Sad kad smo sagledali situaciju, kako možemo stvari popraviti?

 

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Koji je brand Jelse?

Turizam je u Jelsi započeo 1911. godine otvorenjem Hotela Jadran. Stotinu godina kasnije, u listopadu 2011. ja sam započeo Total Hvar, mjesto gdje je započet TCN. Jedan od prvih članaka koje sam napisao bio je o Jelsi i njenih 100 godina turizma. Osim jednog kratkog članka u Slobodnoj Dalmaciji, nigdje nisam vidio da se spominje ta značajna godišnjica, što mi se učinilo čudnim.

Kako sam počinjao sve više pisati o turizmu na Hvaru, počeo sam se pitati kao kakva se destinacija Jelsa pokušava prodati, koji je njen brand?

Isto se to pitam i danas, 8 godina kasnije, i dalje se čini da to nitko ne zna. A ako ne znamo svoj brand, onoga što prodajemo, na sve kompetitivnijem turističkom tržištu unutar Hrvatske ali i globalno, kako će to znati turisti?

Stoga sam postavio tri pitanja na Facebooku, na vlastitom zidu i u jednoj zatvorenoj grupi o Jelsi gdje me netko očito dodao.

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1. Koji je brand i ciljno tržište Jelse?

2. Koji je jedinstveni selling point Jelse? (isprike prevoditeljice što nije uspjela smisliti adekvatni prijevod ove fraze)

3. U kojem smjeru mislite da bi Jelsa trebala ići sa svojim turizmom?

Bio sam šokiran odgovorima koji su pokazali da nitko nije znao jasno definirati brand Jelse, nakon više od 100 godina turizma. Bilo je nešto komentara, opuštenost, vino, prijateljska usmjerenost obiteljima i neki općeniti osjećaj lijepo su sažeti u ovaj odgovor, barem se meni čini:

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Jelsa danas NIJE brendirana. Što se tiče vrste destinacije, rekao bih da se radi o relativno ugodnom gradiću koji je prilagođen za obitelji.

Vodili smo baš dobru raspravu u toj zatvorenoj grupi, sve dok nije došao administrator (ispalo je da se radi o zamjenici gradonačelnika, koja me optužila za samopromociju i još nešto - zaboravio sam za što točno). Kad sam pitao koji su njeni stavovi o brandu Jelse, cijela rasprava je obrisana. Čuo sam mnoge govoriti o zatiranje različitih mišljenja posljednjih godina u Jelsi, ali nisam bio svjestan da se to pruža sve do zatvorenih grupa. Srećom, tehnologija je naš prijatelj, a alati za snimanje sadržaja na internetu stvarno su korisni u ovakvim situacijama.

No, skrenuo sam s teme.

Dakle, problem broj jedan za Jelsu je da ona sama ne zna što je točno, pa stoga ne zna ni nitko drugi. Bez branda, bez jedinstvenog selling pointa, zašto bi itko razmatrao dolazak u Jelsu, ako za nju već ne zna?

Dajmo Jelsi identitet i brand. Recimo...

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Opušten obiteljski stil života u vinskoj prijestolnici Dalmacije

Vinskoj prijestolnici Dalmacije? Postoji li u Jelsi neka posebna vinska priča? Pa, zapravo, puno je bolja nego što mislite. Nijedan grad u Dalmaciji nema takvu tradiciju proizvodnje vina, niti toliko kvalitetnih proizvođača vina u gradu. Hrvatsko vino sve je popularnije, kao i vinske ture po Hrvatskoj. A nema boljeg mjesta za istraživanje vina od Jelse. Jučer sam napisao velik članak o tome kako razviti gourmet turizam na Hvaru bez velikih investicija. Saznajte više o konceptu Hvar Wine Time Traveller i otoku vinske prijestolnice Dalmacije s UNESCO-vom mediteranskom dijetom.

Vidite što sam tu učinio? Jelsa više nije uglavnom udoban gradić za obitelji, nego je postala slavna po vinima, zdravoj hrani i opuštenom životu. O tome želim više saznati!

Kako optimizirati turističke brodove poput Makarskog Jadrana?

Dok čekamo da se pokažu rezultati novog brandinga, što možemo učiniti da maksimiziramo turizam koji već imamo? Bacimo pogled na onih tisuću ljudi koji stižu svakog jutra na turističkim brodovima. Trenutačno ih ostavljamo da lutaju uokolo poput izgubljenih ovaca. Većina nema pojma što bi sa sobom, pa čak niti gdje su. Dajmo im neki sadržaj. Ako su smješteni u Makarskoj, možda će se zaljubiti u taj kratki uvod o Opuštenom Obiteljskom Stilu Života u Vinskoj Prijestolnici Dalmacije. Možda se još nisu odlučili kamo će dalje, pa se možda vrate već ove sezone.

Ali, ako Jelsa prihvaća ovaj vid turizma, dajmo im prilike da potroše neki novac i zaljube se, pa možda dođu opet. Ima TOLIKO toga što bi ti turisti mogli doživjeti u tih sat-dva, pa zatim otići zadovoljniji i svjesniji gdje su bili. Sjajan dućan čokolada Gamulin, uvod u vina u vinskoj prijestolnici Dalmacije, folklorni nastup na Trgu Sv. Ivana, vođena šetnja Jelsom da bi se ona kratko upoznala, tura do OPG-a na putu do Pitvi sa svim otočkim travama i biljem, pozdrav Lavandermanu i tura po Dalmacijalandu. I tako dalje. Pripremimo letak s 10 stvari koje biste trebali napraviti tijekom svog prvog posjeta Jelsi i neka se podijele na tim brodovima. To će zahtijevati nešto truda (nažalost, to uvijek vrijedi za pravi turizam), ali posjetitelji će otići s boljim znanjem o tome što Jelsa nudi, što je bitno za sljedeći dolazak. Ako bi se netko baš jako potrudio, možda bi brodovi unaprijed mogli saznati tko od gostiju što želi vidjeti u Jelsi.

Prestanimo se skrivati iza loših hotela kao izgovora za loš turizam.

Hoteli nisu nešto, te bi koji dobar hotel s četiri zvjezdice pomogao promijeniti grad, na način kako se to dogodilo u Bolu.

Ali, postoje mnoge destinacije koje također nemaju baš neke hotele, pa im ipak ide bolje nego Jelsi. Vis nema baš mnogo hotelskih kreveta, posebno ne visoke kategorije, pa turizam tamo ipak uspijeva. Na cijelom otoku Šolti ima ukupno 7 hotelskih kreveta.

Ključ unaprjeđenja turizma u Jelsi ako se hoteli ne promijene leži u sektoru privatnog smještaja, za koji se meni čini da je značajno pao ove godine.

Stvorimo svoj hotel visoke kvalitete do sljedeće sezone - i uključimo naše susjede.

Zašto ne kombinirati to dvoje? Napravimo difuzni (raspršeni) hotel, surađujmo s apartmanima sa četiri zvjezdice i vilama u Jelsi, Vrboskoj i čak Starome Gradu. Privatni iznajmljivači bi vjerojatno rado sudjelovali u projektu, a za njega bi se čak moglo dobiti i EU financiranje. U današnjim danima tehnologije, hoteli mogu postojati gotovo samo kao web stranica koja vam govori gdje da se prijavite - direktno u vaš apartman. Potrebno je stvoriti uslugu recepcije i conciergea u centru, gdje turisti mogu doći po informacije. Neka to bude otvoreno 24 sata na dan, neka pruža dobru uslugu.

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Vratimo se Jelsinim sportskim korijenima: Napravimo prvi Tjedan Run Croatia - oni su spremni na suradnju!

Jelsa used to be a popular destination for sport, and Hajduk came for winter training, as well as others I can no longer remember. It has one of the best rowing clubs in the country, one of the best chess teams in the country, and good sporting facilities, including football pitch and large sports hall. What can we do to return some focus to Jelsa's sporting traditions?

One of the most successful tourism start-up businesses I follow is called Run Croatia. They are slowly building a national network of races and a healthy living lifestyle, working with airlines, hotels, clinics, restaurants etc. It is impressive to watch them grow. . I asked Bero and Iva how they would feel about working with Jelsa to make it their first-ever Run Croatia Week. And they said yes!

A week in Jelsa, with access to the sporting facilities and the relaxed family lifestyle in the Dalmatian capital of wine, with perhaps three races for adults - a 5km, 10km and 21km or trail, as well as some runs for the kids. They are waiting for Jelsa's call. 

Jelsa je nekad bila popularno sportsko odredište; Hajduk i neki drugi kojih se ne mogu sjetiti dolazili su na zimske pripreme ovamo. Ovdje se nalazi jedan od najboljih veslačkih klubova u zemlji, jedan od najboljih šahovskih te dobra sportska infrastruktura, uključujući nogometni teren i veliku sportsku dvoranu. Što možemo učiniti da se vratimo toj sportskoj tradiciji Jelse?

Jedan od najuspješnijih sportskih start-up poslovnih poduhvata u Hrvatskoj koje pratim zove se Run Croatia. Polako grade nacionalnu mrežu utrka i zdravog načina života, surađuju s avioprijevoznicima, hotelima, klinikama, restoranima itd. Impresivno je pratiti ih kako rastu. O ovom projektu više možete pročitati u ovom opširnom članku na TCN-u. Pitao sam Beru i Ivu što oni misle o suradnji s Jelsom na stvaranju prvog Tjedna Run Croatia. I rekli su "Da!"

Tjedan dana u Jelsi, s pristupom sportskim terenima, u opuštenom obiteljskom stilu života u vinskoj prijestolnici Dalmacije, uz recimo tri utrke za odrasle - na 5 km, na 10 km, polumaraton (21 km) ili trail utrka, kao i neke utrke za klince. Oni čekaju poziv iz Jelse.

Shvatimo da susjedne destinacije nisu konkurencija, nego dodaju vrijednost

Turistička ponuda vaših susjeda dodaje vrijednost vašoj destinaciji, te oni nisu konkurencija. Zamislite nekoga tko dolazi u Vinsku prijestolnicu Dalmacije da bi u tjedan dana proživio što više vinskih iskustava. Ne bi li jednodnevni izlet do Bola, uz posjet vinarijama Stina i Senjković bio sjajan dodatak?

Koristimo turistički proračun da bismo promovirali turizam, a ne nagrađivali nepotizam

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Trebalo mi je dosta vremena da shvatim kako funkcionira hrvatski turizam, kao i to da proračuni za turističku promociju nisu nužno utrošeni da bi se promovirao turizam. A čak i kad jesu, i u tome ima element nepotizma. Ti učini ovo za mene, a ja ću se pobrinuti da za neki tvoj event bude dovoljno novca, takve stvari. Također sam redovito začuđen omjerom domaćih (mnogo) i turista (malo) na mnogim službenim turističkim događajima. Naravno da trebaju postojati događaji za domaće, ali ne bi li naglasak promotivnog turističkog proračuna trebao biti na zabavljanju turista? Čuo sam mnoge strane turiste kako komentiraju koliko su uživali u kušanju vina i glazbi uživo na Trgu Sv. Ivana, ali ne sjećam se da sam od njih čuo kako im je bilo super na večerima poezije na dijalektu u parku.

Uključimo se u digitalnu revoluciju i pretrčimo ostale - evo kako 

Ranije ovog ljeta upoznao sam drag rusko-ukrajinski par iz Münchena. Živjeli su u Jelsi tri mjeseca, od 1. travnja do 30. lipnja, i željeli su se vratiti u naš apartman i sljedeće godine. Učili su hrvatski, bili su aktivni u zajednici. Dan im se sastojao od ranog kupanja i kave, a zatim online uredskog rada u Münchenu. Kad su zatvorili svoja računala, otišli bi se ponovo okupati, pa zatim ili u shopping kako bi nešto pojeli, ili van na večeru. Radili su u Münchenu, a trošili u Jelsi. Pročitajte mnogo više o tome i kako i zašto je Hrvatska u savršenoj poziciji da iskoristi industriju u kojoj se procjenjuje da će do 2035. godine biti milijarda digitalnih nomada.

Jednako kako bi trebali biti malo hrabri i organizirati prvi Tjedan Run Croatia, tako bismo trebali i ovdje. Razgovarajmo s regionalnim i državnim vlastima i ponudimo Jelsu kao prvu otočku destinaciju za digitalne nomade u Hrvatskoj. Pozovimo u Jelsu 50 nomada, na mjesec dana uz besplatan smještaj (maksimalno po dvoje iz svake države), a onda se potrudimo da ih učinimo sretnima. Reći će prijateljima, drugim nomadima, a njihovi postovi na društvenim mrežama uz hashtag #DigitalJelsa donijet će gradu veliku vidljivost. Nabavimo neka sredstva, otvorimo co-working prostor u Jelsi tako da ljudi mogu i tamo raditi dok su u Jelsi ako trebaju.

Istaknimo snažne veze kroz godine pričajući te priče

Opuštena obiteljska destinacija u vinskoj prijestolnici Dalmacije. Današnji turizam iznimno je ubrzan, ljudi jure iz jednog mjesta u drugo. Ako je Jelsa opuštena obiteljska lifestyle destinacija - a jest - ispričajmo gostima neke priče koje to ističu. Istaknimo toplinu i ljubav onih turista koji se redovito vraćaju posljednjih 20 godina ili više. Ispričajmo o prijateljstvima koja su tako nastala, dajmo priliku onima koji mogu najljepše pričati o Jelsi - turistima koji su u nju zaljubljeni. Opušteni obiteljski stil života u vinskoj prijestolnici Dalmacije s odanim i sretnim posjetiteljima. Oni su naši najbolji ambasadori.

 

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Razvijmo veze i turizam s onom drugom Jelsom... u Norveškoj

Jeste li znali da postoji još jedna Jelsa, izvan Hrvatske - ribarska zajednica u Norveškoj? Prije više od sedam godina, dok su Norvežani još u većem broju dolazili u hrvatsku Jelsu, činilo mi se da bi to bio sjajan način da se razviju turističke veze između dvije Jelse. Poslao sam im e-mail, te od njih dobio odgovor:

"Nedavno sam dobio e-mail od turističkog ureda u Suldalu. Koliko sam shvatio, oni su dobili mail od vas, ali ga meni nažalost nisu proslijedili. Žao mi je što ste toliko dugo čekali na odgovor, ali sad se javljam. Učitelj sam u lokalnoj školi u Jelsi, Suldal. Naša je škola prilično mala, ima samo 19 učenika (dobi šest do 12 godina), 4 učitelja i jednog ravnatelja.

Bilo bi zaista sjajno kada bismo mogli upoznati ljude iz hrvatskoga grada koji se zove Jelsa. Koliko ja znam to ime ne postoji nigdje drugdje. Ja sam učitelj engleskog jezika, i bilo bi zaista lijepo kada bih mogao zamoliti svoje učenike da pišu pisma djeci u Jelsi u Hrvatskoj, pa da naučimo nešto o vašoj zemlji i gradu."

Bio sam uzbuđen, odgovorio sam na mail i tadašnjeg gradonačelnika i direktora turističke zajednice uključio u e-mail korespondenciju. Od njih ovaj učitelj nije nikad dobio nikakav odgovor. Možda bi vrijedilo ponovo pokušati?

Obiteljske destinacije trebaju sadržaj za djecu

Samo nešto za razmišljanje.

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(Photo credit Paolo Buncuga)

Procesija Za križen i tradicija - ogromna prilika

Procesija Za križen koja se događa na Veliki četvrtak jedna je od najdivnijih tradicija u Hrvatskoj. Odvija se već 500 godina svake godine, a uloga križonoše donosi ogromnu čast.  Sama procesija nije namijenjena turistima, ali je spektakl koji svake godine posjećuje sve više turista, a moj intervju s bivšim križonošom bio je iznimno zanimljiv i poučan.

Možete saznati više o tome kako se postaje križonoša u sjajom videu koji je snimila Hvar TV. Isplati se uložiti vrijeme u gledanje.

Uz takvu sjajnu tradiciju oko procesije, zašto ne napraviti nekakvu izložbu o procesiji u svrhu turističke promocije grada? Mnogi od posjetitelja su katolici, ali to bi moglo zanimati i one koji nisu, nego su drugih vjera. A zašto ne bismo 22 kilometra dugu stazu procesije učinili dostupnima onima koji bi tijekom cijele godine prohodali ili cijelu stazu ili njen dio, umjesto da se koristi samo jednom godišnje. Informativni panoi po putu dodatni su sadržaj u turističkoj ponudi.
 

Ispričajmo priču o dalmatinskim vinima i neka bude dostupna turistima

Vinska prijestolnica Dalmacije mora ispričati svoju priču. Vinski muzej i kušaonica bili bi sjajan sadržaj, posebno na one kišne dane...

Nautičari mi kažu da su Jelsa i njeni zaljevi jedno od najboljih mjesta na Jadranu - tko još za to zna?

Nautički turizam ovdje ima sjajan potencijal koji treba u potpunosti razviti. Nisam nautičar, ali mi je jedan odgovor prijatelja dao misliti:

"Zaljevi i uvale oko Jelse, od Smočiguzice na zapadu do Pokrivenika na istoku. Mi koji imamo naše male barke u Jelsi možemo birati u koje od tih divnih mjesta želimo otići na svoj dnevni odmor. Bio sam svugdje po Jadranu i nećete na puno mjesta naći tako lijep i ugodan akvatorij kao ovdje."

Samo još jedna mala stvar koja se može dodati opuštenom obiteljskom stilu života vinske prijestolnice Dalmacije.
 

Molim vas, napravimo novu web stranicu

Bila je skoro gotova prije tri godine.

Uspostavimo ponovo kontakte s Beogradom - snažnom turističkom vezom Jelse

Odnos Beograda i Hvara me fascinira. Prije rata, Hvar je bio jedna od najpopularnijih destinacija za srpsku elitu. Sada uništeno Beogradsko odmaralište na istoku Jelse pružilo je trajna sjećanja tisućama beogradske djece, čija ih je ljubav prema Hvaru učinila gostima za cijeli život, sve dok to nije prekinuo rat.

Razumijem animozitet između Hrvata i Srba nakon rata, i kada bi to bila cijela priča, i to bih mogao razumjeti. Ali, prošetajte ulicama Beograda zimi i srest ćete tamo više ljudi s Hvara nego što biste sreli na samom Hvaru. Jedan hvarski restorant svake godine u Beogradu organizira Dane hvarske kuhinje. I ti su dani uvijek hit - pogledajte izvještaj koji je Hvar TV snimio prije par godina, kad sam i ja u tom periodu bio u Beogradu.

Napravio sam intervju s Jasminkom Vekić, vlasnicom restorana Šaran iz Zemuna koji ugosti hvarski restoran, te mi je pričala o svojoj ljubavi prema Hvaru i danima djetinjstva provedenima u Jelsi.

2011. godine, dakle, 16 godina nakon rata, Hrvatska turistička zajednica bila je glavni sponzor Beogradskog sajma turizma, najvećega u regiji. Prošle godine niti jedna turistička zajednica iz Hrvatske nije na tom sajmu imala službeni štand. Kada sam pitao HTZ zašto, informirali su me o činjenici da Srbija više nije strateško tržište.

A mogli bi biti jako dobro tržište. Hvarski vlasnici restorana će vam reći da Srbi vole trošiti. Jasno je i da su relativno blizu, pa postoji šansa da ih se ugrabi kao svakogodišnje goste.

Zaključak: Budućnost turizma u Jelsi mogla bi biti bogata, ako oni koji je vode žele da ona bude takvom.

Dosta. Napisao sam više nego što sam namjeravao. Mnogi će osjećati bol zbog ove sezone i loše kvalitete turizma, ali probleme je zapravo lako riješiti i to bez prevelikih investicija. Nadam se da barem neki od gornjih prijedloga imaju nekog smisla i težinu.

Sve ostalo, draga Jelsa, je na tebi.
 

To learn more about Jelsa, here are 25 things to know.  

 

 

 

Saturday, 27 July 2019

Some Simple Steps to Improve Jelsa's 2-Star Tourism Strategy on Hvar

July 26, 2019 - Named the top destination in former Yugoslavia in 1983, many locals are complaining of the worst peak season in Jelsa for quite some time. So what is the situation on the ground and - more importantly - can tourism be improved? A TCN case study concludes that it can, quite easily.

It is almost 17 years since I took the ferry from Drvenik to Sucuraj on August 15, 2002 to visit the island of Hvar for the first time in search of a house. Having driven through the empty villages of eastern Hvar, arriving in Jelsa in full swing in peak season was a joy. It was love at first sight, and less than 48 hours later, I departed, having found a small house in the old town that would soon become my home. 

The town has been very good to me over the years, and I lived in Jelsa with my lovely wife and two gorgeous daughters, before moving to Varazdin County a couple of years ago. Over those years, it has been sad to watch the lack of development of tourism in such a beautiful spot, but nothing was quite as bad as what I experienced returning this summer. When I say bad, I mean in terms of the number and quality of tourists - Jelsa this summer is as gorgeous as I have ever known it, and if you are looking for a late holiday, there are plenty of options. Come visit!

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Obviously the Mayor of Jelsa's decision to publicly announce that he was suing me last summer put a cloud on things somewhat. I am sure I will find out what the lawsuit is about when it finally arrives, but in the meantime, I would like to pay tribute to him for the significant success he has had with EU funds and improving the infrastructure and look of the town, including the new waterfront. I won't pretend that I like all the improvements, but a lot has been achieved. 

When it comes to tourism, however, the same is not true - at least in my opinion. 

Several years ago, a small lunchtime blog of mine became the number one story in Croatia for the day, as well as the subject for local discussion for weeks. The Politics of Christmas Decorations: We Don't Celebrate Christmas Here Some locals objected to the fact that the main square had a five-pointed star symbolic of Yugoslavia. It was taken down one lunchtime and replaced with a Star of Bethlehem, an act I witnessed and blogged about. The reaction was huge, and right down the main faultlines of Croatian society. I felt for the Mayor, as he really was in a no-win situation, but I immediately advised him not to do what he planned. It was a nice idea, but... 

HIs very sensible compromise was to put both stars up, which was all very well in a non-tourist town.

"It is a nice idea but if you do that, you will be officially launching the first two-star tourist destination in Croatia."

The two stars stayed, and so too has the two-star tourism strategy. Which is why Jelsa tourism is in such an impoverished position. 

It doesn't have to be. 

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I can understand that the Mayor's focus has been more on the grand plans to develop Jelsa and its infrastructure, and that the focus has been less on tourism. After all, we are now on our fourth Jelsa Tourist Board director in 5 years, and the new website is at least 4 years in the works. 

I have spent a couple of weeks talking to LOTS of people in Jelsa about the destination, getting their views. I have documented parts of the current season, and I have applied some of my knowledge and observations with a foreign eye, and I offer up a set of recommendations and solutions to make tourism in Jelsa better as early as next season. In order to get to the recommendations, I think it is important that we see openly and honestly how bad things have become. Only then can we acknowledge the current situation and look at ways to improve. 

Fasten your seatbelts.  

Where is Jelsa now?

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As the Minister of Tourism has decided to restrict access to the transparent, internationally award-winning eVisitor system, it is hard for me to say with authority how bad the season is, but there are plenty of clues if you look around.

Jelsa is not blessed with the best hotels (more on that later), but their locations are fantastic. And so are the prices. Book today and you can get 7 nights half-board, free WiFi and parking, for a couple and child under 12 for a total price of 3980 kuna, or 535 euro total for the family of three. No need to spend any money downtown, you have all you need at the hotel with the beach and some drinks and supplies you brought with you. And that family of three clocks up 21 overnights for the Temple of Record Overnights statistics.  

These are the prices today when I was preparing this article. If you are looking for a late booking, then please come. Jelsa is GORGEOUS at the moment, and this is really great value right by a fantastic beach. Here is a link to the agency selling the package.  Once you take off the agency fees, taxes and operating costs, I am guessing there is not that much left. But at least we have 21 overnights for the hallowed spreadsheet. 

Makarski Jadran - 12:30 on July 20

The other major source of tourism - actually the main, these days - are the tourist boats that come from Makarska for an hour or two. The general itinerary is a fish picnic with stop-offs in Bol and Jelsa (sometimes Vrboska), then back to Makarska. The best-known of these is the legendary Makarski Jadran, which certainly wakes up the town as it enters and leaves each day. Get a taste of that and also how Jelsa looked at 12:30 o July 20. 

Each boat pays I think 25 kuna per metre to come to Jelsa (it used to be one kuna per passenger, I think, but someone please correct me if I have that wrong) - although someone told me that stays of less than two hours are as low as 2 kuna per metre. If anyone knows how much Makarski Jadran pays, for example, please send me into with link, and I will amend.. There are about 1000 visitors to Jelsa each day in the season on these boats. I have watched them for years. They get off, not knowing exactly where they are, or what to do. They tend to head to the main square as that looks like the centre. Then they walk into the old town but soon come back, stopping for an ice cream or beer until the boats leave one or two hours later. And then, as you see above, the town goes back to sleep. It is gorgeous, especially in this era of overtourism. 

Main square - 20:45 on July 8

With our price-conscious hotel guests safely enjoying a stunning sunset back at the hotels, there is plenty of space in the bars and restaurants. Apparently, more restaurants in Jelsa shut than opened for the first time in a number of years. The main square at 20:45 on July 8. 

Main square and the entire waterfront and visit to Lavanderman - 20:30 on July 21

As the special offers at the hotels were further reduced in July, more of those hallowed overnight stays were created, which sadly were not translated into full restaurant tables. A fuller length tour of the main square and the waterfront at 20:30 on July 21. 

Main square - 22:40 on July 21

Maybe everyone was busy and could not make it down until later? The main square at 22:40 the same evening. I posted quite a few of these on my Facebook wall (apologies to my FB friends) because I wanted to document the reality when the inevitable will happen when the statistics are announced. We will be blinded by science and spreadsheets about numbers and overnights. Those Ukranian 21 overnights will cover up the real situation to save some ministerial embarrassment. As the hotels are filling with low-cost half-board tourists, the restaurants are complaining that the higher-spending guests, such as Norwegians, are a lot less this year. Does 21 Ukrainian half-board overnights equal 21 Norwegians in private accommodation and eating in the restaurants and drinking in the bars? For the spreadsheets, they are the same. For tourism revenue to Jelsa businesses, I would put the ratio at 21:3. 

And please don't think I have anything against Ukrainians - I love Ukraine and enjoyed my time there (and we have a lovely Ukrainian Jelsa story below), and you are very welcome in Jelsa. You found a great deal in a great location with a great beach. Enjoy.

So it seems that the current state of tourism in Jelsa is that we have about a thousand boat passengers in the morning which generate a few thousand kuna in fees (or perhaps considerably less) and whatever they spend on an ice cream, the hotels are possibly not even breaking even with the deals they are offering, and the restaurants are desperately trying to attract a shrinking number of higher-quality guests. 

It doesn't have to be that way. And now that we have an overview of the situation, how do we improve things? 

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What is the brand of Jelsa?

Tourism began in Jelsa in 1911 with the opening of Hotel Jadran. One hundred years later, in October 2011, I started Total Hvar, the birthplace of TCN. One of the first articles I did was about Jelsa and 100 years of tourism. Apart from one short article in Slobodna Dalmacija, there was no mention of the centenary whatsoever, which struck me as strange. 

As I got more into writing about tourism on Hvar, I found myself asking what kind of destination was Jelsa selling itself as, and what is its brand? 

It is a question I am still asking 8 years later, and still nobody seems to know. And if we don't know our brand of what we are selling, in an increasingly competitive market both within Croatia and globally, how can tourists?

So I posted three questions on Facebook - my own wall and a closed Jelsa group which someone had obviously added me to.

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1. What is Jelsa's brand and target market?

2. What is Jelsa's unique selling point?

3. What direction do you think Jelsa should take with its tourism?

I was struck by the answers that nobody had any clear defining brand of Jelsa after more than 100 years of tourism. There were some comments and relaxing, wine, family-friendly and the general feeling was summed up by this answer, for me at least:

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1. Jelsa today is not "branded". Now regarding the type of destination, I'd say it's a reasonably pleasant, family-friendly town

We had a very good discussion in the closed group until the admin came on (it turned out the group was run by the Deputy Mayor, who accused me of self-promotion and something else - I forget what). When I asked what her views about Jelsa's brand, the thread was deleted. I have heard many people talking of the suppression of opinion in recent years in Jelsa, but had not realised it also extended to closed groups. Thankfully, technology is our friend, and the Snipping Tool really is useful in these situations. 

I digress. 

So the number one early problem for Jelsa is that it does not know what it is, and so nor does anyone else. Without a brand, or a unique selling point, why would anyone consider coming unless they already knew about it? 

So let's give Jelsa an identity and a brand. How about... 

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Relaxed Family Lifestyle in the Dalmatian Wine Capital 

The Dalmatian wine capital? Is there really any special wine story in Jelsa? Well actually, a lot more than you might think. And there is no town in Dalmatia with such a wine tradition as Jelsa. Or with so many quality producers in the town. Croatian wine is growing in popularity, and wine tours are on the rise. And there is no better place than Jelsa to explore. Yesterday, I wrote a big piece related to this on how to develop gourmet tourism on Hvar without spending much money. Learn more about the concept of Hvar Wine Time Traveller and the island of the Dalmatian Wine Capital with UNESCO Mediterranean Diet

You see what I did there? Jelsa is no longer just a reasonably pleasant family-friendly town, but one famous for wine, healthy food and relaxed living. Tell me more!

How to optimise the Makarski Jadran tourist boats?

But while we wait for the branding to take effect, what can we do to maximise the tourism we already have? Let's look at those 1,000 people on the morning tourist boats. Currently, they are left to wander around like lost sheep. Most have no idea what to do, or even where they are. So let's give them some content. If they are staying in Makarska, maybe they could fall in love with that brief introduction to the Relaxed Family LIfestyle in the Dalmatian Wine Capital. Maybe they are still undecided where they are going next and could even come this season. 

But if Jelsa accepts this kind of tourism, let's give them opportunities to spend money and fall in love for the next time. There are SO many things that those tourists can experience in that 1-2 hours, then leave more contented and with a greater awareness for next time. The amazing Gamulin chocolate store, an introduction to the wines of the capital of Dalmatian wine, a folklore performance at St. John's Square, a walking tour of Jelsa to get an overview, a tour to the OPG on the road to Pitve with all the island herbs and plants. a greeting from Lavanderman and tour of Dalmacijaland. And so on. Prepare a leaflet with 10 things to do during your first visit to Jelsa and get the boats to distribute them. It will take some effort (unfortunately proper tourism does), but visitors will leave with a better knowledge of Jelsa and what it has to offer for next time. If one could get very organised, perhaps the boats could get numbers of who wanted to do what in advance. 

Stop hiding behind poor hotels as an excuse for poor tourism

The hotels are not great, and some good 4-star hotels would help transform the town in the same way as happened to Bol. 

But there are plenty of other destinations which do not have great hotels and they manage. Vis does not have that many hotel beds or many of high quality, and it does more than ok. Solta only has seven hotel beds on the entire island. 

The key to moving Jelsa forward if the hotels will not change lie in the private accommodation sector, which seems to me to be well down this year.  

Create your own quality hotel in time for next season - and include the neighbours

So why not combine the two? Create a diffuse hotel and work with the 4-star apartments and villas in Jelsa, Vrboska and even Stari Grad. Those private renters would want to contribute to the project - there might even be EU funding for it. In the days of technology, hotels can exist almost as a website, which tells you where to check in - directly at your apartment. Build a concierge service and a reception area downtown where they can come for more information. Keep it open 24 hours a day and provide good service.  

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Return to Jelsa's sporting roots: Create the first Run Croatia Week - they are ready to do it!

Jelsa used to be a popular destination for sport, and Hajduk came for winter training, as well as others I can no longer remember. It has one of the best rowing clubs in the country, one of the best chess teams in the country, and good sporting facilities, including football pitch and large sports hall. What can we do to return some focus to Jelsa's sporting traditions?

One of the most successful tourism start-up businesses I follow is called Run Croatia. They are slowly building a national network of races and a healthy living lifestyle, working with airlines, hotels, clinics, restaurants etc. It is impressive to watch them grow. You can read more about the project in this extended TCN feature. I asked Bero and Iva how they would feel about working with Jelsa to make it their first-ever Run Croatia Week. And they said yes!

A week in Jelsa, with access to the sporting facilities and the relaxed family lifestyle in the Dalmatian capital of wine, with perhaps three races for adults - a 5km, 10km and 21km or trail, as well as some runs for the kids. They are waiting for Jelsa's call. 

Recognise that neighbouring destinations are not competition but add value

The tourism offers of your neighbours add to yours, and they are not competition. Imagine someone coming to the Dalmatian capital of wine to explore as many different experiences in a week. Wouldn't a day trip to Bol to try the Stina and Senjkovic wineries be a great addition? 

Use the tourism budget to promote tourism not reward nepotism

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It took me quite some time to figure out how Croatian tourism works, and that the budgets for promotion are not necessarily used to promote tourism. Or if they are, there is an element of nepotism there. You do this for me and I will make sure you have money for your event, that kind of thing. I am also constantly amazed at the ratio of locals (lots) to tourists (few) at many of the official tourism events. Of course there should be things for locals, but shouldn't the emphasis of the tourism budget be on entertaining tourists? I have heard lots of tourists comment on how much they enjoyed the wine tasting events with live music at St. John's Square, but am yet to hear of one who was raving at the dialect poetry nights in the park. 

Join the digital revolution and steal a march on the others - here's how

Earlier this summer, I met a very nice Russian/Ukrainian couple from Munich. They had been living in Jelsa for three months from April 1 - June 30, and they wanted to return for the same dates next year, renting our apartment. They took Croatian lessons, were active in the community. Their day consisted of an early swim and coffee, then online office work in Munich. When they closed their laptops, they went for another swim and then went shopping for food or out to dinner. Working in Munich, spending in Jelsa. You can read much more about this and why Croatia is perfectly poised to take advantage of an industry which will have an estimated 1 billion digital nomads by 2035

A little like being first with Run Croatia Week, why not do something bold. Talk to the regional and national authorities and offer Jelsa as the first digital nomad island destination in Croatia. Invite 50 nomads to come for a month with free accommodation (max two from each country) and then work hard to make them happy. They will tell friends, fellow nomads, and their social media posts and hashtag #DigitalJelsa will give Jelsa great exposure. Get some funding to open a Jelsa co-working space, so people can get their business done while here if they need to. 

Highlight the strong bonds over the years through stories

The relaxed family destination in the Dalmatian wine capital. Tourism these days is so hurried, as people rush from place to place. If Jelsa really is the relaxed family lifestyle destination - and it is - then let's tell some stories which highlight that. Bring out the warmth and the love of those tourists who have been coming for 20 years and more. Talk about the friendships made, and let the people who can present Jelsa the best have their say - the tourists totally in love with Jelsa. A relaxed family lifestyle in the Dalmatian wine capital with loyal and happy visitors. They are your best ambassadors. 

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Develop ties and tourism with the other Jelsa... in Norway

Did you know that there is one other Jelsa outside Croatia - a fishing community in Norway? Over seven years ago, when Norwegians were coming in greater number to Croatian Jelsa, I thought that this would be a cool way to develop tourism ties between the two Jelsas. And so I wrote to them, and received a reply:

"Some time ago I received an e-mail from the tourist office in Suldal. I understand that they had received a mail from you, but unfortunately I have not read your mail myself. I am sorry you had to wait so long for an answer, but here it is. I am a teacher at the local school in Jelsa, Suldal. Our school is quite small, 19 pupils (six to twelve years old) and four teachers + one head master.

"It would indeed be nice for us to get to know people in the Croatian city called Jelsa.  As far as I know the name is not used anywhere else. As I teach English, it would be nice if I can ask my pupils to write letters to children in Jelsa, Croatia, and that we can learn something about your country and city." 

Excited, I replied, copying the then Mayor and tourist board director. The teacher never got a reply. Worth trying again?

Family destinations need content for kids 

Just something to think about. 

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(Photo credit Paolo Buncuga)

Za Krizen procession and tradition - a huge opportunity

The Holy Week Za Krizen (Behind the Cross) procession on Maundy Thursday is one of the most incredible traditions in Croatia. It has taken place year on year for 500 years, and the honour to carry the cross is significant.  The actual procession is not meant for tourists but it is quite a spectacle and attracts more tourists every year, and my interview with a former cross-bearer was extremely interesting and educational

You can learn about the whole process of becoming a cross-bearer in this excellent Hvar TV video above. Well worth the time. 

With such an incredible heritage and procession, why not make some kind of exhibition about it for the town's tourism? There are so many Catholic visitors, and other denominations would be curious as well. And rather than have the 22km path of the procession only used once a year, why not make it available to those who perhaps want to do part or all of the route at another time of year. Information boards along the way is more content to the tourism offer. 

Tell the story of Dalmatian wine and make it accessible to tourists

The Dalmatian wine capital needs to tell its story. A wine museum and tasting place would be excellent content, especially on those rainy days...  

Sailors tell me Jelsa and its bays is one of the best places on the Adriatic - who else knows?

Nautical tourism has great potential, and it has yet to be fully realised. I am not a sailor, but I was intrigued by this response from a friend:

The bays and coves around Jelsa, from Smočiguzica on the West to Pokrivenik on the East. For those of us who have our small boats in Jelsa, there is an amazing choice of really beautiful places for the typical "day sailing" trip. I've been practically everywhere around the Adriatic and you will very rarely find an "akvatorij" as nice and enjoyable as this one.

One more little thing to add to the relaxed family lifestyle in the Dalmatian wine capital. 

Please build a new website

It was almost finished three directors ago.  

Reengage with Belgrade - a strong Jelsa tourism bond

The relationship between Belgrade and Hvar fascinates me. Before the war, Hvar was one of the most popular destinations for the Serbian elite. The now ruined Belgrade Resort east of Jelsa provided so many lasting memories for thousands of Belgrade children, whose love of Hvar turned them into lifelong island tourists before the war stopped all that. 

I understand the post-war animosity between Serbs and Croats, and if that was the whole story, then I could understand that. But if you walk the streets of Belgrade in winter, you will often bump into more people from Hvar than you would on Hvar. One Hvar restaurateur even takes his restaurant to Belgrade each year for Days of Hvar Cuisine in Belgrade. It is a huge hit - here is the Hvar TV report from a few years ago when I also visited. 

I interviewed Jasminka Vekic, owner of Restaurant Saran, the host restaurant in Zemun, and she spoke of her love for Hvar and her childhood days in Jelsa

In 2011, some 16 years after the war, the Croatian National Tourist Board was the main sponsor of the Belgrade Tourism Fair, the largest in the region. Last year, there was not a single tourist board from Croatia with an official stand. When I asked CNTB why, I was informed that Serbia was no longer a strategic market. 

It could be a very good market. As Hvar's restaurateurs will tell you, Serbian guests like to spend. They are also very close, and there is a great chance to catch them as regular year on year visitors. 

Conclusion: The future of Jelsa tourism is very healthy if those who run it want it to be

Enough. I went on far longer than I intended. While many may be feeling the pain of this season and the poor quality tourism, the problems are actually very easy to fix and without too much investment. I hope that at least some of the suggestions above may have some merit. 

The rest, dear Jelsa, is up to you. 

To learn more about Jelsa, here are 25 things to know.  

 

 

 

Friday, 26 July 2019

RokOtok by RibaFish: The Most Heartwarming Project in Croatia in 2019

The incredible RokOtok swimming marathon hit Jelsa on July 24, 2019 and had TCN in tears. Here's why.

He made me cry four times within 24 hours of our first meeting. Grown men - he 48, me 50.

And that was without mentioning the number of times I cried with laughter. And they were many. 

And - yes, I have to admit at the tender age of 50 - he changed me in the one hour we were together. 

And he is changing and influencing many, many more people as he embarks on the most heartwarming project in Croatia this year.  

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Full disclosure. I had no real idea who this blogger Ribafish was until a few days ago. I knew he was a popular blogger and was much loved, and so there was probably some instinctive jealousy due to that, but for some reason, Ribafish was off my radar. When Kolegica Iva asked if she could write an article about his incredible project to swim to the 50 inhabited islands of Croatia, I agreed immediately as I was in the middle of something else. 

And then a friend messaged me to say that Ribafish was coming to Jelsa next and I could meet him if I wanted to. So we scheduled some cold ones and an interview at 19:00 a few days ago at The Office. 

With a couple of hours to go before our scheduled interview, I decided to find out who exactly WAS this Ribafish, and what intelligent questions could I ask?

A man who had me crying tears of pain and laughter just a few hours later. 

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I read Iva's article to get up to speed - what on earth was this RokOtok project about anyway?

And when I discovered the background, I REALLY wanted to meet him. We met on the square at The Office, and I think we even hugged, before taking a celebratory photo at the Aslej Instagram attraction. 

And then we talked, and the tears started to flow (internally during our interview, externally the next day).  

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For Ribafish's project is both emotional and full of positivity, injecting hope, support and family unity with his wonderful project. A project for all generations. 

As I understood from Iva, Ribafish suffered a terrible tragedy recently when his 12-year-old son, Rok, died. While Rok was still alive, Ribafish told Rok that he did not have the money to take him to Disneyland, but he could take him to all of the 50 inhabited islands of Croatia - natural beauty and natural living. They had visited 8 by the time of Rok's tragedy. Ribafish decided that he wanted to fulfil his promise to his son, whose ashes he spread in the waters of their favourite beach on Korcula. 

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And so the project RokOtok was born. Over a period of three summers, Ribafish would swim between the 50 inhabited islands, 17 this year and next, 16 in the final year. At his side the whole time would be Rok, whose ashes are in the Adriatic with him. 

The swim was one thing, but at every destination, Ribafish would meet with local kids and their parents and talk of the need for better understanding between parents and children, the importance of the environment, and the healthy benefits of spending more time with family and nature and less with gadgets. His message is simple, genuine and heartfelt. 

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So why did I cry four times within a day of meeting him, in addition to laughing out loud several times during our meeting? I REALLY encourage you to watch the video interview below, the best TCN has done so far - and that had nothing to do with TCN. 

My first internal tears were when he told me about the circumstances of the death of his 12-year-old son. I have a lovely daughter who is the same age. Unimaginable what he went through. 

My second internal tears were when he talked of his time with his son and those special moments - had I done the same for my girls? Shamefully, no. I needed to become a better parent. 

My third internal tears were when I asked him about his favourite spot and favourite memory, and he talked of that and his determination to honour his promise to Rok. 

And the fourth real tears came the next day. 

I am blessed with a truly wonderful wife and two incredible daughters, as well as the best punica in Croatia. I am not the best Dad in the world, but also not the worst, but I am pretty liberal, and I am grateful to my wife and her mum for the way our girls have turned out. 

I don't insist on many things in the household, but I came back from my time with Ribafish, and I insisted that the girls go the following morning when Ribafish would be talking about the things mentioned above. I saw the look in their eyes - here we go, Dad has met someone again... 

But they went as I requested, and they apparently came home enthused and inspired, the same way I had been. One daughter explained how impressed she was not only by the quality message, but also by the fact that Ribafish had one way of talking to the kids and one to the adults. That is when I cried a little externally. Here is a humble and simple man dealing with his pain, but providing so much positivity and healthy messages for all generations. An agent of change.

He changed me a little, as I am sure he has changed many, many others. 

And long may it continue. 

Learn more about the RokOtok project on the official website where you can donate to support it. Or follow the latest events on Facebook

Tuesday, 23 July 2019

Nikola Radovani Exhibition: When a Celeb Snapper Meets Local Talent

July 23, 2019 - Jelsa's talented photographer Nikola Radovani has a great exhibition on Saturday and recently met Croatia's first celebrity photographer for some advice. 

One of the things I most love about Hvar is just how egalitarian it is. We are all here for the same reason - to relax and enjoy the lifestyle and the beach, and it doesn't really matter who you are in your other life. The rich and famous mingle as easily on Hvar as anyone else in the world, and as long as you are not a British prince falling into a nightclub swimming pool, the rich and famous are generally left alone. For they are here for the same reason. 

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A really lovely moment the other day in Jelsa that was a pleasure to watch. I was having a post-lavender harvest chat with Jadran Lazic at The Office. As he was telling me about his first big break - bluffing his way into Charlotte Rampling's hotel room and photographing her smoking seductively on the couch - someone approached us and asked if Jadran had a few minutes to look at his work. 

It was popular local photographer, Nikola Radovani, and Jadran was more than happy to help. 

And so it began. All talk and memories of Charlotte Rampling on the sofa were forgotten, and the two photographers got to work, with Jadran giving high praise at the quality of Nikola's work while offering a few tips. 

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It was somewhat ironic, given the quality of photographers in front of me, that the person recording the event was once described in the national media as the worst photographer in Dalmatia. 

I am still proud of that. 

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Come and see Nikola's work for yourself this Saturday in the main street in the old town of Jelsa behind the church, as his Hvar landscapes will be exhibited from 19:30. 

Here is a link to the event's Facebook page. 

To learn more about the destination of Jelsa, here are 25 things to know

Sunday, 21 July 2019

One of Croatian Tourism's Biggest Problems Explained in 2 Photos

July 21, 2019 - A new sign telling people who are already in Jelsa where they are is a symbol of one of the biggest problems in Croatian tourism. And quite easy to fix. 

This is not an article criticising my beloved adopted home town of Jelsa, although it could easily be one. I am actually working quite hard documenting various parts of the summer season, such as it is, in Jelsa, with the aim of producing a detailed and constructive report on what is going wrong with the town's tourism and - I hope it will be useful - several concrete and easy to implement steps to improve the quality of the tourism offer. 

But a new attraction to Jelsa this month caught my eye and was probably the best visual explanation of one of the biggest problems in Croatian tourism. And one that is quite easy to fix. 

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The official town Facebook page announced a new tourist attraction for Jelsa a few days ago - a new red sign with big letters on the Jelsa waterfront close to the main square. The post got 161 likes, 50 more than a post a few days earlier when Jelsa announced 270 million kuna of EU funding for EU infrastructure, so very popular. 

In this Instagram age, I can see the logic in it. Some people love it, and some people hate it (my opinion is irrelevant). But then if you have the formula for how to please everyone in Croatia, please send it on. 

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And this is the view of the new attraction that people already in Jelsa see. It is also the view from the main square, and the view most familiar to the tourism chiefs and people who came up with the idea. 

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And this is the view from the water, the first impression and welcome to Jelsa when you arrive by boat, as many do. 

Not quite the same. The first impression a foreign tourist will have of Jelsa. 

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(Photo credit Secret Dalmatia)

One of the things I do when selling TCN services is to explain that we are a website with local knowledge and a foreign eye. As a foreigner who has travelled to 95 countries and lived in 10, I have learned a lot over the years on my travels, and my observation skills are not too bad these days. As an adopted local living in another country, I have access to that local knowledge. Knowing what a foreign tourist wants and being able to provide the best information is one of the key things which has made TCN so successful. Let me give you an example of what I mean. 

Every local in Split knows where to buy tickets for the ferry and the catamaran.

Almost no tourist does. 

So, 7 years ago when we started Total Split, we provided a guide how and where to buy tickets for each service, including this map above. 

The reaction was interesting. I got so many comments of thanks, and many people added the link to their accommodation rental pages. Here was something very useful to enhance the experience of their guests, as well as saving the hosts from repeating the same information at the same time. It remains one of the most popular articles on Total Split. 

"I would never have thought about how hard it must be for foreign tourists to get this information," remarked more than one person. 

Local knowledge with a foreign eye. It is something that Croatian tourism is desperately missing. Please don't think I am advocating for myself - I am no expert at all, I just write about things as I see them. 

But not getting a foreign expert eye to help is fairly widespread in Croatian society. Why pay for a competent international expert when you can make a Croatian cousin a little richer? 

Croatia held yet another branding conference a few weeks ago - maybe one of these conferences will end up providing a brand at some point. This from my previous article Branding Croatia for the Future: 5 Gifts and Trends to Focus On:

The other observation another friend participating made was that the speakers were all Croatian, and that surely for such an important topic, the input of international experience and viewpoints were essential. If Croatia is to develop a global brand, then surely one should take on board the views of those living in the global community. To not do so, my friend said, would be akin to having the big fish in a fishbowl talking with authority about things that happen in the ocean.

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A last word on the use of the sign. They can work well, especially if you have them facing the right way. The last time I saw one was on the magnificent island of Zut as Restaurant Festa held its second Festa Days with 5 Michelin Star chefs and 5 of Croatia's top chefs. 

Festa is an incredible story of how to build incredible tourism from nothing. In 1993, in the middle of the war and on an uninhabited Kornati island with no water, electricity or ferry connection, a restaurant opened. It is one of the best culinary experiences I have had in Croatia, and a great example of what can be achieved with the right vision and determination. You can read about my extended look at The Paradox of Croatian Tourism: Case Study - Restaurant Festa, Island of Zut

Interestingly, not only does Festa put the sign the right way around, but they also take lots of international advice and opinions. 

Thursday, 18 July 2019

Croatia Full of Cheap Empty Beds Despite Official Record Year

July 18, 2019 - As Croatia's unusual tourist season continues, and with access to official statistics restricted in another officially record year, is Croatia full of empty beds?

A record year with millions of tourists and - much more importantly for the Kings of Accidental Tourism - millions and millions of overnights. We all love statistics, right? At least until they don't work quite as you want, and then you restrict access to them, as the Ministry of Tourism did recently to their internationally award-winning, transparent tourism statistics reporting system, eVisitor

So with access to official statistics restricted, how can we find out how the season is going, and how to get a better understanding of the QUALITY of the Kings' beloved overnights?

There are various Croatian agencies offering last-minute deals on the coast. I decided to check out one of them to see what kind of availability and prices were on offer - Integral Zagreb. There are other sections of the site, but I chose 'Adriatic Sale.' You can check what is available in the link in the previous sentence. 

(Jelsa main square - July 14, 22:00)

For the purposes of this article, I decided to focus on one example I know well - Hotel Fontana in Jelsa, which is about 50 metres from my Jelsa front door. I was surprised to see not only so much availability, but also such incredible prices for a waterfront hotel on Croatia's premier island. Fontana is a 2-star hotel, so there is not much luxury in the hotel, but the location is divine. 

And, as you can see from the lead photo, the prices are very good indeed. A family of two parents and child under the age of 12 can have a 7-night stay, with free parking and WiFi, breakfast and buffet dinner, for a total price of about 475 euro. The cheapest advertised price above is 1,750 kuna per adult and one child goes free. Prices go up a little in August, but not that much. 

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I checked Booking.com for private accommodation, and the cheapest I found for the same family for a week starting tomorrow in Jelsa was 405 euro. That is before you start to eat. 

So a family can have a great 7-day stay in Jelsa for under 500 euro. There is no need to spend money in the restaurants, as the hotel provides everything. Perhaps an ice cream or two on an evening stroll. 

Meanwhile, the number of overnights increases so that the Kings can boast yet another successful tourism season of record growth. 

Except even with these crazy prices, there is still lots of peak season availability. 

Croatia, Full of Life? More like Croatia, Full of Empty Beds, which will probably get filled when the prices go down further. And so we can all celebrate another record year. 

As the Kings have restricted access to the statistics, all we can do is speculate. Anecdotally from cafe and restaurant owners, the higher spending Jelsa guests from Scandinavia and the Brits, are down, but there seem to be more Bosnians and Hungarians, who do not spend as much, if at all on their hotel package. I don't blame them. If you can get such a great location for a holiday for such a price, why not? 

This is the worst kind of tourism for Croatia, a country blessed with so many natural gifts, but missing one thing - a tourism strategy. 

(Jelsa main square - July 16, 20:35)

Monday, 8 July 2019

Me and Mrs Jones Celebrates 10 Years of Gourmet Excellence in Jelsa, Hvar

July 8, 2019 - A much-loved restaurant, which has done much to raise the culinary scene in Jelsa on Hvar, turns 10. Congratulations, Me and mrs Jones!

Just over ten years ago, my wife told me that we were invited to a new restaurant opening in Jelsa. Her cousin, Josipa, had decided to take the plunge and open her first restaurant with husband Amadeus. 

The name - Me and mrs Jones. 

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(Photo credit for first three photos - Secret Dalmatia)

I raised my eyebrows. This was a little unusual for a town not famed for diverting from the traditional fare.

It was quite a location, on the Jelsa waterfront. And quite a party, as friends, family and seemingly everyone else in Jelsa that night descended upon the new restaurant to enjoy the very generous free opening. 

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While the name of the restaurant was somewhat unusual (taken from the song of the same name, the song which was playing the first time the couple met), the decor was something else. Bold, to be sure - here was a restaurant which was going to push the traditional boundaries on several levels. 

"Great food and lovely place," commented one expat that night as he tucked into another plate, "but they will never be this full again."

He was wrong. 

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Word spread about a very friendly restaurant in Jelsa which was aiming to raise the bar. and people started to hear about it in Hvar Town. And they got in the car and came to investigate. With the wide choice of restaurants in Hvar Town, there are not many which can get diners to drive 30 minutes out of town. But this was one. 

Word spread. The team from Secret Dalmatia, Croatia's leading luxury boutique tourism agency, came to pay a visit and left VERY impressed. You can read the 2011 Secret Dalmatia blog here

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The restaurant moved across the water to the other side of the harbour to its current spot, arguably the best location in all Jelsa. A great place for a meal, but also for a glass of wine, watching the laganini pace of life in Jelsa harbour go by. 

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It quickly became a favourite restaurant for many in its new location, and especially so for sailors who could moor up right in front of the new Me and mrs Jones. 

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I am as useless at taking photos as the owners are at posting them on Facebook, so here is a shoulder season view, before the boats come into the harbour. Idyllic. 

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Although she is family and perhaps I have to say nice things, cousin Josipa is genuinely one of the warmest hostesses in the Croatian culinary scene. I was trying to find the right phrase to describe Me and mrs Jones a few years ago, when a reporter from Croatian National Television summed it up perfectly. We had been filming at the restaurant for some tourism programme, and she so enjoyed her first visit that she went back every day until she left:

"Everything in this restaurant is done out of love."

And it is. 

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Right down to their signature presentation of their food. 

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There is another aspect to Me and mrs Jones that tourists are not normally aware of - the small events they hold during the winter season when almost all other restaurants are closed. Their Valentine's Day dinner has restaurant owners from Hvar Town driving their loved ones to Jelsa, and celebrations such as International Women's Day on March 8 are welcome additions to a quiet winter life. 

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And Me and mrs Jones is one of the few places where you can try a rare Hvar speciality (you need to order at least two days in advance) - 'puh' or edible dormouse, a speciality which is eaten only in three places in Croatia - Dol on Hvar, Dol on Brac, and Gorski Kotar. 

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The attention to detail and personal service are often mentioned by guests - and how many restaurants would give you this kind of support after your team had just been relegated from the Premier League?

We had dinner last night, and Amadeus came over to say hi and showed me a poster - it was the opening poster from that inaugural night over 10 years ago - the date, May 6, 2009.

"I found it while I was going through things. It seems we are ten years old and didn't notice."

So, we may be a couple of months late, but Happy Birthday, Me and mrs Jones, and a huge thank you for your incredible contribution to Jelsa over the last decade. Thanks for the memories and may you continue to prosper. 

You can follow Me and mrs Jones on Facebook.

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