Saturday, 3 April 2021

China Exposes Croatian Kingdom of Accidental Tourism Reality

April 6, 2021 - Numbers, numbers, numbers. Or how China exposed the Croatian Kingdom of Accidental Tourism for what it really is. 

Our journey starts back in May 2015, some two months before the launch of TCN. 

I made a decision on one of our early portals, Total Split, to do an interview that I knew would be controversial and probably result in the loss of a number of readers, as well as possibly some 'friends'.

I decided that we would interview 'the most hated woman in Split' and give her some media space to give her side of the story after she had been vilified in the national media without having a right of reply.  

It taught me an awful lot about free speech and hate speech in Croatia, as well as losing us quite a few readers and the recipient of a couple of death threats (or, as one delightful typo put it, death treats). 

And I would do it again, exactly the same with the benefit of hindsight. 


I didn't know Jacine Jadresko that well, but I always found her to be fun company. I didn't like the fact that she was very in your face about her hunting, but then I reasoned that I was a meat-eater, so maybe I was being hypocritical. Jacine went from being relatively obscure to a national hate figure overnight after photographs of her hunting escapades on Facebook surfaced in the Croatian media.

While I didn't necessarily agree with her stance, I also thought that in a (supposedly) democratic society, she was entitled to present her side of the story. And so we did an in-depth interview. And while the interview did not change my basic opinions on the subject, it did educate me and others (those who read further than the headline, that is) about some hunting issues. You can read it yourself here - Exclusive: Not Your Typical Split Chick...Huntress Jacine Jadresko in Her Own Words.

I thought of Jacine once more after a recent press release from the Croatian Kingdom of Accidental Tourism, celebrating 60 million viewers on Hainan TV watching a documentary about Croatia. I didn't realise that Hainan is that big (apparently it isn't - only 9 million people), but let's let that thing slide. I checked my analytics for unusual search traffic after the programme aired, as we do rank pretty well for most tourism topics for Croatia. Baidu is a more frequent visitor by the week, but for that particular time, nothing. 

I thought of Jacine.

In the 6 years since that original interview was written. I get random spikes from all over the world in my analytics for Jacine's interview. We still rank well on Google for various keywords, and I have learned that a sudden spike in hits from Finland or Mexico is due to the fact that there is a documentary playing there about her. And as soon as it is over, interested people want to know more. 

So with SIXTY MILLION viewers, how many people would be Baiduing for info about this wonderful Croatia?

Wait, did the Croatian Kingdom actually even offer their website in Chinese?


At first glance, it seemed that they didn't, but nothing is ever quite as it seems in the Croatian Kingdom of Accidental Tourism. 

For there IS a Croatian National Tourist Board website in Chinese, which is so well hidden that several Croats living in China are not aware of its existence. 

And it has the best destination page in the history of global tourism


Before we take a closer look at this little nugget of gold, you should know something about running a website with a big readership. The TCN server goes down occasionally, for a variety of factors. If the site is down for more than 10 minutes, I will typically have 5-10 messages informing me or complaining to me. 

But here, it seems, nobody even noticed. Despite the sensational promotion watched by 60 million people. 

And here is the best bit. Adobe stopped supporting this feature THREE months ago.

And nobody noticed. 

The Kings have an established office and director (who I am told is very nice) in Shanghai, and a potential market of 1.3 billion people to attract to Croatia. And yet, despite all the chest-thumping of another amazing promotion. nobody noticed - or cared - that there was no accessible information about Croatian destinations on the official website. Quite why there is a separate website could be an interesting topic for next time. 

Now I was intrigued. How was the Croatian Kingdom's social media presence in this vast market of 1.3 billion? They must have killed it with all those 60 million people gasping for more about this beautiful country. 


I asked a Chinese friend to check out the most popular posts on Weibo (the Instagram equivalent). And she reported back that in the last 3 months, the biggest number of shares for a post on the official Kingdom Weibo account was...


Not 586 million.

Not 586 thousand. 

Just 586. 

I don't use Instagram, and my 12-year-old daughter manages Insta for TCN between finishing her homework and going to bed. She gets more engagement in the 10 minutes a day she allocated to it. 


So how is the big Croatian promotion going in Shanghai with a full office and director? As you can see from the screenshots from Weibo, rather well. The TV programme DID have an effect as 'most of the posts prior to that got only single-digit likes'. 


Croatia has a full office and director and 25,971 fans.


Slovenia, the supposedly 'tiny' neighbour, has no office at all in China and 500,000 fans. More than 20 times more than Croatia, without the expense of an office. But then I suppose they don't get incredible promotion of Hainan TV to 60 million people. 

Quite by chance, as part of our preparation for our new TC tourism website, going live on May 1 in 10 languages, including both simplified and traditional Chinese, my Chinese translator finished the first translation, the Top 10 things to do in Croatia in 2021. It was warmly received, and we shall be doing a lot more of the site in Chinese, both simplified and traditional. 

So congratulations to the Kings of Accidental Tourism on yet another incredible promotion with a huge number. 

As with every other pointless number to come out of the Croatian kingdom in the last 10 years, what does it actually mean?

Sunday, 14 March 2021

Bakic, Macan, Rimac, de Jong Promote Croatian Tourism Globally Free, Meanwhile...

March 14, 2021 - As a new tourist season approaches, the Kingdom of Accidental Tourism goes into overdrive. A look at efforts to promote Croatian tourism globally, as well as... well, yes.

I am not a big fan of tagging on social media, although I completely understand the usefulness and power of the function. I rarely tag people myself unless I know for sure that what I am making them aware of will be on point and relevant. If there was somehow a function to only allow tags that the user would find useful, I would be the biggest fan of the tagging function. 

I get tagged a LOT these days. 

One of the people who very rarely tags me but completely understands the power of using the function sparingly is entrepreneur Nenad Bakic, who has been very vocal in his anti-lockdown stance regarding the pandemic, backed up by endless charts and his mathematical and analytical brain. I am staying out of the whole corona debate, as my opinion does not matter and I have nothing of authority to add, but Nenad tagged me recently for the first time in a while the other day. 

— Nenad Bakic (@nbakic) March 6, 2021

More than 146,000 views through Nenad's impressive global network. Thirty seconds of filming, a little social media sharing, and a global audience can see the reality of daily life in Croatia today. For those looking for a safe and beautiful place to remote work in a less restrictive country regarding lockdowns, some very useful food for thought. 

Nenad's comment when he tagged me was that this was some kind of alternative tourist board. It got me thinking - again - about just how much private individuals do to promote this country for free, because they love it and want to increase tourism revenues. And there are many thousands of people in Croatia with much smaller audiences who are also playing their part be posting photos, videos and information, as well as sharing. Collectively, it must lead to an impressive calculation of euro generated in terms of tourism spend. 

But when it comes to taking credit for all this interest generated in Croatian tourism, that credit is taken only by one entity - the Kingdom of Accidental Tourism.  

Just a few days before Nenad tagged me, I nearly spat out my beer all over the keyboard when I came across this article on TCN: Croatian Tourism Brand Recognisability Increases 50%, Says CTB Director Kristjan Staničić. The implication, at least as I read it, is a self-justification of what a great job the Kings are doing. 

The data in the survey are not related to this year and are only for specific markets, but it got me thinking about who is doing a lot of the work pro bono to increase the brand awareness. In addition of the thousands of people in Croatia and the diaspora, here are a few examples of what the private sector has done at their own cost (both in terms of time and money) with no meaningful contribution from the Kings (apart from granting permission to use videos in the case of this Rimac Automobili amazing video about Living and Working in Croatia.

It is one of the best videos promoting the Croatian lifestyle I have ever seen. Done out of love by the Rimac team (as well as a way to attract new talent), with already an impressive 250,000 organic views. 

When ABC News contacted TCN via the Total Croatia Travel INFO Viber community last summer, I knew that this was a big opportunity for a great promotion to the US market, but I didn't have the capacity to deal with it. But I knew a man who could. 

Kreso Macan took the ABC News crew all over Dubrovnik, opening doors where none previously existed. The result? No less than 6 reports on ABC News, including 12.5 million viewers on Good Morning America for this piece above. 

The Kingdom's contribution in all this? Not even a press release. 


And it is not just Croatian private individuals who are achieving incredible things for the visibility of Croatian tourism. As I wrote previously in Dutchman Promotes Croatia Globally: Meanwhile, in the Kingdom of Accidental Tourism... Jan de Jong's initiative to introduce the digital nomad visa not only succeeded in (by Croatian standards) record time, but has also brought about a complete shift in the national tourist board's strategy, with a full campaign under the slogan, Croatia, Your New Office, now underway. 

About that campaign... 

Back to people tagging me again. 

(Some might argue this these 11 guys had something to do with the raising of visibility of Croatia's brand internationally)

Before I continue, although I am become known in some quarters for constructively critical articles such as these (which are certainly more lucrative to write - I make 5 times more ad revenue on these articles than regular ones), I would really prefer not to write them, and I would be a lot happier if the people who are paid to promote Croatian tourism effectively would do just that. And if my articles had no effect, then there may be little point writing them (apart from the money), but as we have seen... 


So, a polite request - just do your jobs properly and I will happily focus on other things.

I firmly believe that the digital nomad opportunity is a great one for Croatia. With the right creative mindset of the likes of people such as Bakic, Macan, Rimac and de Jong, what could be achieved? In the article about de Jong's efforts above, I pondered what could be achieved if he was given jut 2% of the (from memory) 400 million kuna national tourist board budget. 

What could the likes of Macan, Bakic and do Jong do with that budget to improve Brand Croatia (I will leave Rimac out of this one, he has cars to make and posh Porsche partners to drive around - congratulations, btw!). 

And how is that money being spent at the moment?

I was tagged yesterday on a LinkedIn post by the Marketing Director of Red Bull in Croatia, who I have never met, but I bet he has a cool job. The Red Bull marketing director asked what his followers thought of the new campaign for digital nomads - whose target audience is foreign remote workers who may live in Croatia for 12 months, as long as their work is not with Croatian companies or suppliers. The comments flooding in at the logic of a full-page advertorial in Croatian in Jutrarnji List included a lot of facepalming, and I think the general consensus was this latest piece of marketing genius might not find the target niche of non-Croatian-speaking international remote workers, who are mostly not currently in Croatia.  


What's next in the Kingdom's marketing campaign? Croatian wine festivals in Riyadh? Cvarci cooking workshops in Jerusalem?

This (and this is just the latest of many) is a great opportunity for Croatia, and some people have worked very hard to make it a reality. Can we not at least have someone vaguely competent put in charge of making this a success, or are we going to throw away yet another golden opportunity, as we did with Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations, Game of Thrones, and of course, the World Cup.

I guess we should not worry too much. The World Cup is coming around again next year, so we can all sit back in the Kingdom of Accidental Tourism and cheers on the Vatreni. Then, as happened in 2018 when Croatia was the most talked about country in the planet, congratulate ourselves on what a great job we did increasing the visibility of Brand Croatia. 

For anyone in the Kingdom who is actually interested in pushing this digital nomad opportunity forward and wants to learn more, this interview with the first official digital nomad on Hvar, as well as this excellent feature on the amazing experience of swapping San Francisco for an idyllic Dalmatian island winter in Jelsa on Hvar (yes, you read that right - Californians promoting winter tourism on Hvar) gives some really good insights. Another great promotion. Another private sector initiative. Another promotion delivered with a zero kuna spend. 

To learn more about digital nomads in Croatia, follow the dedicated TCN section

Friday, 26 February 2021

Dutchman Promotes Croatia Globally: Meanwhile, in the Kingdom of Accidental Tourism...

February 26, 2021 - A Dutch entrepreneur in Split is spearheading an incredible PR campaign for Croatian tourism as a volunteer. Meanwhile, in the Kingdom of Accidental Tourism. 

Two different approaches to tourism promotion in Croatia. 

In the first, a successful entrepreneur from Holland who has been living in Split since 2006. With no connection to tourism whatsoever, he was intrigued by the concept of a digital nomad visa for Croatia and the benefits it could bring. An open letter on LinkedIn to Prime Minister Plenkovic started a journey which saw Croatian bureaucracy move at lightning speed, with the first digital nomad visa issued just 199 days after Plenkovic announced his intention to make Croatia only the fifth country in the world and the second in Europe after Estonia to offer it. Meet Melissa Paul, Owner of Croatia's First Digital Nomad Visa.

Jan de Jong is now switching his focus to growing tomatoes and creating jobs in northern Croatia with a fantastic CROP Hrvatksa project which TCN featured recently. As far as I know, he is doing all this for free (and incurring expenses) because he is passionate about exploiting the many opportunities he sees in Croatia where others do not. 

I have to admit that it is wonderful to watch him on his journey, and if you have a few minutes, then check out some of his presentations on YouTube, such as this one at LEAP Summit about Living the Croatian Dream. 

The second approach to tourism promotion comes from the Croatian National Tourism Board, also known in some circles as the Kindgom of Accidental Tourism. With an annual budget of (I think) around 400 million kuna and 70-80 full-time staff, as well as (presumably) some tourism expertise, one might think that the Kings would be killing it promoting Croatia, especially when compared to one foreigner with no tourism expertise volunteering his time. 

So how is it going?

As Jan posted recently on LinkedIN (see lead photo), it is going very well indeed. There has been outstanding coverage from CNN, Washington Post Euro News, Lonely Planet, Forbes and many more. The digital nomad topic hot right now, and his efforts combined with several others, have put Croatia at the very centre of that global discussion. Global media networks are now reaching out to Jan - expect some more great coverage of Croatian tourism in the coming weeks thanks to his efforts.

For free.

As a Dutchman trying to focus on growing tomatoes. 


I was curious to see how the Kingdom of Accidental Tourism, with that huge budget and manpower, would be responding to the latest free gift to come its way. Only after I saw this message on the Total Croatia Travel INFO Viber community did I decide to check how the Kings were rising to the challenge.  



This is what you get it you search for 'digital nomad' on the Croatian National Tourist Board website. Just a few days ago, CNN did a fantastic piece on nomads and the Croatian lifestyle.  

I guess at least there are no spelling errors on this page. 

As representatives of the Kingdom have correctly stated, I am no tourism expert, but I do wonder how hard all this is, especially if you have 70-80 brains and around 400 million kuna working on it. It doesn't even have to cost very much. TCN interviewed a love American nomad couple on Hvar, which led to HRT contacting us and a fantastic feature last night on HRT Puls. Above is the trailer - I will upload the full feature when it is online. 

Cost zero. Done by a volunteer. 


Facebook Memories told me this week that it is five years since the birth of the Kingdom of Accidental Tourism. Things are even more accidental now. 

The latest 7-year tourism strategy, which never has anything to do with reality, has now finished. Of the many lofty goals prepared by experts for the 2013 - 2020 period, not one of the 30 projected golf courses was built, for example.

There is no replacement strategy as yet. Has anyone even noticed?

I have a suggestion. Why not give 2% of that 400 million kuna budget to the Dutch tomato grower to see what magic he could do with just a small budget? He has more than shown proof of concept with zero kuna. 

For more on the digital nomad story in Croatia, follow the dedicated TCN section.