Tuesday, 10 November 2020

Zagreb Advent 2020 Presented: Festive Program Adapted to Epidemiological Measures

November 10, 2020 - The Zagreb Advent 2020 event was presented in the capital on Tuesday. The festive program will boast three exciting projects and all events held per epidemiological measures. 

Without an ice skating rink, but with several concerts and events, Zagreb Advent will still be held this year.

HRTurizam reports that under the slogan "Advent in Zagreb, feel the light" the event will begin on November 28, and the program will include numerous cultural events and ten different festivals.

Three new projects

At the press conference, the Zagreb Tourist Board director, Martina Bienenfeld, presented three new projects.

The first of them is the Light of Zagreb, in which the windows in the Upper Town will be decorated and lit. The Tourist Board invites all citizens of Zagreb to decorate their windows in their own way and symbolically join the project. 

The second project is a walk through Zagreb's churches and their nativity scenes while adhering to epidemiological measures. The third project that is being developed and launched on November 28 is related to augmented reality, which will be found in over 20 Zagreb locations.

Details and specific dates of events, festivals, and projects will be known in a few days, and the program can be followed live and on social networks.

Advent in Zagreb, despite epidemiological restrictions, will be the venue for numerous concerts this year as well.

According to director Bienenfeld, more than 70 concerts will be held outdoors and indoors, where the number of spectators will be limited. The most significant of these concerts will be streamed on social media.

Bienenfeld announced that this year, after consultations with the city and national civil protection headquarters, there will be no recognizable Ice Park on Tomislavac. However, she emphasized that when as many as 50 Advent events in Europe have been canceled, Zagreb will continue to be recognized as an Advent destination, ensuring they adapt to the epidemiological situation and exercise responsible behavior.

Unless there are even stricter measures and restrictions on entry from other countries, she expects this tourist year to end at 30% of last year.

According to the Zagreb Craftspeople Association president, Antun Trojnar, at the traditional location - on Trg pod vurom, there will be about 15 holiday houses where craftspeople - souvenir producers will present their products.

The President of the Independent Association of Caterers, Marin Medak, explained that the City of Zagreb has enabled certain modifications in public areas, i.e., on the terraces of restaurants of sales of mulled wine, coffee, sausages and the like.

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

Saturday, 17 October 2020

Zagreb Advent 2020 is Uncertain, Says Tourist Board

October 17, 2020 - Zagreb tourism is suffering considerable losses due to the coronavirus pandemic and the consequences of the earthquake back in March. Tourist arrivals and overnight stays are around 30 percent of last year, and Zagreb Advent 2020 is uncertain, the Zagreb Tourist Board revealed.

"Conditions and possibilities of holding certain events have changed significantly this year, even for those outdoors in the autumn and wintertime. We are currently completing preparations for several autumn projects through which Zagreb will once again be confirmed as the most important cultural and tourist destination in Croatia. We are also developing possible scenarios for Advent," said Martina Bienenfeld, director of the Zagreb Tourist Board, as reported by Index.hr.

She emphasizes that health and safety are taken into account first, and then everything else that makes up a particular event.

"We are in contact with the competent authorities of the City of Zagreb, the national and city civil protection headquarters. We are working on measures and organization, and if it takes place, we will respect and insist on all the guidelines that will be recommended," says Bienenfeld.

She also commented on the recently published list of the 15 safest Christmas destinations in Europe by the European Best Destinations (EBD), in which Zagreb is in 8th place. They also mention the date of this year's Advent (from November 27, 2020, to January 3, 2021), though the Tourist Board emphasizes they did not participate in this or communicate anything to the EBD, not even the dates they stated.

"EBD has been promoting sustainable European tourism for years in collaboration with the European Commission and other institutions and has compiled the list according to its own criteria, which, according to explanations we received from its director, were the number of cases per million inhabitants and hospital beds per capita, proximity to airports, the establishment of sanitary measures and others. According to the online voting in the EBD organization, Zagreb Advent was named the best in Europe three times. Croatia was among the countries with a relatively favorable epidemiological picture in September. Logically, they took us into account, and it is certainly positive that we are on that list," says Bienenfeld.

Presenting data on the decline in physical tourist traffic for the first nine months of this year, she notes that this is expected and points out the increased average length of stay of tourists in Zagreb, to 2.21 nights, compared to last year's 1.83.

By the end of September this year, almost 283 thousand tourists came to Zagreb, who realized 624.3 thousand overnight stays, or 26 and 31 percent of last year's results. Most tourists were from Croatia, followed by Germany, Italy, Bosnia, and Herzegovina, and Poland, while, in addition to locals and tourists from Germany, most overnight stays were achieved by tourists from Italy, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the USA.

In the first 15 days of October, 15.7 thousand tourists visited or 22 percent of last year's number in the same days, while 33 percent was reached with just over 41 thousand overnight stays, with a further extension of the average stay to 2.61 nights.

Most tourists stay in hotels, about 50 percent, then in private accommodation - about 40 percent. Bienenfeld reveals that due to the pandemic and the aftermath of the earthquake, seven hotels and 11 hostels are currently operating in Zagreb, and about 135 private accommodations closed just because of the earthquake.

Due to the damage caused by the earthquake, 15 museums and seven galleries and art collections are currently closed, which significantly reduces the offer. She also points out that changes in the behavior of those who travel are noticeable in the pandemic.

"Individual and smaller family and business trips have completely prevailed in Zagreb. Tourists are favoring individual rather than group city tours, visiting Zagreb attractions on their own, and spending more time outdoors and exploring the Zagreb area, which is thanks to our first destination campaign in cooperation with the Zagreb County Tourist Board "Near the city, close to the heart," says the director of the Zagreb Tourist Board.

Because of the coronavirus situation, the Zagreb Tourist Board changed the work program for this year and reduced expenditures by 35 percent, primarily the cost for promotional activities, appearances at fairs and international workshops, event support, materials and souvenirs, and offline advertising, and reduced the number of employees to five people.

"Circumstances have changed significantly, and existing employees are engaged in jobs caused by pandemics and earthquakes that do not represent an additional financial burden. We developed four promotional campaigns from March to October, organized 'hybrid' activities with live broadcasts on our online channels. We also do online presentations and marketing projects for further positioning in the international market, as well as virtual meetings and workshops in targeted markets from which we expect the return of guests as soon as the situation is more favorable," says Bienenfeld.

She believes that careful planning is now needed, with quick and ad hoc reactions and flexibility in decision-making, and, like others in tourism, estimates 2021 as uncertain, emphasizing that everything will depend on the situation and they will need to further adapt and innovate in all spheres of tourist activity.

"The focus should be on sustainable tourism through an adequate strategy for the development of health aspects of staying in the destination, and more than ever, cooperation, support and mutual trust of all tourism stakeholders are needed, especially since it is estimated that there will be no normalization before 2022. Given the importance and share of tourism in GDP, both in Europe and Croatia, it is imperative in these difficult times to encourage the creation of joint solutions by all levels of government to get out of this crisis," Bienenfeld concludes.

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Friday, 25 September 2020

Zagreb Tourist Board Won Three Important Awards

September 25, 2020 - The Zagreb Tourist Board won three important awards: two for the movie Zagreb Loves You, and one for the best congress destination.

Zagreb Loves You, a film by the Zagreb Tourist Board, won two awards at the recent tourist film festival in Turkey and Silafest, a tourist and environmental film festival in Serbia. These are special awards from expert juries that recognized this film in a group of promotional tourism videos. The video shows a spectrum of emotions that the people of Zagreb experienced, precisely six months ago, on March 22, when a devastating earthquake hit the capital, reports Vecernji.hr.

Director of the Zagreb Tourist Board, Ph.D. Martina Bienenfeld, received both awards at the International Tourism Film Festival in Turkey, which is also the only festival of its kind to be held live, with the strictest epidemiological measures.

"We created the film 'Zagreb Loves You' in collaboration with director Martina Miličević at a time when two disasters hit our city at once - a pandemic and an earthquake. We created an atypical film because we wanted to capture the emotion and strength of Zagreb and its citizens, at a time when we ourselves thought we were living scenes from an American disaster film. The film became the backbone of our comprehensive #ZagrebLovesYou campaign, which achieved more than half a million impressions. Now it has been seen by many people from the cultural and business world of Turkey, including Mr. Nadir Alpaslan, Deputy Minister of Culture and Tourism of the Republic of Turkey, as well as other high-ranking guests from the political world," said Bienenfeld.

In addition to the mentioned awards, Zagreb also won valuable recognition in the business context. Specifically, at the Conventa congress held in early September, Zagreb won the Meetings Star L award for the best congress destination that can accommodate 2,000 participants, further confirmed by the ranking in the ICCA (International Congress and Convention Association). Namely, ICCA's list of congress cities for 2019 has 424 seats, and, compared to 2018, our city has achieved a jump of as many as 20 seats and is in 48th place.

As a reminder, this statistical report is based on the ICCA database, which means that the figures include meetings organized by international associations. They are held regularly, rotate between at least three countries/regions, and have at least 50 participants, so it is a specific segment of the congress industry. With these results, Zagreb has again proven itself as a leading destination for business tourism in Croatia and one of the top destinations for business meetings, gatherings, congresses, and incentives in this part of Europe.

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Saturday, 15 August 2020

PHOTOS: Amazing Zagreb Street Art And Art Installations

August 15, 2020 - Before next week's return of street art and art installation event Okolo, we look at some of the amazing Zagreb Street Art they've gifted us

Zagreb street art and art installation event Okolo (Around) returns to the Croatian capital next week. The event, which is supported by Zagreb Tourist Board, will hold its third installment over 10 days between Thursday 20 August and Sunday 30 August.

In preparation for the event, we look back at some of their vibrant contributions to the streets, parks and public spaces in Zagreb. Incredible images of their past works should give visitors an idea of what to expect – it's one of the public art events of the year and it's well worth visiting during its occurrence.

Some of Okolo's painted Zagreb Street Art works have taken place on ground level and are so large, they are best seen by drone

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Photos © Okolo

Okolo's art interventions don't always take place on a grand scale - they've sometimes appeared in miniature

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Photos © Okolo

In the past, Okolo artists have used light projections to add 3D-looking geometric shapes on top of natural backdrops around the city. Zagreb Street Art interventions in the city centre thoroughfares take on a more tangible form

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Photos © Okolo

Okolo artists responded to the 2020 earthquake with heartfelt Zagreb Street Art 

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Photos © Okolo

Although not an Okolo project, some of the event's artists were involved in adding to the walls of Opatovina park, between Tkalčićeva and Opatovina ulica, during the COVID-19 lockdown. The new works were again supported by Zagreb Tourist Board

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Zagreb Street Art Photos © Ernest Mazarekić / Art Park / Zagreb Tourist Board

Friday, 15 May 2020

Zagreb Loves You, Latest from Croatia's Best Destination Promo in Corona Era

May 15, 2020 - Zagreb Loves You, and we love the Zagreb tourism promotion campaign during these difficult times, even without the earthquake. The best campaign in Croatia. 

One of the most fascinating things from a tourism point of view in recent months has been to observe how the tourism industry has approached this unique set of circumstances. In an age where people could not physically travel, was there any point in even mentioning tourism at all?

The reaction of official tourism bodies was very diverse. Some tried to ignore the reality that there was a global pandemic going on, promoting tourism as though nothing was happening. Others simply went into hibernation and disappeared off social media. And many others, after a period of confusion, joined the global trend of Dream Now, Travel Later. 

And while I saw many alluring photos and enticing videos, there was only one destination that I really craved during my lockdown on Hvar. And it was the destination which truly bared its soul these past few weeks, allowing future visitors to get to know it intimately. And it was the destination which easily had the best campaign to promote itself during these terrible months of any destination in Croatia. 

Zagreb. 

More than two months ago, and a week before the devastating Zagreb earthquakes, I wrote an article after a chat with the Zagreb Tourist Board. Yes, tourism was technically still possible, but with the situation changing by the hour, perhaps now was the time to put travel on hold and think about tourism in the future. With people spending more time at home and with more time on their hands, why not encourage people to stay safe, travel later AND give them lots of content to explore now while they had the time. Here is the article Tourism in the Corona Era: 10 Virtual Tools to Discover Zagreb.  

We certainly weren't the first in the world to come up with the concept of 'dream now, travel later' which has become such a one-dimensional strategy in recent weeks, but the concept of creating the desire AND giving lots of virtual content so that people had time to explore was new. And that Discover Zagreb article was one which inspired the recent TCN Virtual Croatia campaign

Then the devastating events of March 22 took place, as the earthquakes hit at the height of the pandemic. A terrible time for the people of Zagreb, with corona on the outside, earthquakes on the inside. How to even consider promoting tourism at a time like this?

My heart went out to the people of Zagreb, many of whom are my close friends in a city I have come to love in recent years after a lukewarm start to the relationship 18 years ago. If I had desire to go anywhere in these travel-restricted times, it was to the Croatian capital. 

Was that partly due to my wish to show solidarity for the people of Zagreb and my many friends there, or was that love of the city enhanced by the lovely official campaign, the like of which I have not seen elsewhere in Croatia in recent weeks. 

For Zagreb did what no other destination did - it bared its soul. Invited people into its most secret corners, allowing people to connect to the destination in a way I did feel anywhere else. 

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Perhaps it started with the immediate aftermath of the earthquake and the very poignant video posted the same day.  

Perhaps it was the emotion of seeing the top of the second cathedral spire removed. 

But something happened. And while other destinations shared photos of beaches and sunsets that can be found all over the world, Zagreb sucked people into its every corner, its citizens keen to show every aspect of the city and how they were resiliently dealing with all the tragic events. 

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Last month, I wrote about the continuing campaign in Damaged But Resilient: Brilliant Zagreb Tourist Board Virtual Campaign

 

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It includes great campaigns such as 'From Zagreb Balconies' where citizens have been sending their balcony views of the Croatian capital - a delightful cross-section of shots of the city, which you can explore here.

The Zagreb Tourist Board has also created a wonderful virtual section on its website called What to Do at Home.

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One of the best resources for understanding the complete situation in this beautiful city under attack from corona and earthquakes is the Love Zagreb blog, another Zagreb Tourist Board project online, which brings the heartbeat of the city into your living room. There were some fabulous texts written in recent weeks. If I could pick out a few to check out, they would be:

Zagreb - A City With a Spirit of Steel

In The Times of Hardship, We Stick Together

You Can Still Have Fun While Staying Indoors

Zagreb's Virtual Farmers' Market

I have been coming to Zagreb for years, once a week minimum pre-corona, but now I was learning something new on a  weekly basis, new places to explore when all this is over. 

This month brought a new month of discovery and emotion. 

Zagreb. Be There. Again... 

And I will be. Tomorrow. Leaving Hvar for the first time in two months, destination Zagreb. I am excited but strangely nervous about what I will find. I, who have travelled the world, lived in 10 countries and visited 96. 

A new month. A new campaign, with the dulcet tones of Emmy Award-winning reader, Rob Reider.

Zagreb Loves You. 

This video is made of memories... and soon... we will be making new ones. With YOU! 

Can't wait to see you again in Zagreb! 

And nor can I. Until tomorrow, then. 

The campaign runs until May 19, and there have been more than 300 submissions so far, making it more popular than the Zagreb balconies feature. 

And I will be adding my own contribution tomorrow, as well as eagerly awaiting the next phase of the campaign.

Follow the latest on the official Zagreb Tourist Board Facebook page.

Sunday, 19 April 2020

Damaged But Resilient: Brilliant Zagreb Tourist Board Virtual Campaign

April 19, 2020 - How to respond to corona on the outside, earthquakes on the inside and economic collapse all around if you are in the tourism business? Respect to the Zagreb Tourist Board and their new online campaign.

This is a period of our lives that none of us will ever forget. A period with such seismic change and total shock for all of us, where we are coming to terms that things will never be quite the same. In terms of shocks and the embedded memory, it is up there with 9/11, the 2008 crash and (for some reason, even though I have no interest in the Royal Family) the death of Lady Diana. 

And in this time of crisis - whether that crisis be health, economic, mental or social unrest, a combination of these four things or perhaps all rolled into one - there is arguably not a person on the planet who has not been affected by the corona crisis. And with so many stories of personal misery and suffering, it is totally understandable that people do not have the time or capacity to take on the pain and suffering of others. 

But if you do have the time and the capacity to hear about what others are going through, I want to tell you about an incredible city with a big heart, which has suffered much more than most, and whose resilience and determination to survive and prosper is beyond admirable. 

The city is Zagreb, the City of One Million Hearts. 

And the online response of the Zagreb Tourist Board and the Croatian National Tourist Board has been magnificent.

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With the corona crisis at its height, the Croatian capital was rocked by a series of earthquakes on March 22, as reported by TCN. Those harrowing pictures of the poor mothers and their newborns went all over the world.

TCN has covered the earthquake and its aftermath extensively, and you can see the entire coverage here, but for this article I want to focus on the response of both the national and Zagreb tourist board in its online handling of the tragedy. Because it was magnificent. 

The same day as the earthquake, the national tourist board posted this very moving video, above, with the following message:

"This is my city, my streets, my love. My city with a million hearts... I hope we will smile again, drink coffee with friends and, soon, welcome new friends from around the world who will fall in love with Zagreb, just like I did."

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A similar message can be seen on the homepage of the Zagreb Tourist Board.

And then this, the very symbol of the Zagreb skyline, shared by the Croatian National Tourist Board, the removal of the top of the damaged cathedral spires.

Symbols of the Zagreb skyline, the Zagreb Cathedral...
Even without both spires, still, beautiful and strong...
Video by RTL.hr
Thank you RTL.hr
#ZagrebStayStrong #Zagreb #CroatiaFullOfMemories #Croazia #Croatia

Heartbreaking, heartwarming, emotions all over the place. But once one looks at things from a more detached view, how is the Zagreb Tourist Board responding, and how to promote tourism in an age when nobody is travelling?

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The Zagreb Tourist Board Facebook page became a focal point for the pictures of its residents. Some excellent pictures, such as this one from Bojan Rakic. Check out the Zagreb Tourist Board Facebook page for more.

A few weeks ago, I wrote an article called Tourism in the Corona Age: 10 Virtual Ways to Discover Zagreb. The article looks at the online resources available to explore Zagreb virtually for a future visit, a strategy which the Zagreb Tourist Board has been quietly rolling out in recent weeks, using hashtags #DreamNowTravelLater and #ZagrebLovesYou. 

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It includes great campaigns such as 'From Zagreb Balconies' where citizens have been sending their balcony views of the Croatian capital - a delightful cross-section of shots of the city, which you can explore here.

The Zagreb Tourist Board has also created a wonderful virtual section on its website called What to Do at Home.

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This section is an excellent collection of ways to enjoy Zagreb virtually, from museum tours to theatre productions. You can check it out here.

One of the best resources for understanding the complete situation in this beautiful city under attack from corona and earthquakes is the Love Zagreb blog, another Zagreb Tourist Board project online, which brings the heartbeat of the city into your living room. There were some fabulous texts written in recent weeks. If I could pick out a few to check out, they would be:

Zagreb - A City With a Spirit of Steel

In The Times of Hardship, We Stick Together

You Can Still Have Fun While Staying Indoors

Zagreb's Virtual Farmers' Market

What people perhaps are not aware of is what is happening behind the scenes. I have had several messages from Zagreb tour guides saying that the tourist board had been in contact to discuss how best to promote the city and their agency with whatever online tools the agency had. 

Here is one such resource, which our TCN interns filmed quite independently recently, a video guide to the unique Secret Zagreb Badass Women of Zagreb Tour

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And how about THIS? At 16:00 Croatian time today, there will be a live and free walking tour of Zagreb in English. You can follow it live on Facebook

Zagreb, the City of a Million Hearts, stay strong in this incredibly trying time. 

I, and many other foreigners, look forward to seeing you soon in the flesh. 

You can learn more about the virtual and non-virtual offer of the Zagreb Tourist Board on the official website

Friday, 17 January 2020

Zagreb Advent Continues to Grow: Arrivals Up 12%, Overnights Up 11%

January 17, 2020 - Zagreb Advent continues to grow. Thanks to the Zagreb Advent and New Year's events, arrivals are up 12% and overnight stays up 11%, announced the Zagreb Tourist Board on Friday.

Specifically, HRTurizam reports that there were 160,917 arrivals and 308,787 overnights over the forty days of the event (November 29, 2019 - January 7, 2020).

In the mentioned period, Croatian tourists recorded 53,545 arrivals (which is up 15%), while there were 107,372 foreign tourists (up 10%). Most guests came from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Italy, Austria, Slovenia and Germany. Of the total overnights registered, Croatian tourists realized 97,825 (15% growth) and foreign tourists 210,962 (9% growth).

"Zagreb Advent is Zagreb's most successful tourist event and I am extremely pleased with these great results. We are particularly happy about the fact that individual broadcasting markets (Germany, Austria, Slovenia and Serbia), where the Tourist Board conducted targeted online and offline marketing campaigns, increased more than 15%. Thus, 27% more overnight stays from Germany and 24% more overnight stays from Austria were registered, which indicates the success of the campaign, but also the popularity of Advent itself in Zagreb,”  said Zagreb Tourist Board director Martina Bienenfeld.

The Zagreb Tourist Board added that in addition to the markets above, online campaigns were also conducted in Spain, the USA, Italy, BiH and Hungary through advertisements, display and video ads. An increase was recorded in all markets. Advertisements were also displayed on YouTube, Google, social networks (Facebook, Instagram) and the portals of these markets.

The results for all of 2019 are also record high, and the number of arrivals and overnight stays in the City of Zagreb increased compared to 2018. Namely, the number of arrivals increased by 4% (1,459,572) and the number of overnights by 5% (2,656,964) compared to 2018. With these results, Zagreb, in commercial accommodation, took 1st place in arrivals and 5th place in overnight stays.

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

Monday, 18 February 2019

Zagreb Tourist Board, Missing 45k (and More) and the Abu Dhabi Connection

February 18, 2019 - Croatian media is reporting that Croatian tourism organisations have been defrauded of 45,000 euro, but the real story is a lot more interesting.

(Editor's note - a big thank you to Goran Rihelj from HR Turizam, who first alerted us to the story several days ago. A lot of Goran's research is included, and Croatian language readers can find his text on the subject here - his story will appear tomorrow and the link added). 

It is not the first time in the history of conferences that an organiser has cancelled or disappeared with the money. 

But could it be the first time that an organiser has managed to persuade a tourist board to host an event in Croatia after they already proved their unreliability by cancelling several major international conferences where the most prominent Croatian names were due to attend? 

The Croatian media is today awash with stories of how a British couple organising a tourism conference, CETS Summit (Central European Tourism Summit in Zagreb) have disappeared without trace, taking with them at least 45,000 euro of tourist board money with them. 

After Goran mentioned the fact that the event website had disappeared and exhibitors had been contacting him asking if they knew anything about the conference or how they could get their money back, I decided to take a closer look into the event and its British organisers, Andy and Lu Buchanan. 

The relationship between Andy Buchanan and Croatia goes back a little beyond this failed CETS Summit. Indeed, here is Zlatan Muftic from the Zagreb Convention Bureau speaking in Abu Dhabi at the first (and only) World Halal Travel Summit back in 2015. A successful event organised by Andy Buchanan's company, the same organiser at the proposed CETS Summit in Zagreb.

So far, so good. 

And then things started to go a little wrong. The 2016 World Halal Travel Summit and the inaugural International Travel Week Abu Dhabi (ITW), organised by Buchanan, were both postponed due to regional tensions until 2017 and merged into one.

The confirmed 2017 Croatian attendance for ITW Abu Dhabi 2017 was strong

"For now, participation at ITW Abu Dhabi is confirmed by 12 Croatian representatives: Bagatin Clinic, Specialty Hospital Arithera, Specialty Hospital Akromion, Croatian Tourism Board, Zagreb Tourism Board, Kvarner Tourism County Board, Kvarner Health Cluster, Međimurje Tourism Board, Municipality Krapina-Zagorje, Confutura agency, Terme Sv. Martin, IQ Cure resort, organized by Arabco Projects - official representative of ITW Abu Dhabi for Croatia and Adria region."

The conference was cancelled two weeks before it was due to take place.

And so, after two years of postponed and cancelled conferences, official Croatian confidence in the company to deliver was so high that it was agreed to engage Buchanan's company to hold a VERY ambitious tourism conference in Zagreb called CETS Summit (Central European Tourism Summit). Diamond sponsors of the event were the Croatian National Tourist Board, Zagreb Tourist Board, City of Zagreb and Croatia Airlines. Both tourist boards were well aware of the cancelled events in Abu Dhabi in 2016 and 2017. 

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(Andy Buchanan, photo source www.4seasonscroatia.com) 

Buchanan was convincing after the success of the 2015 halal summit, even having ITB Berlin announce a partnership with ITW Abu Dhabi in October 2017.  The partnership lasted just a month until ITW Abu Dhabi 2017 was cancelled, as was confirmed in an email to TCN last week by ITB Berlin PR Manager for Corporate Communication, Julia Sonnemann.

"With regard to ITW Abu Dhabi, ITB Berlin occupied the role of marketing and alliance partner, but was not responsible in any way either for planning or staging the event. Over the years medical and halal travel have become increasingly important segments at ITB Berlin. Networking with ITW in Abu Dhabi as marketing partner therefore made sense in order to exploit the synergies of the two fairs. Thus, only the organisers of ITW can comment on the reason it has been cancelled. The partnership ended by the time ITW cancelled the event. So we are not cooperating with them anymore."

As quickly as ITB Berlin distanced itself from Buchanan's company, so Zagreb seemingly embraced it. After two years of non-delivery in Abu Dhabi, Buchanan's Cacti Expo was engaged to deliver "Central Europe's largest travel trade event."

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In December. 

During Advent in Zagreb. 

When Zagreb is not exactly empty. 

Or businesses focused on business.

When I questioned the timing with the organisers, I was told that it was a deliberate decision from the tourist boards to hold it at the beginning of Advent to show that Croatia was 'Full of Life' all year round. 

It seemed that the genius idea to hold the inaugural largest travel trade event in December when Zagreb was going to be full did not seem that appealing to conference participants, and Lu Buchanan explained to the media that it had been decided to reschedule the event for May 2019.

Industry experts I have spoken to have expressed their surprise at the size of the project for a first-time exhibition in a new location in December - 12,000m2 is a lot of space to fill. Too much, as it turned out. 

"We believe that there will be more available rooms in the hotels in May, and spring offers opportunities for more sightseeing in both Zagreb and in its surroundings, as well as in other parts of Croatia, which are also in the CETS Zagreb program," Buchanan explained.

It is always reassuring when you have both the Zagreb and national tourist boards involved that nobody is quite sure when might be the best month for available beds for a major international conference. 

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And so the event was rescheduled for May 7-8, 2019, with a welcome photo of Zagreb snow to get the delegates into that warm Spring feeling. 

The company behind Cacti is based in Malaga, Spain. While Lu Buchanan stated to the media that Cent Euro Fairs SL has been trading for 25 years, this would appear to be news to the Spanish tax authorities, According to online records, the company is allegedly just one year old (formed on 25 January, 2018, a few days after the CETS team first contacted me), with a start-up capital of 3,000 euro and is yet to file any taxes.

The CETS Summit is due to take place in May. The website has disappeared (it is not totally offline - there was some recent activity after we started looking into the story, as permissions for documents available on the site suddenly changed), the organisers are not contactable, and the tourist boards and other partners have quietly removed all mention of the conference from their websites.

Is it necessary to let people know that the conference has been cancelled? Apparently not. 

News of the failed conference broke in the Croatian media last night, with some 45,000 euro apparently lost. A number which I suspect is the tip of the iceberg, as several other exhibitors have contacted us for information in recent days. 

The 45,000 euro cited in the Croatian media refers only to 16,500 paid by the Croatian National Tourist Board for a 50m2 and 29,100 euro by the Zagreb Tourist Board. There were many other tourist boards, both local and regional, taking part in this event. My understanding is that the Kvarner region was particularly interested in preparation for Rijeka becoming the European City of Culture in 2020. And let's not forget the many non-tourist board businesses taking part. 

Or that it was not just a Croatian event, but a regional one. HINA reports that the national tourist boards of Slovenia, Macedonia and Bosnia and Hercegovina were also taking part, as well as presumably some other businesses and tourist boards from those countries. Many will have paid their fees, but will they see them again? It is hardly a glorious advert for Zagreb as a conference centre. Suing a one-year-old company with a start-up capital of 3,000 euro where the owners have disappeared will be a challenge. 

And it is not just the exhibitors who are out of pocket. International and local staff working for CETS Summit were laid off as far back as June last year - they are all owed money. I spoke to one of them today - lots of promises of money coming. Even the expenses of their sales trips were not paid. A feature story on this will be on TCN next week. 

While efforts will no doubt continue to recover the money from a Spanish company with start-up capital of 3,000 euro and uncontactable owners, the larger question remains as to how the biggest official names in Croatian tourism could have proceeded with a conference which made little sense (as was evidenced by the lack of take-up) and with seemingly no due diligence or care that previous conferences by the same organisers had been cancelled. 

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There is one more link to the story which has yet to be explained. Arabco Projects, a company based in Zagreb, has been actively trying to engage Croatian businesses in the Middle East since at least January 2015. It is still advertising itself as the certified partner of ITW Abu Dhabi. Perhaps they will have some answers. We have reached out to Arabco Projects and owner Petar Galovic, who has promised an official response to the situation with CETS, an event 'with which he has no connection.' As official partner of ITW Abu Dhabi, however, I understand that he was involved in dealing with and handling payments from Croatian participants for that cancelled event. 

One thing is for sure - this is the latest chapter in the less than glorious chapter of Croatian tourism promotion, with more wasted money. The Kings of Accidental Tourism are back.

Have you registered for CETS Summit and paid money? Please contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Monday, 26 June 2017

Zagreb Tourist Board CEO Martina Bienenfeld Receives PRO.PR Vision Manager Award

PRO.PR Awards is the collective term for the awards whose main goal is the promotion of the PR profession and communication management through individuals and cities in South-East and Central Europe

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