American Perceptions of Croatian Tourism: Myriad Marketing's Al Merschen Interview

By 15 November 2018

American interest in Croatian tourism is growing. A  recent in-depth survey of perceptions of Croatian tourism in the United States by Myriad Marketing was presented to the Croatian tourism industry at the recent Days of Croatian tourism by Myriad director, Al Merschen. You can read the report on Merschen's presentation here. TCN caught up with Merschen on November 15, 2018 to learn more.

1. Many thanks for your presentation at Days of Croatian Tourism on Hvar last month. Tell us a little about American interest in Croatia.

There is a growing interest in Croatia.  It seems to be one of the “in” places in the world for Americans.  Many are introduced by a cruise that sparks interest.  Others have seen pictures and heard stories from friends.  And, of course, some watch Game of Thrones!


(the top 11 things American tourists are interested in about Croatia, according to the Myriad Marketing survey)

2. Getting American tourists who want to travel abroad past Mexico, Canada and the Caribbean is one thing, but then Croatia has to compete with the likes of London, Paris and Rome, as well as traditional diaspora markets. What is Croatia's competitive advantage?

There is mounting pressure from almost all destinations around the world that creates competition for Croatia. I do not believe it is Paris or London... or Sydney or Hong Kong. That is a different traveler looking for a different experience.  Our research indicates that it is the Croatian culture that creates the interest for the Americans who want to visit Croatia.  

It is actually other emerging destinations like Iceland, Columbia, Turkey and Vietnam/ Cambodia that are attracting the potential Croatian audience, as well as repeat travelers to Italy, Greece, etc.  

Because the American are high-spend travelers, it is a highly sought-after visitor. Some say that American travelers are the “Antidote for Over Tourism!”

3. What is Croatia best-known for in the United States in your opinion?

Croatian marketing in the USA “punches way above its weight class.” When other international destinations have budgets in excess of 10Million USD (plus partner or regional well as airline marketing, i.e. Turkey), Croatia has made maximum impact with minimal dollars. In addition to the need to build and maintain consumer advertising and public relations, the distribution channels need to be addressed. This requires strong, integrated and very expensive media partners.

Overall, the impact has had a substantial ROI compare to other destinations.

4. How would you rate Croatia's marketing presence in the US market?. How could it improve?

As mentioned, they are stars in what they have achieved in the market The best way for improvements in tourism marketing would require two movements. The first would be a substantial increase in budget. If Croatia wants to be a serious competitor in North America, it needs to have a serious budget. The market is very competitive. Also, it would be helpful if the industry partners began to have an investment in the US market too

5. You recently returned from Croatia. How do you personally view the potential of the country compared to your perceptions before your visit?

Croatia met and exceeded my expectations. The infrastructure was more developed than I thought. The high level of the product offering was at a higher level than I had imagined. The ease of traveling around the country is a welcome eye-opening. Most people I knew who had visited Croatia had come via Cruise or on a guided tour. I think there is such a strong possibility for FIT markets. 

Although I had read about the history, I believe the complicated nature of the nation was even more interesting when there. 

As expected, the pictures don’t do the experience justice. 

And although I heard that the people of Croatia were nice (which you often hear about many destinations), the fact that they were “proactively’ nice made the difference. 

6. Medical tourism did not feature in reasons for visiting Croatia in your survey, and yet the potential of Croatian medical tourism is perhaps the biggest of all. Co-founded by Mayo Clinic, the OneOme RightMed pharmacogenetic test is only available in Croatia in Europe, for example, and the potential savings, especially for US patients, is huge. In two case studies at Bagatin Clinic in Zagreb, for example, the dental savings for these two patients totalled about $100,000. How can Croatia and its health tourism industry most effectively gain better visibility in the American market?

Although it may sound sexy and profitable, medical tourism is a very very small niche market for the US. The money that comes into the destination usually ends up in very few hands and has little impact throughout the country. 

Before it can have true impact, the destination must be well established to create confidence in an additional attribute.