'Croatian Tourism Month' Campaign: Hype and the Sad Reality

By 5 October 2021
'Croatian Tourism Month' Campaign: Hype and the Sad Reality
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October 5, 2021 - The Croatian National Tourist Board announced October to be Croatian Tourism Month in a press release last week. A quick look at what could have been a great initiative shows all is not as it seems. 

Let me start by saying I think it is a great idea.

Lots of things start as great ideas with official Croatian tourism promotion. 

And with a nice press release and media PR campaign, all is well with the world. 

As long as nobody actually looks at the detail... 

The plan - to help extend the season by offering 35% discounts to domestic and foreign tourists for the month of October - makes a lot of sense. If Croatia is to extend its season, October is perhaps the easiest month to do so.  

And there is certainly demand, if you follow the UK media, for example - Half-term holiday bookings jump 200% after England travel rules change.

So much so in fact that The Guardian dedicated a feature story to it a few days ago - 10 of the best half-term holidays in Europe – from Alpine cycling to sunbaked Rhodes.

You would expect Croatia to be on that list, surely? Sadly not. 

Autumnal Lake Bled, the Eastern Algarve, Rural Romania, and Hassle-free Rhodes all made the list but nothing that Croatia could offer. And yet, at the same time, a shiny new website and promotion for Croatian Tourism Month, the month of October. Curious, I decided to check out the website and see what magic one could enjoy. 

I genuinely wish I hadn't. 


The last time I looked into a website of a much-hyped official Croatian tourism project was over 5 years ago, and the now infamous Croatia365 project. Little did I know that my Sunday afternoon musings over a couple of beers would turn into the top story in the Croatian media the following day, and lead to my first and only meeting with a director of the Croatian National Tourist Board. The original article is still live on TCN.

A lot can happen in 5 years, and I decided to give the press release my full attention. A solid start:

The “Croatian Tourism Month” campaign starts tomorrow, a project of the Ministry of Tourism and Sports and the Croatian National Tourist Board, within which numerous tourist services and experiences will be available at 35 percent more favorable prices. Thus, all Croatian citizens, as well as foreign guests who will be staying in Croatia during October, will be able to tourist services in all parts of Croatia at attractive prices, and everything will be available on the “Croatian Tourism Month” portal.

And a promising finish:

The project "Croatian Tourism Month" is a continuation of last year's extremely successful project “Vacation-Worthy Week” which was implemented in the period from October 16th to 25th, and which this year, due to the great interest of tourism entities and the public, will run throughout October. Let us add that the main goal of the project is to extend the tourist season by encouraging domestic and foreign tourist traffic in the post-season.

All sounds nice.

So I clicked on the link in the English press release (interestingly, it did not go to the home page), putting myself in the mind of a foreign tourist with no Croatian language, keen to see what Croatia has to offer in October with a 35% discount. I invite you to do the same. Let's take a tour of the magic of Croatian Tourism Month, the official website, through the eyes of an English-speaking foodie, for example. 


This, remember, is a national tourism promotion project by the Croatian National Tourist Board and the Ministry of Tourism and Sports. Croatian speakers might think this landing page is ok. It is.

If you speak Croatian. 

The first surprise is that the website is only in Croatian. So it seems that we are back to the old strategy of a few years ago of looking exclusively for Croatian-speaking foreign tourists. If this was a project looking exclusively for domestic tourists, then I would understand, but as CNTB explained in the press release - Let us add that the main goal of the project is to extend the tourist season by encouraging domestic and foreign tourist traffic in the post-season.

I was feeling discouraged. 

Perhaps I could punch my way out of this landing page and end up somewhere more useful. Not as easy as it sounded. If I clicked on the Home icon, I stayed on the same page. There was no search button, and if I clicked on the thing called Prijava, it asked for my email address. In Croatian. 

The next option was something called Sudjeljute. That leads to another registration option, again in Croatian. 


I tried scrolling down, and I was rewarded with what I wrongly assumed to be progress. What looked like categories of things to do, places to stay, and where to eat. In the guise of a hungry non-Croatian speaking potential tourist, I was finally going to discover the mouthwatering Croatian gastronomic delights that so enthralled the likes of Gordan Ramsay and Anthony Bourdain. 

Or so I thought.


The Croatian National Tourist Board had helpfully added such useful icons for those not fluent in Croatian, and I guessed that Hrana i Pice, with its plate and cutlery was probably the food and drink section. 

And so it was as I hovered over it - a sub-menu appeared. We were getting there. Restorani, bistro, caffe, barovi - we were in the right place. This Croatian language was not as hard as I thought.

None of the links in the sub-categories worked, and I was stuck on the same page. You could click on Restorani until the cows came home - but there would be no steak for you for dinner. 

I was beginning to feel like a prisoner on the page the Croatian National Tourist Board press release had sent me to.  


With no obvious clickable way out, I decided instead to manually type in the homepage, and here was progress indeed. 

I met the same categories and there seemed to be a selection function by region or city. In my imagination, I was driving all the way from Montenegro along the Adriatic coast to Kvarner, then to Zagreb and then the wonders of Slavonia. What wonderful culinary treats would the Croatian Tourism Month promotion have in store for me, with the additional bonus of a 35% discount?  


Not a lot in the Dubrovnik region, it seemed. 


A four-hour drive to Split would be rewarded with an empty stomach.  


Perhaps the magic of Sibenik had something to satisfy my hunger?  


And not a lot in Zadar, either. 


I was beginning to think that perhaps there was a bug in the website code (actually, I would probably have eaten some fried bugs by this stage), but then the welcoming site of Croatian pancakes at the National Park Risnjak, close to Istria, showed that there was at least something to eat in Croatia in October. 


It was a good job that we did stop and eat at Risnjak, for there was nothing on offer in the Croatian capital, Zagreb.  

And rather a shame for Slavonia that there was nothing to eat, given that the fabulous HeadOnEast starts this week. Here is what tourists could be finding out about for the month of October in Slavonia, in the video below.

With such impressive official promotion of Croatia's official efforts to extend the season, perhaps it is no wonder that The Guardian looked elsewhere for its half-term recommendations.

A little investigation came up with the sad reality that there are only NINE restaurants in the entire country currently taking part in this national campaign. And while I can sympathise with something that starts small, remember the words of the official press release (I have added the bold):

The project "Croatian Tourism Month" is a continuation of last year's extremely successful project “Vacation-Worthy Week” which was implemented in the period from October 16th to 25th, and which this year, due to the great interest of tourism entities and the public, will run throughout October.

The great interest of tourism entities for a 10-day period last October has led to an international campaign for a month with just 9 restaurants participating. 

Having written about - and been sued by - the Croatian National Tourist Board on more than one occasion, it is clear to me that there is no accountable measure of success. It can simply be declared a success, and therefore it is. 

Croatia had an excellent tourism season, much to everyone's surprise, although I am waiting for the usual suspects to claim all the credit. Was it due, perhaps, to the fact that Croatia had one of the lowest vaccination rates in the EU, or that its hotels were so unprepared by the sudden rush that they had could not find the staff? I am thrilled that the season was so good, and that people who were really struggling managed to sleep a little easier. Was the success due to any coordinated strategy, however? And would the numbers have been any different if we had no national tourist board at all?

As we move towards the winter months, and some discussions turn once again to 12-month tourism, here is a very interesting interview with a UK tour rep who brought 12-month tourism to Croatia from 1986 to 1991, an era before the Croatian National Tourist Board. Looks pretty amazing - and achievable - doesn't it?

In the meantime, if you are coming to take advantage of the magical Croatian Tourism Month campaign, don't forget to pack some sandwiches.