The hype and the grim reality
October 5, 2021 – The Croatian National Tourist Board has announced that October will be Croatian Tourism Month in a Press release Last week. A quick glance at what could have been a great initiative shows that all is not as it seems.
Let me start by saying that I think this is a great idea.
Many things start with great ideas with the official promotion of Croatian tourism.
And with a nice press release and a media PR campaign, all is well with the world.
As long as no one is really looking at the details …
The plan – to help extend the season by offering 35% off to domestic and foreign tourists for the month of October – makes a lot of sense. If Croatia want to extend their season, October is perhaps the easiest month to do.
And there is certainly a demand, if you follow the UK media, for example – Mid-term holiday bookings jump 200% after England travel rules change.
So much so that The Guardian devoted a report to it a few days ago – 10 of the best mid-term vacations in Europe – from alpine cycling to sunny Rhodes.
You would expect Croatia to be on this list, surely? Unfortunately not.
Autumn Lake Bled, the Eastern Algarve, rural Romania, and Hassle-free Rhodes were all on the list, but nothing Croatia could offer. And yet, at the same time, a shiny new website and promotion for Croatian Tourism Month, October. Curious, I decided to check out the website and see what magic we could enjoy.
I really wish I hadn’t.
The last time I visited a website for a high-profile Croatian official tourism project was over 5 years ago, and the now infamous Croatia365 project. I had no idea that my Sunday afternoon musings over a few beers would turn into the story on the front page of the Croatian media the next day, and led me 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” the campaign starts tomorrow, a project of the Ministry of Tourism and Sports and the Croatian National Tourist Board, within which many tourist services and experiences will be available at 35 percent lower price. Thus, all Croatian citizens, as well as foreign guests who will be staying in Croatia during the month of October, will be able to benefit from tourist services in all regions 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 the continuation of the extremely successful project of last year “Worthy Holiday Week” which was implemented in the period from October 16 to 25, and which this year, due to the great interest of tourist entities and the public, will take place throughout the month of October. Let us add that the main objective of the project is to extend the tourist season by encouraging national and foreign tourist traffic in the post-season.
Everything sounds good.
So I clicked on the link in the English press release (interestingly it didn’t go to the homepage), putting myself in the head of a foreign tourist with no Croatian language eager 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.
Remember that this is a national tourism promotion project of the Croatian National Tourism Board and the Ministry of Tourism and Sports. Croatian speakers might think this landing page is correct. He is.
If you speak Croatian.
The first surprise is that the site is only in Croatian. So it looks like we are going back to the old strategy of a few years ago of exclusively seeking out Croatian speaking foreign tourists. If this was a project aimed exclusively at domestic tourists, I would understand, but as the CNTB explained in the press release – Let us add that the main objective of the project is to extend the tourist season by encouraging national and foreign tourist traffic in the post-season.
I felt discouraged.
Maybe I could get off that landing page and find myself in a more useful place. Not as easy as it sounds. If I clicked on the Home icon, I would stay on the same page. There was no search button, and if I clicked on the thing called Prijava, it would ask for my email address. In Croatian.
The next option was something called Sudjeljute. This leads to another recording option, still in Croatian.
I tried to scroll down, and was rewarded with what I mistakenly assumed was progress. What looked like categories of things to do, places to stay, and places to eat. In the guise of a potential hungry non-Croatian-speaking tourist, I was finally about to experience the mouth-watering Croatian gastronomic delights that so captivated the tastes of Gordan Ramsay and Anthony Bourdain.
Or so I thought.
The Croatian National Tourist Office had helpfully added such icons useful for those who are not fluent in Croatian, and I guessed that Hrana i Pice, with its plate and cutlery, was probably the food and drink section .
And that’s how I hovered over it – a submenu appeared. We were getting there. Restorani, bistro, caffe, barovi – we were in the right place. This Croatian language was not as difficult as I thought it would be.
None of the links in the subcategories worked and I was stuck on the same page. You could click Restorani until the cows come home – but there wouldn’t be any steak for you for dinner.
I was starting to feel trapped on the page to which the press release from the Croatian National Tourist Board had sent me.
With no obvious clickable exit, I decided to manually enter the homepage instead, and it was.
I encountered the same categories and there seemed to be a select feature by region or city. In my imagination I was driving from Montenegro along the Adriatic coast to Kvarner, then to Zagreb and finally the wonders of Slavonia. What culinary wonders does the Croatian Tourism Month promotion have in store for me, plus a 35% discount?
Not much in the Dubrovnik area, it seemed.
A four hour drive to Split would be rewarded with an empty stomach.
Maybe Sibenik’s magic had enough to satisfy my hunger?
And not much in Zadar either.
I was starting to think that maybe there was a bug in the website code (in fact, I probably would have eaten some fried bugs by this point), but the Croatian Pancake Home Site at National Park Risnjak, near Istria, showed that there was at least something to eat in Croatia in October.
It was a good job that we stopped to eat in Risnjak, as there was nothing to offer in the Croatian capital, Zagreb.
And rather a shame for Slavonia that there was nothing to eat, as the fabulous HeadOnEast starts this week. Here’s what tourists might discover for October in Slavonia, in the video below.
With such an impressive official promotion of Croatia’s official efforts to extend the season, perhaps it’s no wonder The Guardian looked elsewhere for its mid-term recommendations.
A small survey revealed the sad reality that there are only NINE restaurants across the country currently participating in this national campaign. And while I may sympathize with something that starts out small, remember the words from the official press release (I added the bold characters):
The “Croatian Tourism Month” project follows on from last year extremely successful “Vacation-Worthy Week” project which was implemented in the period from October 16 to 25, and which this year, due to the great interest of tourist entities and the public, will take place throughout the month of October.
The great interest of tourist entities for a period of 10 days last October led to a one-month international campaign with only 9 participating restaurants.
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 accounting measure of success. It can simply be declared as a success, and so it is.
Croatia has had a great tourist season, much to everyone’s surprise, although I wait 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 for the sudden rush that they had not been able to find the staff? I am delighted that the season has been so good and that the people who were really struggling managed to sleep a little easier. But was the success due to a coordinated strategy? And would the figures have been different if we had not had a national tourist office at all?
As we head into the winter months and some discussions turn to 12 month tourism again, here is a very interesting interview with a representative from the UK who brought 12 month tourism to Croatia from 1986 in 1991, a time before the Croatian National Tourist Board. Sounds pretty amazing – and achievable – doesn’t it?
In the meantime, if you come to enjoy the magical Croatian Tourism Month campaign, don’t forget to pack sandwiches.