Several years ago, a friend of mine in Hvar who runs a luxury tourism agency in Hvar told me about the moment he discovered the secret of Croatian tourism.
“I was in an olive grove with a group of wealthy New York customers,” he explained. “Olive tasting, peka lunch, the norm. One of the guests came up to me and waved me to a lemon tree and its abundant fruit nearby. He asked if he would be ok with pick one pick ten i replied and off he went at the end of the week he came to thank me for an amazing week but he just wanted me to know what the highlight had been for him.
“Pick those lemons,” he said. “I grew up in New York and I’ve only seen lemons in a store or on a plate. Picking one the way nature intended was just mind blowing.”
The secret to quality tourism, my friend concluded, was to understand the things we take for granted but have great value to others, and then to put the two together.
Lots of lemons have been picked for handsome sums over the past 10 years on Hvar. A fair exchange for the authentic experience.
Growing up in Hvar, there’s no reason to think that picking a lemon from a tree could be an exceptional experience for anyone else. It is human nature that people take their environment for granted and assume that others are aware of it too. But I have always found that listening to visitors and tourists helps to show where the gaps in knowledge and understanding are. And if we are aware of these gaps and can fill them, then there are benefits for all.
It is natural for Croatians to assume that tourists who come to visit know where Croatia is on the map, but many really have no idea. After the exploits of the 2018 World Cup in Russia, “Where is Croatia” was one of the most searched terms. People knew it was somewhere “in Eastern Europe”, but many couldn’t place it on the map.
The geography of Croatia has once again featured prominently in Google search recently, with one of the most searched terms finding TCN in recent weeks – Is Croatia close to Ukraine?
The reality is that what used to be the former socialist bloc in Central and Eastern Europe still confuses many Westerners, and a little more clarity on Croatia’s geographic position would help, filling one of those knowledge gaps potential tourists and the supposed knowledge of locals. .
I decided to write an article on the subject earlier this month – Is Croatia close to Ukraine? Some answers to tourist searches on Google. It was one of the most popular of the year so far. So how do you fill this information gap? A simple, often reinforced, message to identify Croatia’s location in Central Europe could be made with a combination of these two facts:
Croatia, only 25 km from Italy, and whose capital is west of Vienna.
The assumption that Croatia is somewhere vague in Eastern Europe is gone, as is the tantalizing prospect of adding it to Western European itineraries.
This article was prompted by a phone call from Croatian television last week, inviting me to appear on the national evening news to comment on a new campaign by the Croatian National Tourist Board, in particular its new slogan, Croatia – Your Life, Your Time, Your Experience. The accompanying signature on the official YouTube channel is Our life is defined by the memories we create, and our purpose in life should be to please ourselves and the people around us..
I politely declined the invitation, as I currently have two ongoing lawsuits against the Croatian National Tourist Board (new episode coming soon, but you can catch up on the first two in Diary of a Croatian Lawsuit) , including one for satirical commentary on their slogan.
A bit like the current Croatia, full of life, I don’t know how this new slogan applies to Croatia or showcases its USP or its strengths and attributes. You could substitute the word Croatia for just about any country on the planet and they would come up with a version of the same.
I thought back to the lemon tree episode. What are the things we take for granted here that surprise and impress our visitors?
I’ve spoken to A LOT of tourists, digital nomads, and expats over the years here. They all have their reasons for visiting – and in some cases staying – but there are a number of factors that are critical to them, many of which come as a surprise as they were unaware of them prior to their visit. And much like the example of the lemon tree, if we can listen and fill in those information gaps, Croatia’s brand and what it truly offers will only be stronger. And the good news is that unlike Lively and Your life, your time, your experiences, they cannot be applied everywhere. They include:
Security. Croatia is one of the safest countries in the world. I’m not talking about COVID-safe (or any associated campaign claiming that with one of the lowest vaccination rates in the EU), but safety from a safety perspective. I have met so many expats and diaspora who are here because it is a safe place to raise families. My personal experience of raising two little ones in Hvar was magical. Many are amazed at the security at night in the big cities, where young women return home alone and unmolested. In an increasingly uncertain world, Croatia’s security relative to other countries is a great marketing tool, especially when paired with everything on offer.
Way of life. Croatia truly has the best lifestyle in Europe, and there is so much more than 2 hour cafes on the riva. As more and more people take the remote work route, lifestyle is one of the key factors when choosing a destination. Imagine how popular a beautiful destination that offered the best lifestyle and was one of the safest places in Europe could be. I’m not a fan of Croatia, full of life slogan, but one of its advantages is its flexibility of use – Croatia, full of culture, Croatia, full of wine etc And yet – according to Google – Croatia, full of lifestyle has never been used. Until this article. This could and should be the cornerstone of Croatia’s message to the world.
Croatians speak excellent English. This was a real surprise to me, but I lost count of the number of visitors who were blown away by the level of English spoken in Croatia (I just thought people knew). Croatians speak English as well as any country I’ve lived in (and much better than Newcastle and Glasgow…), and much better than other tourism competitors, according to the many tourists in who I told. Knowing that there is no language barrier to overcome is a determining factor in the choice of destination, especially for those who wish to stay a little longer.
Wifi is great. This is more about digital nomad feedback, but many have expressed surprise at the quality of WiFi in general in Croatia. Sure, there are more remote places where it’s spotty, but knowing that getting online won’t be a problem is reassuring.
Authentic experiences. It feels like the West as it once was, with so many local traditions and authentic experiences. I hear a version of this phrase a lot. For the simple reason that it is true. Croatia is arguably Europe’s capital of authentic experience, with something happening 365 days a year, all over the country. I have never experienced so many weird and wonderful festivals and traditions anywhere in the world than in Croatia, one of the reasons why we are creating our new CROMADES Platform. In an increasingly standardized world, destinations known for authentic experiences will become more attractive.
How about a message from Croatia, your safe, authentic and lifestyle destinationwith a signature including spoken English, fast WiFi, only 25 km from the sound of Italy?