This was such an interesting article about the (non-) accidental rise of Split as a tourist destination from Paradox maestro Zoran Pejovic that although it is destined for the Total Croatia News website launching in a few days, I wanted to share it here first, as it is very Split-related.
If you have things to say about life in Croatia which you think would sit comfortably on our new portal, we would love to hear from you. Or follow Total Croatia News on Facebook. Thanks for this, Zoran, very interesting.
Over to Zoran…
One of the most talked about tourism topics of the past couple of years has been the rise of Split as a tourist destination. It is interesting to follow the news, articles and blogs which glorify the newly emerged tourist haven and its rapid development while being part of that same development. Split is indeed a different place than it was three years ago, not to mention five or ten. Is it enough and should we be content with the current status?
Absolutely not! In order to make progress we must accept and understand the current position. And currently, we are learning to swim and it is a very painful process, taking in too much water ;). Where we want and need to be is riding the waves.
There are those of course that say that tourism just happened to Split, which I find to be a rather ignorant way of looking at things. While it may not be the result of some grand scheme and plan of city officials and tourism board professionals of this city, it certainly did not happen on its own. Split has a fantastic geographic location, it is accessible by all means of transportation, and while 1700 years old, it is new in the eyes of many.
To understand the changes which have occurred in Split, one has to understand a bit more about the industry of tourism worldwide. Before the great recession of 2008, most of the world’s new tourist destinations were found in the exotic locations, with South-East Asia leading the way. With the recession, a lot of people had to tighten their belts and while not skipping on their vacations entirely they had to reduce the costs and often it meant shorter vacations without expensive international air fares.
Right there, a new concept emerged. Exploring your own backyard or courtyard as you wish. So, the European travelers had to find new spots in Europe which is not really easy. Most of the seasoned travelers had already covered the major attractions in France, Italy, Spain and Greece, been to the resorts of North Africa and were looking for new and safe places to go within two hours flying time. The only places where one could turn their head to where the Balkans and Eastern Europe.
Also, some new tourist spots emerged in northern Europe. Don’t be surprised that most of the lists of the new hot spots in Europe contain, if not all, some of the following cities: Reykjavik, Riga, Vilnius, Ljubljana, Belgrade, Zageb and of course Split. These are all urban centers, smaller than major European capitals but easily accessible and with a lot of history and culture to show for. There is also the sad part of this story as well. A few days ago the British Foreign Office increased the threat levels from general threat to high threat for one of the major tourist destinations, Spain, which joins France on this list along with Turkey, Algeria, Tunisia and Egypt. All of the destinations mentioned before are in the non-threat or underlying threat categories. It is a welcome change to the nineties for the Balkans, sad news for the Western Europe.
Accordingly, Split hadall the prerequisites to be a major tourist spot on the Adriatic. One important thing is to stop talking about potential of destinations and start realizing that potential. Another important point is that we need to stop talking about authenticity. What is authentic today in Split? To which part of the history do we refer to when we talk about authenticity? This is a very vague term which allow many to operate under the veil of this so called authenticity and offer below-par services. Rustic is sold under authentic, rude is sold under authentic and so on, but this will be the subject of another article.
While the outside factors might have driven tourists towards Split, a lot of people in Split embraced this new situation and rather quickly changed the outlook of the city. A number of restaurants, cafes, apartments, travel agencies increased at such a speed that is difficult to keep up with all the new places. Some places don’t live up to the expectations, while others successfully put Split on the world map.
Hotel Vestibul, Travel Agencies Secret Dalmatia and Calvados, Cigar Club Mareva and their World Cigar Smoking Championship, events like Ultra (some concerns there 😉 are some to name. Our projects Wine & Cheese Bar Paradox and Restoran Paradigma are attempting to do the same. I will leave the others to be the judges of their success. However, none of these happened on their own.
But we need more. We need more people and more projects that will have the goal of service excellence. Not the empty corporate excellence wall messages but genuine, well thought-out and executed projects delivered by authentic people, as only people can be authentic, who believe in the city they live in despite all the negativity that is presented on a daily basis. About the difficulties of running a new project in Split, some other time.