Croatia seems to have more conferences than most countries, some more useful than others. A fabulous addition for 2020, however, a new Croatian tourism initiative which should bring about dialogue, cooperation and change. Why One Day or Day One #hrturizam2030 is different and deserves your support.
A few months ago, I finally accepted a longstanding invitation from a chap called Goran Rihelj to visit him in Vinkovci in eastern Croatia. Until I first met Goran, I had never heard of Vinkovci and I was astonished to learn that it was the oldest continuously inhabited town in Europe, dating back 8,300 years (there is plenty to learn about this amazing town – here is a taster from my trip). In case there was any danger that I might forget the fact, each of Goran’s emails were signed off with a greeting from the oldest continuously inhabited town in Europe.
Goran is well-known in Croatia as the man behind the biggest and best tourism portal in Croatia, HR Turizam, an impartial B2B platform which does a great service to Croatia’s tourism industry, even its the industry stakeholders do not recognise the quality and importance of his work as they should. He is a man with a vision of how things should be, with a quiet determination to see things through. Having put Vinkovci very firmly on the map, his most notable achievement last year was to move the entire tourism industry from a sexy destination on the coast to multiple locations in Slavonia and eastern Croatia for the annual Days of Croatian Tourism awards.
When Goran first mentioned the idea on his portal, there was derision in certain quarters from conversations I had. There was no way that Slavonia could stage such an event, and the coast was a much more attractive venue for tourism officials to party at the end of the season. But Goran did not give up, and slowly his campaign got traction, and then the official announcement – Days of Croatian Tourism 2019 was to be held in Slavonia! It was a really good few days, and eastern Croatia put on a really good show, especially Osijek, and I lost count of the number of tourism officials who were not only on their first visit, but also astonished by the quality of the offer. It was a very important step of progress for tourism in eastern Croatia.
And so there we were, sitting at Goran’s dining table in the oldest continuously inhabited town in Europe with his lovely wife Mirjam, discussing the problems of Croatian tourism, the potential, the dysfunctionality of the relationship between the public and the private sector.
“Why don’t we organise a conference? Cal lit something like Croatian Tourism Beyond Bullsh*t, a 2030 Vision?” I ventured. “Get the stakeholders together and talk about the real issues.”
And then Goran told me that he had been planning a conference for a couple of years.
And then he went on to explain his concept. And his concept was rather good, much better than mine. All he needed was a little push to make his dream a reality – which it will be on April 2 at Forum Congress Centre in Zagreb.
Although our styles are different, TCN and HRTurizam are similar in that both portals want a better future for Croatian tourism, and looking at – and learning from – best practices elsewhere, as well as engaging in constructive criticism, are tools to get to that end. Goran would rather focus on a problem and work towards a solution, which he did to such good effect with Days of Croatian Tourism and the promotion of Slavonia.
I don’t think I am revealing any State secrets when I say that there is a large disconnect between Croatia’s public tourism bodies and its private businesses. And for all the potential we talk about, very little of that potential is realised. Rather than name-calling and criticising, why not accept that there are certain things that will not change and focus instead on working to change things were public and private sector can agree and move forward together? 30% change is better than zero change, and once relationships are built, who knows how much further things could progress? After all, the idea – even two years ago – that Days of Croatian Tourism could come to Slavonia was laughable.
And Goran’s determination made it happen.
After that late-night dinner table conversation in Vinkovci in October, I left Goran to get on with his plans and then we met a month ago to chat about his progress.
One Day or Day One – #hrturizam was a concept that was coming along nicely. Will we keep on talking about realising the potential of Croatian tourism and one day it may happen, ot shall we make this conference Day One of meaningful change?
And this was not just a one-day conference concept. His plan was to take the discussions and agreements from the conference and put them into a transparent white paper, with road maps and timeframes on how to achieve interim goals. And then to meet at the same conference the following year to discuss progress, made, resolve issues preventing that progress, and to make a road map for the following year. And he is offering the neutral HR Turizam project to be the platform to monitor progress and effect change.
A conference which would engage stakeholders from all sides – from the openly, albeit constructively, crtiical such as myself, to the Minister of Tourism, Gari Cappelli, who has confirmed his attendance. The focus will be on positivity, looking forward, and developing strategies and initiatives together. I will be speaking, for example, on the topic – 5 Tourism Gifts Croatia is Ignoring, and How to Fix This.
I have seen the planned list of speakers, not all of whom are confirmed, but there is a nice blend from the public and private sector. In addition to Minister Cappelli, Denis Ivosevic, Istrian Tourist Board director will be talking about the synergy between the public and private sector with brands such as BMW and Bayern Munich. The pioneer of Croatia’s medical tourism industry, Ognjen Bagatin, will be presenting with Deputy Minister of Health, Mate Car, on public-private cooperation in the health tourism industry. Petra Butkovic will speak on the success of clusters in Lika, Berislav Sokac from the phenomenal Run Croatia project, and PR and branding gurus, Kresimir Macan and Bozo Skoko. There were also be keynote speeches from international tourism experts, the details of which are being finalised.
And, lest we forget the potential of Croatia’s gourmet potential, a cooking show run by celebrity chef Mate Jankovic, and the wines of Croatia introduced by Sasa Spiranec, will ensure that there will be much more than just food for thought for the conference participants.
There is a quiet determination in several quarters to improve both the quality and the cohesiveness of Croatia’s tourism promotion and execution, and One Day or Day One #hrturizam2030 is an outstanding opportunity to begin that journey together.
TCN will be fully supporting the conference, and we look forward to seeing you there. You can learn more about Goran’s thoughts in this early announcement of the conference (Croatian version and link to HRTurizam website here).