Ever Been to a Party Where the Host is Suing You?

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I am not sure how to describe the annual late-season event known as Days of Croatian Tourism, which usually takes place in October at the end of the season, bringing together the great and the not so good of the official tourism bodies. The event almost always takes place on the coast in one of Croatia’s top destinations (unless someone annoyingly pushes for it to be held in Slavonia, as happened in 2019).  The programme consists of a few (but not many) presentations (usually high-quality international speakers and topics) which are barely attended, nice hotels (which are full of tourism workers), dinners and cocktail parties, which are VERY well attended, and an evening of awards and self-congratulations broadcast live on national televsion. 

I find the event addictive and unmissable, as you can learn SO much about the realities of Croatian tourism from the way it is run, and who attends what.

And it is the only event I can think of where I learn about a new tourist ‘destination’ each year, as seemingly the most obscure village in Croatia will win a self-congratulatory award for something. 

Hardly anyone attends the actual quality presentations – why would you when there is coffee in the sun to be enjoyed – but I try and attend every one, as they are very instructive – for example Croatia Travel Trends for USA Market: Al Merschen Presentation on Hvar at Days of Croatian Self-Congratulation in 2018. 


For me personally, I find the event a strange one to be at. Apparently, I am seen by some as a divisive figure in Croatian tourism, and nowhere is this more in evidence than at Days of Croatian Self-Congratulation, which is co-organised by the Kingdom of Accidental Tourism, The Croatian Chamber of Economy, HRT television, and the Ministry of Tourism and Sports, according to the official website.  

I will never forget entering the courtyard of Eltz Palace in Vukovar to the welcome drink at DCS-C 2019 (photo above), where I enjoyed the same three reactions I had encountered in Hvar Town the previous year. Many looked away to avoid me altogether, some who appreciated our work came to say hi, and a sizable group of official tourism workers who are normally very friendly and supportive looked the other way to avoid any contact in front of prying eyes. I am totally fine with that, and I don’t judge. I have lived in Croatia long enough to know how things work. 


The Gala Awards night is unmissable, and it gives you an inkling of what a North Korean party convention must be like. So much self-congratulation and bombastic statements. Here is my favourite of the lot, from the legend that was Minister of Tourism Gari Cappelli, who declared to the adoring faithful that…

Croatian is the best tourist destination in Europe! 

Huge cheers on this incredible success which was based on nothing more than the minister making up a soundbite. And while everyone else was cheering, I only caught sight of one other person prepared to make eye contact with me and mouth

What the F…?

Such things are normal at Days of Croatian Self-Congratulation. 

This year’s event was announced late, very late. So late in fact that by the time it hit the official website (or at least very soon after), there were no places left. COVID measures were the reason, of course, but a number of hotels expressed their frustration to me that they were not even informed that the event was taking place until it was too late to apply. The only way to go was as an accredited journalist. 

I hesitated. 

This year’s event was the other side of Dubrovnik, but I knew that I would be able to have some very productive meetings all in the same place with potential partners for our CROMADS project. But given that I was currently being sued by the Kings, who were one of the hosts of the event, how unpleasant would the reception be this time?

I decided to apply. Not surprisingly, there was no reply. 

When there was no reply the next day (the event was 4 days away) and no answer to my calls, I made a couple of phone calls and pulled in a favour and was told that of course I was welcome to come and that the Croatian National Tourist Board would be contacting me to confirm. And I did get an email from the official event email. It went like this:

Dear Sir,

you have already been put on the list to participate or otherwise you would have been notified. Registration is closed only for other participants and not media representatives.

I see. Welcoming official Croatian hospitality at its finest.


The programme was much more limited this year, but I decided to attend the seminars, especially as the first panel had some interesting speakers from TUI Nordic, easyJet Holidays, and Expedia. The theme of winter tourism in Split was an ongoing discussion on TCN. I doubted that I would be allowed to ask a question, but perhaps I could mingle with the speakers afterwards. 

As usual, the number of attendees was minimal. There was actually lots of space in the front row, so I placed myself there, so as to give myself a better position in the event of opportunities for questions.  


It was a fascinating panel, or at least I thought so. I found myself inadvertently sitting next to the Director of the Croatian National Tourist Board, who spent most of the time on his phone before walking out of the panel halfway through.  


All this gave me an opportunity to ask questions after all. Nobody else had anything to ask, and so I got to ask a couple of questions on winter tourism. 

That led to some interesting discussions at DCS-C, which led to more discussions and the formulation of a plan.  


That plan resulted in this week’s TCN Split Winter Tourism Roundtable at CHOPS Grill in Split, a high-energy event which was attended by (among others), the Mayor of Split, State Secretary of the Ministry of Tourism and Sports, the Split and Central Dalmatia Tourist Board directors, Split Airport, the Croatian Chamber of Economy, GMs of 5-star hotels, as well as tourism consultants and representatives from the hotel, hostel, restaurant and MICE sector. You can read more about it in Reflections on the First TCN Split Winter Tourism Roundtable

A positive initiative between the public and private sector. We all meet again next month.


I should point out that this lack of attendance listening to international experts who have been flown in at great cost is a normal thing at Croatian conferences. 

I pointed this out at the 2019 Croatia 365 conference in 2019. Above you see what they want you to see – the official photos from the opening session which accompany the press release. 


And this is the reality during the second session and the rest of the conference (Photo copyright Annoying Fat Blogger, the beneficiary of two ongoing SLAPP lawsuits). Read more in Creativity, Best Practices & Absenteeism at Croatia 365 Conference in Zagreb.

It was time to go the 2021 DCS-C first-day cocktail party. With a couple of pints in the system, I was ready to be the pariah in the room, knowing I could count on at least 3 people in the room if everyone turned their backs on me. It is poor form to socialise with a chap being sued by the host, after all. 


The first person I saw in the room was State Secretary for Tourism, Tonci Glavina (who also made an immense contribution to our Split roundtable this week), and he greeted me warmly, saying that Minister Brnjac wanted to say hello. 

And she did, and was very friendly. I let her get back to her duties, and I look forward to meeting her shortly to discuss certain initiatives by TCN, such as the Vukovar Card

I was very grateful for her support, and it was part of something interesting in that room. The number of people turning their backs on me this year was signiicantly less than before. Indeed, there were some tourist board directors I have never been able to speak to who came over to say hi and learn more about the CROMADS project.

Have you seen the CROMADS promo video yet?

Or the presentation of the CROMADS platform at VIP Day at Digital Nomad Week based in Bali last week? A new, sustainable approach to Croatian tourism, based on authentic experiences all over Croatia, 365 days a year.  

The level of support for the CROMADS platform at DCS-C was highly encouraging, both in words and financial commitments. But the other thing I noticed as I walked around the room talking to people is how little regard the national tourist board is held in these days by official tourism workers. A lot of people think that when I am criticising Croatian tourism bodies, I am attacking them all. I am not at all. The main focus of my criticism is the institution which is suing me – the Croatian National Tourist Board. To go to this year’s event and hear not one good word said about the work they do (and plenty of complaints) tells its own story. 


Next year, I plan to start a new series on TCN called The Emperor’s New Clothes: the Truth about the Croatian National Tourist Board. Some of the stuff I am learning is really quite extraordinary. It will probably result in more SLAPP lawsuits, but as I have the Legendica Extraordinaire, Croatia’s leading media lawyer Vanja Juric on my side and providing me with excellent legal advice (including this article), I am not worried about those any more. 

And Vanja is also putting my lawsuits to good use. Here she is as a guest lecturer at the Faculty of Political Science at the University of Zagreb recently, talking about the joys of representing journalists, publishers and fat bloggers. I did feel a little bit proud that she is using what one journalist called ‘the biggest PR own goal in the history of the Croatian National Tourist Board’ to good use as a case study. 

You can follow our legal journey in Diary of a Croatian Lawsuit here. The latest installment, Diary of a Croatian Lawsuit: Substitute Lawyer Miraculously Appears! is truly epic.

See you at Days of Croatian Self-Congratulation 2022! 


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