Full disclaimer: when someone sues you for no reason – twice – and plays with you for 2.5 years, before dropping two cases they knew they had no chance (and I suspect, interest) of winning, it changes one’s perspective.
Long before I was sued by the Kingdom of Accidental Tourism, aka the Croatian National Tourist Board, I had questioned the point of their existence. I genuinely think if we abolished the Kingdom, the Ministry of Tourism, and whatever that tourism thing is in the Croatian Chamber of Economy, and replaced them all with Nikola Tesla at the head of Croatian tourism, we would have the same number of tourists. And probably even more tourism ideas, even though he has been dead for 80 years. He wouldn’t take a salary, and at least he is a brand.
Does anyone disagree?
Over the years, I have listened to many self-congratulatory claims by the Kingdom’s senior ambassadors, but one in particular stayed with me. It was back in October 2021 at the annual Days of Croatian Self-Congrratulation, aka Days of Croatian Tourism, the annual gathering of the official tourism industry to pat themselves on the back at great expense for a job well done. You can read more about it in my article of the time – Ever Been to a Party Where the Host is Suing You?
I will forever be grateful to Minister of Tourism and Sports, Nikolina Brnjac, for coming over to say hello in what was a fairly hostile atmosphere. Thank you, once again.
Director of the Croatian National Tourist Board, Kristjan Stanicic, gave a typically self-congratulatory speech about his accomplishments over the year, including the great success of the digital nomad campaign, Croatia, Your New Office, which ‘achieved over 8 million impressions’ during the month-long campaign.
It was all I could do to not laugh out loud at the time. The main sources of interest in digital nomads coming to Croatia were Jan de Jong, Saltwater Nomads, and TCN. While Jan became the face of Croatia’s remote work welcome and Tanja Polegubic from Saltwater Nomads was delivering award-winning conferences and programmes, the Kingdom was doing nothing. But if the Director announced his campaign was a success, then it must be so, right?
(Source HTZ.hr Press Release)
And suddenly, a campaign which influenced nobody I spoke to (and I spoke to a LOT of nomads) was a great success. With over 8 million ‘impressions.’
What is an ‘impression’? Compared to a click when the person reads the article or watches the video? It simply means it appears in your social media feed and you see it. Often (as in this case) it is sponsored, and you see it and ignore it. The Kingdom spent 250,000 kuna sponsoring ads to get to that ‘successful’ campaign of 8 million impressions.
Despite spending over THIRTY THOUSAND EURO on the campaign, they only got – by their own admission – 60,300 clicks to the site, not all of which necessarily came from the campaign (see email exchange with the Kingdom and I below). In other words, ONE EURO FOR TWO CLICKS.
A successful campaign, claimed Director Stanicic.
(Source – email exchange with the Croatian National Tourist Board)
I couldn’t help thinking that 250,000 kuna was an incredible amount of money to throw away on social media boosting. Why not invest that money in someone who could generate those clicks organically, genuinely, by producing great content and driving engagement?
Of course, it is all very well to talk about these things, but how realistic was it to be able to do that?
Four months ago, I started a journey, completely unrelated to this question, and I got my answer.
When I decided to start the YouTube channel, Paul Bradbury Croatia Expert, I had limited expectations. Although I knew my content was good, and I was ready to engage and build a community, the reality is that I have a face for radio, no budget, and limited access to quality video materials of destinations.
But that number of the ‘successful’ 8 million impressions would not leave me. I didn’t have 30,000+ euro to buy those impressions, I would have to do it all organically. Budget zero, apart from my time and the time of my video partner, Igor Vuk.
Four months later, I have some answers.
Passing the 8 million impressions of a ‘successful’ project took us 34 videos, zero euro, and an investment of our time. By far away the biggest time investment on my side was engagement and building community. Here are my (100% organic and unboosted) statistics after 4 months of a journey into a media I knew nothing about – video.
Paul Bradbury Croatia Expert, the first 4 months in numbers – November 14 – March 14
928,399 – total views (compared to 60,300 clicks at a cost of 250,000 kuna)
27,300 average organic views per video
8.4 million impressions
3.02 minutes average watch time
9,302 subscribers, all organic, compared to the Kingdom’s 21,000 – over 12 years. A national institution with a budget v a small vlogger.
98.7% – positive likes
300 – 10,000 – YouTube likes per vid
30-1200 – YouTube comments – per vid
80% of traffic from within YouTube
Most successful article – 1.6 million organic views
783k – Facebook
250k – YouTube
567k – Tiktok
Cost (apart from time) – ZERO
I present the statistics not to boast but to show the Emperor’s clothes and the reality of what is happening. Of how tourism promotion money, when not being used to harass bloggers in court, is used so inefficiently that it is beyond sad. Getting organic views, building engagement and community takes a lot of work, of course it does, but with some 70-80 well-paid full-time employees, shouldn’t that be someone’s job description?
Some simple screenshots will explain things a little better. Here is the screenshot of the latest videos on the official YouTube channel of the Croatian National Tourist Board:
Of the last 8 videos, with all the promo and power available to the Kingdom and its 21,000 subscribers, only one has more than 1,000 views. And that one has an incredible 1.6 MILLION views. Let’s take a closer look…
Some 1.6 million views, but only ELEVEN likes. What kind of video or viewer must it be that only 11 people out of 1.6 million like the video? Perhaps it was the Norwegian train which featured in this promotion of Croatian Tourism Month that kept the likes so low.
And comments turned off, so that nobody can engage. Why? Too much work? Easier to throw hard-earned taxpayers’ money at the problem, rather than do some work?
And one wonders at the cost of producing videos which get 157 views on the national tourist board flagship YouTube channel.
It is not much better on the official Kingdom Facebook page, despite having 1.7 million followers – thankfully, Croatia has a great football team to boost traffic.
Of course, it is always easy to criticise. Show how you can do better.
Not even 250,000 views compared to 1.6 million, but 10,000 likes compared to just 11. Over 1,200 comments v comments switched off. There are more likes on some of the comments than views on the Kingdom’s videos.
And that is why I vote for the abolishment of the Croatian National Tourist Board, part 17.
And my vote goes to Nikola Tesla to run Croatian tourism.
Meanwhile, I am off to join the TikTok revolution – you can be at the start of the journey as we launch the Paul Bradbury Croatia TikTok channel this week.
And if you are interested in the culture of SLAPP lawsuits in Croatia, you can read about my experience in 10 Things I Learned from my SLAPP Lawsuits in Croatia.
Croatia, a Survival Kit for Foreigners is now available on Amazon in paperback and on Kindle.