The latest baby of the Total Croatia family is born on March 27, 2017. Meet Total Dubrovnik.
It is almost five and a half years since I sat in a cafe on the main square in Jelsa on Hvar and wrote my first blog for a new website I had created, called Total Hvar. What’s in a Name, How to Pronounce Hvar? was the first in more than 8,000 articles I would write about my adopted island home over the next five years, making me (I think) the most prolific (but certainly not the best) writer about Croatia’s premier island ever.
And while I have learned a lot about Hvar – and Croatia – since that pioneering blog all those years ago, I am still not sure how to pronounce Hvar…
Not so many people know this, but Total Hvar was actually not my first online Croatian tourism blogging idea. Before I started on the Total Project as it exists today, I had a much grander idea, and a shorter route to success – Total Croatia, run from a cafe in Jelsa. Hands up – how many of you have come across this website?
Not so many of you. And for a very good reason.
It was a total failure.
One fat Brit sitting in a bar in Jelsa could hardly cover the whole country, but I saw back then – as I see ever so clearly now – that there is an urgent need for excellent English-language information for the whole of Croatia, delivered in a format that foreigners can understand and use.
Total Hvar added Total Split and Total Inland Dalmatia, but still the project was very localised. Total Croatia News brought us to national attention, and both Total Croatia Wine and Total Croatia Cycling added something to those particular niches, but the Total Project, born from a cafe in the third biggest town on a Dalmatian island, was missing a central focus.
The last three months have been professionally (if you can call what we do remotely professional…) the most rewarding, thought-provoking and stimulating of my life, with the next six months already worrying me about how the excitement of new projects and partners will allow much sleep, and it is finally the moment when I realised that that naive idea of a Total Croatia tourism project all those years ago not only can, but will, be realised in the next couple of years.
I have received an unbelievable amount of abuse – and death threats – since starting the Total Croatia project; it seems the opinion of a foreigner is not welcome here, as we have established before. I find it amusing and, as locals point out, it shows that perhaps we are doing something right in Croatia. But the most interesting and constructive part of the reaction to the articles we write constructively criticising aspects of Croatian society is not the abuse and the opposition of the uhljeb society (which will soon be confined to the dustbin of history by technology and a brighter generation who want something different), but by something altogether more empowering.
Emails from Slavonski Brod, Vukovar, Medjimurje, Peljesac and dozens of other places all over Croatia, and even in the diaspora – (mostly) young people who want change and a different Croatia. For whatever reason, the Total Croatia project has struck a chord with them, and they are volunteering their time, their contacts and their considerable energy to our project, whose goals are nothing but pure and politically unfunded, despite what the conspiracy theorists in Sydney would have you believe.
And from that youthful encouragement and idealism, a new model to reach the goal of a quality tourism information product that will cover the entire country. Empowerment.
Encourage and support those youthful idealists, whose knowledge of their own destinations is much better than any foreigner’s could be, to help build a quality product for the benefit of all. The first experiment in this new approach was Total Zagreb, a city I have been to many times, but know embarrassingly little about. And yet, just 44 days after we started – and with minimal involvement from me (perhaps the reason why things happened so quickly) – Total Zagreb was live, as good a destination site as we have built so far.
Another email. What about Dubrovnik? And after some great initial work from TCN’s new Editor-in-Chief Lauren Simmonds, a longterm Dubrovnik resident, I have literally spent three hours looking at Total Dubrovnik in the last month, as Jelena Tamindzija has made the site her own and built the whole thing in just over a month. And not only built, but come with suggestions, revisions and plans for the future that would not even have entered my head. It is a pleasure to sit back and watch this new generation of committed Croats who want something better for themselves and their country, despite having to deal with a system of corruption and non-opportunity which has seen the majority of Croatia’s finest talent emigrate.
And with these inspiring emails from young people all over Croatia, I truly have faith that not only can we build an excellent national tourism product without the corrupt uhljebs which poison this country, but that through these people, Croatia will be on a better path in the next 5-10 years.
The old guard with their corruption can fight to preserve the status quo all they want, but the new weapons of modern technology will change the rules completely, and I am in awe of several Croatian tech companies I have met recently, some of whom we will be working with to completely revolutionise not only tourism promotion, but also information about other aspects of Croatia. Details to be revealed…
This blog is supposed to be about the launch of Total Dubrovnik, and apologies for the diversion, but for me, after all these years, the launch of Dubrovnik and the passion locals have put into its creation without my involvement, is a symbol of the new uhljeb-free Croatia, and one that gives me huge hope.
About the site itself. Dubrovnik is perhaps the first destination site where the Total Croatia project has some ‘competition’ with other more established English-language sites about the destination. We come in peace! Our core aim remains the same – Give People What They Want, which we have identified as high quality, regular content delivered in a manner that foreigners (and locals) understand and appreciate. Although we are starting in Dubrovnik, the city, Total Dubrovnik will incorporate the whole county of Dubrovnik-Neretva over the next few months, including islands such as Korcula, Mljet and Lastovo, and lesser promoted mainland destinations such as Konavle and the Neretva Valley. We will be meeting the people of Dubrovnik, going back in history and delivering you the fruits of those genius Croatian IT companies VERY shortly, which will improve your access to the very latest information in ways you didn’t think possible.
Total Dubrovnik is a very important addition to the Total Croatia project. With Split, Hvar, Dubrovnik and Zagreb, some of the most important destinations in Croatia are already in the network. Discussions are ongoing with Slavonia, Kvarner, Istria and several coastal regions and islands. If we can get official support for those regions, we will gladly come. We can have sites for all these regions live in 60 days, in time for this season.
From that lonely blogging table in Jelsa five and half years ago, as I tried to explain how to pronounce the island of my residence, the Total Project will be paying 11 Croatian contractors to run their various sections of the site from June, promoting Croatia and providing tax payments and employment in the process. We would be more than happy to work with authorities to increase the number of jobs, destinations and tax payments, for the benefit of all, if they would like to see Total destinations in other parts of the country.
If you would like to work with TCN, contact us at [email protected] but for now, and much more importantly…
Follow Total Dubrovnik on Facebook.