Do you feel Bol is truly utilising its massive potential?
As a London girl working in destination marketing, I moved to Croatia for love and found myself spending the long summer seasons in Bol, on the island of Brač, where my husband worked. After several years, I was approached by the largest tourist agency in town to create a tourist guide to Bol. I was absolutely thrilled as I truly felt that Bol, one of the most well-known destinations in Croatia, was lacking an information-packed guide, a one-stop tool for visitors wishing to find out all there is to see and do in and around the town.
Rewind a few years to my first visit to Bol when I first met my husband-to-be… I had chosen Bol as the destination for a late-summer holiday (read September) with three female friends. After arriving we obviously scouted out the town and beaches on foot, established that our favourite was the one with the beautiful view of the monastery in the east of town and found our preferred restaurant, which was the only restaurant providing live music.
It was obvious to us that windsurfing was a local sport so we decided to enroll on a course, which would have been good had we not been shortchanged on the number of hours we had paid for and felt that the employees were laughing at us behind our backs – looking back I can only assume it was because we had chosen a relatively wind-free two days to try the sport. A polite explanation would have sufficed. But that is not the point of this article.
We wanted to do more… and we wanted to find out what else we could do. The guidebook mentioned a hike to Vidova Gora, the highest peak of the Adriatic islands. There were no obvious signs so we asked the accommodation agency staff, through which we had booked. They gave us some very sketchy information about where about to find the path leading up and gave us completely the wrong timescale for the walk there and back (after finding the path and starting along it mid-afternoon we were smart enough to see we were not going to reach the top and get back down before dark so we gave up).
So now we looked for help from the tourist information centre (TIC) – the official representative would surely give us better information. Or would they? The tourist information office was closed when we visited it but we did manage to pick up a local guide – an uninformative list of sites of interest (mainly churches and other such buildings), restaurants and accommodation providers.
Skip forward to the day the agency contacted me: the official guide had remained the same, uninformative and uninspiring. So I immediately got to work to create a guide worth picking up and keeping, packed full of interesting and useful information about Bol’s beaches and the various facilities available on each of them, attractions (including visiting times, costs and short descriptions to entice the reader to visit), cafe bars and restaurants (sorted under different headings to enable some kind of differentiation between them), best places to shop for souvenirs, organised excursions available from Bol including prices and times, recommended places to visit in other parts of the island, hiking routes, ferry and bus timetables, etc. You get the point.
This was back in 2015 and since then the guide has been updated and published every year and very well-received by tourists. I can only say that I am so glad to have been part of this project and to have addressed an issue to better inform visitors on Bol and its surrounding area, ensuring they explore more of its fascinating heritage and natural beauty. But the question is did it really require a foreigner and the initiative of the private sector to start promoting the wonderful tourist offer of one of Croatia’s top destinations?