December 8, 2019 – A superb evening was held at the exclusive Harry’s Bar in London in cooperation with the Istria Tourist Board to celebrate the Istrian white truffle.
While it was no easy task to impress several of the finest London gourmands, they were enchanted by the Istrian feast, the most exquisite white truffles, excellent wines and, of course, Istrian extra-virgin olive oil. In the end, it was a fantastic night for all.
Glas Istre writes that the Chairman of Sotheby’s UK auction Lord Harry Dalmeny revealed that more than £18,000 was raised for three charities from the evening, and not only was this an exclusive promotion of Istria in London, but a significant breakthrough for the tourist boards and the counties of Istria.
All the proceeds from the auction (£18,300) will go to charity. The Veruda Day Care Center for Rehabilitation in Pula was selected on the Croatian side, which will receive a sum of £12,100. In addition to the amounts auctioned in three auction rounds – six small truffles were sold for £2,800, one medium and one small for £2,600, and a two-day truffle experience package in Istria for £3,500. Furthermore, an anonymous London millionaire donated an extra £3,200 to the famous Veruda Center.
From the UK institutions, donations will go to The Felix Project, which supplies fresh and nutritious food to more than 300 London-based charities, providing 6.5 million meals a year, and to Chain of Hope, which provides life-saving heart treatments.
“Having the president of Sotheby’s as an Istrian truffle auctioneer is a great honor for us. We managed to join one of the most luxurious private clubs, Harry’s Bar, Sotheby’s, as the world’s largest auction house and the Istrian truffle, as one of the best truffles in the world. We don’t just have time to promote ourselves through classic communication models because then it would take ten years. We take the shortcut, straight to the strongest, so that we shorten the journey towards promoting and raising the reputation of the Istrian destination. If this is the opening tonight, then the closing will be next year with the ATP Master Series, the tennis spectacle at the Arena. Both events really guarantee that we are clearly targeting higher spending power audiences, with tennis that originated in England and is widespread in our country, and with truffles known around the world as the culmination of gastronomy,” said Denis Ivošević, director of the Istria Tourist Board.
As for the “conquest” of the British market, these two major events were preceded by a series of other actions. In the last three to four years, Ivošević points out, they have significantly increased air arrivals to Istria, from virtually all London airports, except City. From all five other airports, five different airlines fly to Pula, from national carrier British Airways flying from Heathrow to EasyJet from Gatwick and Southend, Ryanair from Stansted, TUI UK and Jet2.com from Gatwick. When they secured the flights, two years ago, the Istria Tourist Board contracted a collaboration with the London-based PR agency Fox Communication, and for two years in a row, much has been written about Istria, with a focus on London and its surroundings.
The Istria truffle was also the star of the dinner at Harry’s Bar, which was enjoyed by about 70 guests. Under the expert guidance of Italian restaurant manager Luciano Porcu, paired with Kozlovic’s Teran and Malvasia and Chiavalon extra virgin oil, scallops, homemade tagliolini, and veal piccata were served, and finally toasted panettone, chocolate sorbet and zabaglione. With these top delicacies and the spirited Lord Dalmeny, the truffle auction began, which were brought to London by representatives of Zigante Truffles. The star of the evening, the biggest truffle of the season in Istria, weighing 375 grams, went to an anonymous London buyer for £3,800.
“To me, this is really fantastic, something different that we haven’t seen yet. Such events, with auctions, really target a specific group, deep-pocket guests. The Istrian County Tourist Board has managed to combine a lot of things, including gastronomy, selected clientele and humanitarian actions. The engagement of Sotheby’s has definitely raised the level of the whole event, and if someone wants to target such an audience, a little more sophisticated, richer, with more refined taste, then this is definitely the right approach. Istria is recognized as a gastronomic destination, among others. The British appreciate our cuisine and we want to talk more about it. We see great potential for the growing interest in Istria on the British market,” said Darija Reić, director of the Croatian National Tourist Board representative office in London, and also a guest at the Istrian dinner.
Croatia, says Reić, is yet to be discovered, especially by the upper classes of British society. After Dubrovnik and Split-Dalmatia County, especially the islands, Istria is the third most sought after destination by Brits. They are guests for the pre and post-season since they prefer nautical, active and gastronomic tourism, and in recent years, Advent trips have become more and more popular, as have Zagreb, Dubrovnik and Split, as increasingly popular destinations for British tourists in the winter.
“Despite Brexit, this year we had an increase of 4% in tourist traffic from Britain. What Brexit brings is still a big unknown, more may be known after the December 12 election, but the British love to travel and won’t give up on it. It was agreed that British airlines and tour operators would be able to travel and fly within the EU by the end of 2020 under the same conditions. So in the year ahead, there are no major changes, and what will matter is the strength of their currency, which is related to Brexit, and I think they will turn to more countries that do not have the euro, which Croatia should use,” Reić explained.
Denis Ivošević spoke about his strategy to return Istria to the British market.
“The last time a similar event took place was more than twelve years ago when Italian truffles from Alba were auctioned. This fact is not surprising given that most good restaurants are held by Italian managers, chefs, entrepreneurs. How ubiquitous and strong the Italian brand is can be seen every step of the way in London, so we are at the beginning. We have a long way to go; we have to be persistent and ubiquitous,” Ivošević concluded.
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