Rumours about Ultra Europe leaving Split are getting louder and the reason is simple. Ministry of tourism and Tourist Boards are just not willing to increase their support.
Should we stay or should we go? That more or less summarises the feelings of the team behind the Ultra Europe Music festival in Split, the electronic music extravaganza that brings more than 150 000 tourists to Split every year. Yes, I am aware the capacity of the stadium is less than half of the above-mentioned number and most visitors have tickets for all three days in Split, BUT, we keep forgetting about arrangements around Ultra that do not include the actual entry to the stadium. For instance, more than 3 000 sailboats are rented during Ultra week just through two agencies, and the total number is multiplied by two when we add all charter companies in Croatia.
If you walk around Split during Ultra, you will notice that the city is full because the party is not only concentrated on the stadium but all over the city. I am also very aware that there are plenty of those who cannot wait for the caravan to move elsewhere so they can go back to their quiet Zimmer-frei day to day life. The real question is, will they say the same in one year when the 500 million kuna, which poured into the economy in 2015 from this one event alone vanishes into thin air? Btw, this is the estimate given by the tax authority, not the organisers.
As confirmed by Luka Juresko, PR manager of ULTRA Europe, they are extremely happy with the support from the city and county administration since their help in terms of infrastructure and services is invaluable, not to mention that the financial support, which, though not large, is very welcome. Though they will do everything in their power to stay in Split, organisers also have to answer to their main principles abroad and they are, naturally, thinking of the bottom line in this whole story.
Then we come to the main problem, the support of the Ministry of Tourism and tourist boards starting from the National one. The organisers are very demanding, they want more money, we just cannot afford to support them anymore, that’s the cry we hear from them. Let’s stop right there and go back to the above-mentioned amount of 500 million kunas. How much of it is going back into the city in the form of taxes? How much of it is going back into the already hefty budgets of the tourist boards in the form of sojourn tax? A hell of a lot more than what they are currently giving the organisers. We won’t even start with the value of PR and advertising impressions that are way more effective than their “Croatia will waste your time” advertising effort. Even the neighbouring Serbia recognised the importance of their largest music festival Exit and every year they support it with 1 million Eur. Not the tourist board, not the city, but the government. 7 500 000 kn. For the next six years. Everywhere in the world, when it comes to events of this size, total support of the tourist boards and other State institutions is around 10% of the total cost. And not all of it is in the form of money, most of it is the form of infrastructure, accommodation assistance, subsidies…. Our tourist board is currently giving 1% and looking hard at ways to reduce the support even further. For instance, the tourist board of Split intends to spend 300 000 kunas this year on ALL events in the city while calling out all event organisers to come up with “another Ultra”. And we wonder why the highlight of our social calendar is the selection of the best sausage. I’m exaggerating of course, but not by a lot.
Many Split residents will quickly agree that Ultra is more than welcome to change location. We don’t want that kind of tourists. We want quiet tourism, we want families and high-end guests. You do? Well, what have you done to attract them? How much did you spend to create content, events, services and above all buzz to get them here? Nothing. Zilch. Zero. NULA. Besides, if guests that spend an average of 160 euros per day during Ultra are not rich enough for you, then I suggest you reevaluate your standards.
Have you ever, even for a second, wondered how much it costs to put together an event like Ultra? One with the state of the art staging, lighting, some of the world’s best DJs and vast infrastructure that can handle that amount of people in one place? In 2015 when the event lasted for 5 days, total cost was 60 million kuna or 8 million Euros. This year, since the event will go on for an entire week, the cost will be even higher. And what was the total amount visitors spent during the event again? 500 million. Just keep repeating that number and see whether it’s worth a few days of crowds and noise or not.
While our tourism experts and we have quite a few of those, keep their wallets tightly closed, experts from some other countries that spend less time worrying about their nicely cushioned office chairs and actually do know how to count are circling around the organisers raising their bids.
And now a note for the organisers, please, for the sake of us all, release the actual number of tickets sold each year. Tell us exactly how many people were in and around the stadium so we can stop this nonsense about the actual value of the event. You’re just as much to blame for bad press articles that come out every once in a while. Our tourism honchos cannot help their ignorance in most cases but you should know better.
All that’s left to do in the end is repeat the words of the great Joni Mitchel
Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got
Till it’s gone