May 15, 2020 – With tourism budgets frozen due to corona, how do Croatia’s 319 tourist boards respond to free promotional help? The Virtual Croatia mailshot results are in.
We live in funny times, and nowhere is that more true than in Croatia.
We are a tourism country with a population of about 4 million people. And (to use Minister Cappelli’s interesting corona-era metaphor) “Croatia breathes tourism.”
So much so, in fact, that if there is a sign of life, we build a local tourist board and install a director. That works out (and no, we have not included the 20 regional boards or the Temple of Tourism, the National Tourist Board), at 1 tourist board for every 12,500 people in The Beautiful Croatia.
Times are hard in the Kingdom of Accidental Tourism. And elections are coming. So hard in fact, that last week an organiser of a well-known national event told me that the tourist board he is working with for a postponed event asked if he could return the money invested until July because “we need it for the elections, but will return it immediately after.”
So the days pass in the Mighty State of Uhljebistan.
Tourism promotional budgets were frozen. Outrageously, at a time when tens of thousands of workers in the private sector were losing their jobs, salaries were reduced by between 4-20% for workers in the 319 local tourist boards. There were no job losses of course – this was the public sector in Croatia – but a salary reduction? And no promo budget to give to the cousins? There were rumblings in the Mighty State of Uhljebistan.
This was a terrible state of affairs. Imagine these poor tourist boards, all 319 of them, with reduced salaries and no budgets to support their cousins’ events or (oh yes, the other thing) promote tourism. This coronavirus was devastating.
Before I moved to Croatia, I worked as a humanitarian aid worker in Somalia, Georgia, Rwanda and the edge of Siberia. That humanitarian streak has never left me. I didn’t have the cash to feed all the cousins in these difficult times, but I could help out with (oh yes, the other thing) promoting tourism. I did a press release, which got a lot of traction in the Croatian media, offering a free article for any tourist board in Croatia which wanted to join our platform, Virtual Croatia. Just send me the tools, and I will do the rest.
The Croatian National Tourist Board very kindly supplied me with the latest database of local tourist board, so that I knew that my free offer would reach the right addresses.
I sent the offer above, knowing that these were difficult times and that I had no money to bribe them to accept my free offer.
So what were the results? How many of these very busy local tourist boards – with no budget to feed their cousins and no tourists to disturb their day – engaged with this free offer with no benefits to them personally?
I sent the offer on April 30. Two weeks later, an impressive 26% of the 319 tourist board have found the time and interest to open the email.
An impressive 26% found time in between their other duties in a pandemic with no tourists and no promotional activities to open the email. Quite understandably, with such outrageous salary reductions, why open the email at all, asked 74%?
The pure cheek of it! What right did this fat Irishman have to send me an email regarding work when I am having a 4-20% salary reduction. Although I only had 2047 tourists last year (an impressive 6 tourists a day), not only do we not need any free help, we will unsubscribe.
The thing I have found, especially in Central Dalmatia, is that there is a new generation of local tourist board. Young directors who get the need to engage with tourists and not cousins. I have about 18 tourist boards who have taken me up on the offer, or about 301 who haven’t, depending on how you look at it.
With about another 10 to come.
My apologies to the 225 tourist boards who did not open the email. Apologies with a chocolate biscuit to those I inconvenienced and who rightly unsubscribed. May your budgets return soon, your salaries be restored – no, increased – and who gives a f*ck about the tourists?
If you are a local tourist board who would like to take part in our Virtual Croatia project, here are the details.