How Croatia Should Use Its World Cup Gift: It is Not Rocket Science

Total Croatia News

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July 30, 2019 – As Croatian tourism has totally squandered the World Cup gift of the heroics of Russia last summer, here is how to resurrect it.

Just over four years ago, I had no idea what a YouTuber was. Three days later, not only had I made the dreams of the granddaughter of some very dear Munich friends come true, but an idea of mine was central to the most viewed Hvar video of all time – some 4.4 million views and counting (you are welcome). 

When I realised the huge promotional potential of YouTubers Joe Sugg and Oli White, I tracked them down and they kindly agreed to an interview for Total Hvar, which took place at Restaurant Gariful. After the interview, I showed them the underwater aquarium where Gariful keeps its lobster, and there also happened to be a baby shark.

“Joe Sugg and Oli White swimming with sharks. Isn’t that the sort of thing your fans would love?”

They agreed, but looked nervous at the prospect. But the addiction of subscribers and views is strong and – fair play to them both – in they went, and the results you can see in the video above, which included a lot more than the tank. A great promo for Hvar. (You can read the original blog here)

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And granddaughter Annie was VERY happy with her hug and autographed iPhone in indelible marker. 

The reason I mention the YouTuber visit was not for the above, but for what happened next. I had several requests for more details of the places they had stayed and visited, as fans (mostly teenage daughters) wanted to eat and sleep in the same places they had been. One friend even came to the island just to take his son to Gariful to dinner and have a look at the tank. 

More than 30 years ago, I was living in Munich and told my family I was going to South America to ‘find’ myself and I had no idea when I would be back. My younger sister was so upset that I promised we would do something special together before I left, whatever she wanted. As a huge A-ha fan, it took her seconds to get over her misery:

“You can take me to see Morten Harket’s home town in Norway, maybe we can find his house.”

And so I did, hitch-hiking from Munich to Oslo to meet her at the airport (3.5 days), before we took the train to Kongsberg. We never found his house, but she did get a plastic bag with the word ‘Kongsberg’ on it, and back at school with her jealous mates, that was almost as good. 

The point to both of these stories is that fans are always interested in the roots of their idols. Tap into that interest (just like Game of Thrones filming spots), add some outstanding content, and you have gold. 

Meanwhile, in the Kingdom of Accidental Tourism

There isn’t much which shocks me anymore about the Kings and their approach to promoting tourism in this country, but a message from a Zadar friend a few days ago managed to do just that. 

“So here we are in Zadar Old Town, Modric-land, and not only is there no content about Modric, but you cannot even buy a Modric shirt.”

So one of the biggest names on the planet last year, with millions of fans, many of whom will be like my sister and the YouTube fans above, would be tugging at their parents’ shirts, asking if they can go and see the places he was born, lived, played football on the street. 

Imagine if the Kings stopped obsessing with their beloved statistics and worshipping at the Temple of Record Overnight Stays and started providing some CONTENT for tourists, how much happier the tourists would be. 

Let’s take Luka Modric and Zadar. How do we turn this into a huge hook to Zadar and an enjoyable family experience?

I went into greater detail in a dedicated article on the subject, which you can read here.

But essentially, playing soccer in the streets where Luka did growing up would be a very cool thing for young kids with dreams of playing in a World Cup Final. Start a Luka Modric street soccer tournament or something similiar – content and activity. Visit the village of Modrici where he lived. Now abandoned and a great place for selfies, and a chance to introduce tourists to traditional Dalmatian ways of life and cuisine. Give the kids a chance to try goat-herding, as Luka famously did on camera as a 5-year-old.

Hell, why not throw in a couple of wolves for those into adrenaline sports… 

See if any of his classmates or coach would want to be part of the package to explain how his career got started. Content for all the family. 

There is always talk of how best to develop the lesser-known destinations of Croatia away from the crowded pressure points. Here is another World Cup gift, the origins of some of the World Cup Stars:

Mandzukic – Slavonski Brod

Vida – Donji Miholjac

Perisic – Omis

Kovacic – Zagreb

Dalic – Varazdin

Kalinic – Solin

Rebic – Imotski

Lovren – Karlovac

Not too many massive hot spots there, but some fascinating places. Watching Vida’s homecoming in Donji Miholjac, for example, I put it on my bucket list. 

Go and create the content for the destinations above. 


Eight months ago, I wrote why Croatian football and tourism should be branded together. And yet there was absolutely zero done (am not saying anyone should act on my articles, but it was just so obvious). 

And it is not just capitalising on the success on the pitch. In my opinion, a huge part of Croatia’s success and popularity was also due to the excellent and photogenic fans, as well as THAT shirt. 

Due to the success in Russia, it is probably one of the most recognisable patterns of any country in the world, even today. So why not use it?

Why not have a strategy to have the chequers from the shirt as the background to Croatian stands at fairs around the world. Croatia, Full of Life if it has to be, but have a large section of the stand in the chequers with a big exhibition – Meet the World Cup Stars and the towns and cultures they are from, then give people reasons to go and visit. 

Meet a global promoter of Croatian excellence using the Croatian brand – Ognjen Bagatin

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Nobody understands this better than one of Croatia’s best international promoters, Ognjen Bagatin. Bagatin -pictured here in Sydney with former Manchester United, Chelsea and Aston Villa goalkeeper, Mark Bosnich (ANOTHER football connection) – runs one of the leading clinics in the region, Bagatin Clinic, which was voted, among other things, as the best dermatology clinic in Europe last year. 

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He is a tireless promoter of Croatia’s huge medical tourism industry, as well as strengthening business ties between the diaspora and the Homeland. And he also gets the occasional photo for Villa fans suffering with their current Croatian keeper, young Kalinic. 

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This was Ognjen in action in Barcelona last week, presenting and celebrating some aspect of Croatian medical excellence. And it is not the first time I have seen him where that tie. It is part of who he is, and it brands Croatia. 

Great medical tourism in that great football country, huh? Maybe Croatia is worth another look. 

Imagine a tourism fair with so many countries to choose from. Now imagine families wandering around and seeing the chequered Croatian stand. An immediate draw. And when they get there, incredible content on the towns their heroes are from.

Brand Croatia with those famous chequers, and ask business and tourism ambassadors to play their small role. I am sure that many of them would be delighted and proud to do so. 


(Photo credit Sinj Tourist Board)

I could go on about how it is no wonder that Croatia is so good at football as it was invented in Croatia, or how Croatia has the strangest football match in the world, see below, but let’s leave that for another time. But remember, there are the Euros next year, and there will be more World Cups. 


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