Interview with Tomislav Buljubašić, Owner of Dioklecijan Hotel&Residence in Split

Total Croatia News

After finishing his education in business administration and international business and management at the prestigious Webster University in Vienna, Tomislav Buljubašić came back to Split to manage the first categorised medical hotel – the Dioklecijan Hotel and Residence in Split.

While studying in Vienna, he worked on his father’s luxurious yacht, Seagull, which he says was one of his first experiences with tourism on a more exclusive level. Their guests were wealthier, often powerful people from all over the world and from different niches. He says that this job prepared him for what was to come, how to deal with the more demanding customers, and how to always provide the best possible service. It also helped teach him how to work with colleagues and how important it is to have professionals working with you every day.

He enjoyed Vienna but decided to come back home to Split. Both private and business reasons factored into that decision, as he believed that there was a lot of potential in Croatia to create something new or improve the already existing facilities. His father was just finishing his investment into the facility he’s managing now, so that also helped Tomislav Buljubašić make that decision.

As soon as he graduated, he acquired the hotel from his father, and of course, he didn’t have the means to buy it outright, so his father’s equity will be paid from the hotel’s income. Their business deal was simple and follows the old maxim; short reckonings make long friends. Both he and his sister were raised to aspire to greater things, to want to create on their own, not just enjoy the success of their parents. He adds that he’d never say that he started from the bottom, as that would not be true, but that he has proven himself anyway.

His upbringing prepared him for his entry into the business world, but still, he was not aware of the complexity of the project when he took it over. Now he admits that his father was also brave to allow him to manage the hotel at such a young age.

In addition to the hotel, he manages the Split House of Health (Splitska kuća zdravlja, SKZ), a multifunctional facility which brings together tourism and health. There are several prestigious clinics and doctors’ offices there: Akromion Hospital, Bagatin Clinic, a Hydrotherapy Centre, a Pediatric Clinic, the Dr. Željko Roje Clinic, the Dermalis Clinic, and Dioklecijan Hotel&Residence. The project was envisioned by his father, Juroslav Buljubašić, who believed that the fast-growing trend of medical tourism could come to Croatia as well.

Tomislav Buljubašić explains that medical tourism is an extremely important aspect of tourism, as it brings in higher income because those are the services of higher value.

It is not limited by seasons, weather and summer – and those tourists prefer coming out of season. Croatia is still behind some other destinations in this tourism niche, but there are bright examples, especially in the dental tourism field in Istria and Kvarner, but there’s room for improvement.

The potential is vast, and much more work needs to be done to fully develop that potential. Croatia needs to be branded as an ideal destination for this type of tourism. We can already start working on that branding with the tourists who come to Croatia these days, as the message needs to be delivered to them about Croatia as a medical and health tourism destination. We have highly respected experts, high-end institutions and specialised hospitals, great accommodation, natural beauty, gastronomy and other tourism content and that’s what can make Croatia a popular destination in that field.

One of the problems is the chronic lack of educated personnel in tourism, even in the situation where they make more and more money each year.

However, that does not seem to be enough, as there just aren’t enough educated staff for Croatian tourism. A temporary solution is to import workers, but the long-term solution needs to be in finding a way to bring more people back, by lowering taxes on what they make. It’s a great loss for Croatia when the people we educated leave and showcase their potential elsewhere because they can’t find work here that would pay what he or she deserves. We can turn that trend around with tax reductions, which will lead to satisfied workers and satisfied guests, says Tomislav Buljubašić.

The other problem is that some of the tourism workers can’t be educated properly in Croatia, because the schools don’t have some of the necessary programs.

For instance, the Croatian school system does not allow a person becoming a chambermaid to learn about the hotel system, maintaining a facility etc. Many positions are like that, where people educate themselves while already working on the job. The situation is different elsewhere in the world, and in Croatia, some schools would like to make that possible, but they’re struggling with the infrastructure, the students avoid practical education and there’s a negative perception of some jobs in the hospitality business.

Therefore, the entire education of the workforce is placed on the employers, leaving them to educate in order to have good workers.

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