Is Croatia a Premium Destination? Some Thoughts of a Quality Restaurateur

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Is Croatia really a premium destination? Do its tourist experts really understand the needs of the modern tourist? A fascinating piece from one man entitled to an opinion, leading restaurateur and wine expert, Zoran Pejovic from Paradox Hospitality in Split. 

There are several misunderstandings about our tourism strategies as well as today’s travelers, particularly those coming to Split, which should be better explained. Without understanding our visitors, we cannot devise proper strategies. For example, the first one that comes to mind is that we are becoming a premium destination! This is anything but true. . .

We have absolutely nothing to offer to high end travelers. No five star hotels, no casinos, no night life (with everything else that comes with it)… It is for example, almost impossible to rent a helicopter for island transfers or sight-seeing… Without five star hotels, there are no five star guests.

Very simple… These require big investments and a lot of time, so I will list some other ones that we can influence on daily basis…

Travelers coming to Split have no clue about our destination. Wrong!

Most modern guests, tourists or travelers, as many of them like to call themselves, have already visited many of the premium tourist destinations in Europe, as well as some of the biggest attractions around the world. To illustrate it, while potentially opening myself here to the accusations of generalizing, these travelers have already experienced the traffic jams of Istanbul and Cairo, bed service of tourist cafes and bistros of Paris, had their pockets picked in Rome or Naples, not so great food of Spanish coastal resorts and so on…

This all makes them rather experienced travelers. Long are gone the times when guests from Germany would, for example, come every single year to the same family in Makarska or Brela. These are things of the past. They research, they prepare themselves, they voice and share their opinions on social media and they more often than not know what they want. Today’s travelers travel more often, but stay a shorter time in any destination. They rarely come back to the same place twice, which means we have one opportunity to win them over so that they can pass their experiences to their fellow traveling community.

Foreign tourists are all looking for rustic, traditional, or what we like to call them, “authentic” experiences. Wrong!

While I do think that konobas, for example, can be fine hospitality establishments, it is not the only type of restaurant that travelers are looking for. Tourists are being directed, often by other hospitality professionals (hotel front office staff, tourist guides and so on) only to places that serve “Dalmatian marenda” style of food. To many locals this is considered the pinnacle of local cuisine, regardless of the quality of the dishes, not to mention the level of service or ambiance. There is an assumption that they can have modern cuisine wherever they go, and that when they come here they need to eat “local” – whatever that means. The idea of local, regardless of the execution, prevails over the idea of excellence, and that is a very dangerous thing.

Modern travelers are looking for lifestyle experiences, and they value technology and culinary experiences at the same time, and are more than able to distinguish between local and touristy.

What is expensive for locals must be expensive for tourists as well! Funny one.

I hear on a daily basis comments such as, that is an expensive wine, expensive restaurant, expensive tour and so on. Rarely do you hear that a hotel is expensive ,which is mainly due to the fact that few locals are staying in these hotels. You will also almost never hear that an apartment in a basement of on an old house without any view at 100 euros per night is expensive. You will certainly never hear that a new iPhone at 6000kn, or a pair of sunglasses at 2000kn are expensive. This is regardless of the income of the people. However, a glass of great wine, presented in a proper, expensive glass, cooled to the appropriate temperature served by a knowledgeable waiter is considered expensive at 40kn per glass.

Here is the catch. That same wine presented in a cheap glass, too warm or too cold, served by a disinterested waiter is certainly expensive at 40kn regardless of the quality of the wine. The same goes for food at the restaurants and a tour of the city or anything else. Modern travelers, as I said above, look for experience, and their concept of value for money often differs from the local one. While many elements of value for money concept are intangible, impossible to measure and extremely subjective, they are more and more related to the overall experience and less and less to the price value of certain items, be it wine, food or anything else…


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