Why Highlighting Uhljeb Brilliance is More Depressing than Clickbait Fun

Total Croatia News

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May 9 – Highlighting uhljeb brilliance and official incompetence in Croatia may look like good, clean clickbait fun, but it is actually quite a depressing part of the job. 

Croatia is an incredible country, and one which would be ten times more incredible if it was run by competent officials who had the interest of citizens and pride in their jobs at the core of everything they do. There are occasional glimpses of what Croatia COULD be like – check out the outstanding response to the corona crisis from a health perspective by new health minister Vili Beros as a case in point. But such examples are lamentably few, and citizens have come to accept that things will never change, and Croatia’s destiny is one of corruption and nepotism. Citizens do not take to the streets to protest in the same way they do to welcome returning sporting heroes. But they do protest in silence. On the streets of Frankfurt, Stockholm and Dublin. The protest of emigration.  

As someone who has chosen the opposite emigration direction, I have a vested interest in a better Croatia, and one of the core principles of TCN is to celebrate the little guy while also providing constructive criticism to certain situations.

Inevitably, and given the enormous frustration at seeing so much potential of a better life for local people squandered in the interests of greed, coupled with incompetence and indifference, that constructive criticism includes publicly highlighting incompetence in the hope that public pressure can achieve what cannot be offline. 

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It is how I heard the word ‘uhljeb’ for the first time five years ago, through an Index headline from a tourist board director who has since moved on telling me that he was not an ‘uhljeb’. Whatever that meant, and I had to take to Facebook to ask my Croatian friends for an explanation

The topic of the story was the bus and ferry timetables advertised by the tourist board of Jelsa in 2015, which were 7 months out of date. I wrote a half-amusing blog on Total Hvar, then was shocked to see the story appear on Croatia’s most popular portal Index.hr an hour later. The next day, new bus timetables were displayed in the Jelsa Tourist Board office. Effective change. But how sad it took a foreigner to write a blog that was picked up by the national media, rather than have someone do their job. 

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And so to yesterday, and something truly incredible. Updated Jelsa bus timetables was one thing, but managing to encourage the Ministry of Tourism to upgrade their contact info on its homepage from the humble fax machine to not one but four email addresses was seismic, one of the results from my article a couple of days ago Does Croatia Actually Want Tourists? How the Competition is Updating Tourists.

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Of course, the catalyst once more was the might and reach of Index, which ran the story yesterday morning. The ministry went faxless an hour later. 

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And if Index, or some other strong Croatian media, decides to get involved, that puts the incompetence not only into the Croatian language, but also into the Croatian media space, so more people notice. And so there is more chance that it gets fixed. 

Five years ago, an Index article got the Jelsa bus timetables updated the next day. Five years later, the Jelsa official tourist info has bus and ferry timetables from October 2017, helpful flight advice such as flying with Malev, which went bankrupt in 2012, or with seaplanes which were grounded in 2016. As for the helpful flights map and the random panorama flights of Opatija from Venice, I can see no better homepage to promote the Kingdom of Accidental Tourism.

But as Index and other Croatian media have better things to do, there is no pressure to fix things. And so they stay as they are.  

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Sometimes, the Croatian media takes a great interest, and the results are spectacular. This was never more true than in 2016 when I took a closer look at the national tourist board’s flagship Croatia 365 project. Oh dear.  

And ‘oh dear’ was the reaction of the Croatian media, as my story was covered by every major portal, and it led to invitations to two meetings – the PA of the Minister of Tourism, and the then Director of the Croatian National Tourist Board. 

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I am very grateful for the media support of my Croatian media colleagues when they have the time and interest to promote these issues, as they are more likely to bring change. 

I do have some successes while acting alone, but not many.  They are usually when the substance of what I highlight is so totally out of control that even the uhljebs realise they should put the next coffee break on hold to fix the issue. 

Examples of this include the national tourist board promoting a full 18-hole golf course in the centre of Zagreb (the fact that the actual course closed in 2012 and was nowhere near Zagreb is another topic of discussion). 

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Also when the national tourist board was cashing in on all the global interest in Croatia thanks to Game of Thrones, they decided after my article that perhaps an exhibition of old fruits in Zagorje was not top of the list of priorities for people wanting to know how to get to Kings Landing. 

I could do these articles all day, every day, as there is SO much material. They are popular, and people like to cheer and congratulate me on getting things like bus timetables updated. 

But I don’t feel any joy in it at all, as funny as I can write the articles. They depress me more than anything else I do at TCN, because there is so much energy wasted in this, when we should all be focusing on promoting the best of this wonderful country. 

It is easy to label all those who work in the ministries and tourist boards as incompetent. But that is also one of the depressing things. 

They are not. Many are highly educated, have MBAs, have been educated in North America and Western Europe. They are proud Croats and love their country. Great people to hang out with and have meaningful discussions about tourism and the future of Croatia. If anyone was in a position to effect change, it is them. 

And yet… 

That is the most depressing thing, and it overshadows any clickbait fun. 


But we will keep trying, as it seems the national tourist board also took note of Index yesterday – no more ‘Pursuant to Article 22a of the Civil Protection System Act (Official Gazette no 82/15, 118/18 and 31/20) in answer to the question ‘can we come to Croatia?’ – above. Replaced by some half-useful info below. 

If anyone is reading from CNTB, maybe add the link to the EU2020 information page you mention in the opening sentence. Not everyone knows where to find it – myself included. 




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