Highlander Programme 2021: International Success for Croatian Brand

Lauren Simmonds

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Marta Duic writes on the 17th of December, 2020, three friends from the Eastern Croatian city of Osijek, Igor Mlinarevic, Jurica Barac and Andrej Mlinarevic, are passionate lovers of mountains and hiking. They officially presented the Highlander programme 2021 in front of the Egyptian pyramids in Giza, not far from Cairo.

The organisers of this mountaineering event have devised a Highlander mountaineering story, which is slowly conquering the whole world and becoming a global phenomenon. As they say, the reason for choosing Egypt as the location for the presentation of the Highlander programme 2021 lies in the fact that the Egyptian Bedouins, a nomadic people, were some of the first hikers in the world. One of the most important goals of this event is the promotion of an active and healthy lifestyle through hiking, as well as the preservation and care of nature by promoting the so-called Leave No Trace philosophy, and their wish is that in the future, the Highlander event manages to obtain the status of “100% Green Event”.

Interest is growing…

Here in Croatia, Highlander is held on Velebit, and in 2020, it was held for the fourth time. The group also record a continuous growth of participants. Back in 2017 there were 60, and this year there were an impressive 330. In addition, Highlander has other variants in countries such as Serbia (Stara Planina), Bosnia and Herzegovina (Blidinje), Montenegro (Durmitor) , Austria (Murau) and Greece (Olympus), and at a press conference held in Egypt, new countries announced their own ”joining” to the list; Morocco (Toubkal), Portugal (Melgaço), Northern Macedonia (Ohrid), Spain (Duero-Douro), Saudi Arabia (Abha), the United Arab Emirates (Ras Al Khaimah), Slovenia (Julian Alps), Russia (Caucasus) and Egypt (Qusoor El Arab).

Namely, at the beginning of 2020, this team sold the Highlander license to four neighbouring countries: Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Austria and Greece. As such, Highlander Global became an umbrella organisation that oversees existing and new Highlander countries, and in 2021, there will be about 15 Highlander events held around the world.

”After three years of developing this event here in Croatia (Highlander Velebit), we decided to sort out a franchise last year because we’d created a concept that doesn’t currently exist, has an excellent business model and isn’t demanding to implement. As such, at the end of 2019, we sold licenses to Austria, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Greece.

As soon as 2020 came around and as soon as we announced new markets, we started talks with our partners around the world and negotiated the sale of the license to other countries. Then the coronavirus pandemic struck and everything slowed down, but fortunately, there are entrepreneurs who see an opportunity in everything, including the pandemic, and it’s with these visionaries that we’ve agreed on ten more markets for 2021. The main motives are the huge growth of interest in outdoor sports, great interest in adventures such as Highlander and mountaineering tourism development strategies that are increasingly common due to their sustainability, positive impact on human health and an additional influx of guests,” says Jurica Barac, the director of Highlander.

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