Meet the True Heroes of Croatia 365: Luks PZ from Pozega

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With the tourist board’s Croatia 365 project in the national media, TCN starts a new series on February 22, 2016, looking at the professionals and enthusiasts already delivering year-round tourism options outside the system. By featuring some of these tourism heroes, our hope is to give them wider exposure and encourage the powers that be to include both their programmes and their energy in future planning, for the greater good of tourism. We start with some cycling enthusiasts in Pozega. 

I think it is fair to say that our overview of the Croatia 365 tourism project being promoted by the national tourist board received a fair amount of national media last week, with the story first covered by Tportal on February 18, 2016, and then at least 17 other portals, both national and regional, following suit. 

There were plenty of abusive messages in the TCN inbox of course – how dare a foreigner criticise anything – as well as a visit to the Ministry of Tourism (interview with the new minister coming later this week), and an invitation to meet the director of the Croatia National Tourist Board, Ratomir Ivicic, in what was a productive meeting and exchange of views.

But the most interesting – and perhaps the most positive (and we like to focus on positivity) – outcome were several emails we had from all over the country from tourism professionals and enthusiasts who are delivering excellent out of season products, mostly without official support or interest, or where there is support, it is extremely limited. It seemed like an opportunity for us to highlight these hard-working volunteers, firstly to recognise their work, but secondly to perhaps start the process to bring them closer to official channels for mutual cooperation for the greater good. 

While we have examples of people bringing in literally thousands of tourists every year with no official recognition, I thought it would be best to start in the region where part of the initial article was focused – Pozega, Velika and Pakrac.

The region was one of just eight out of 40 now taking part in Croatia 365 to offer cycling tourism, but a closer look at what was on offer revealed nothing more than two flowery paragraphs which said almost nothing, the promise of an app (but with no link to it) and three local tourist board website addresses for more information, one of which had been suspended (see above) and the second was only in Croatian. 

The third tourist board, Pozega, did promise an English-langauge page, but as the screenshot above shows, the very limited information on show was only in Croatian, and I am very happy to report while researching this article just now that not only has that now been changed to English, but more useful information has been added.  The first positive results of our constructive campaign?

Before that update happened, however, I received an email inviting me to check out a cycling website based in Pozega, called Luks-PZ. I was stunned, for not only did this website have bike routes for visitors, but it had helpful photographs and directions, step by step.

A useful map for each trail.

A Google Earth video with each trail to give people a helpful overview. 

Check out their entire range of routes, clicking ‘Staze’ on the dropdown menu. Excellent work.

And on the Facebook page, organised races.

I had to smile. Here was a wonderful initiative called Croatia 365, which had been so badly presented at the local official level that any interested parties would conclude that there was no such thing as cycling tourism in the region, and yet right next door was a private enterprise which it turned out had been doing wonderful things in cycling tourism since 2007! Who would have thought! 

Not only that, but they had been organising international races with participants from Croatia, Belgium, America, Israel, Hungary, Slovakia, Serbia, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina. It would appear that the region really was full of life when it came to cycling after all. 

And it should be mentioned that there has been interest from the local tourist board and some help from the regional, but budgets have been limited, and not enough to really push this initiative forward as it deserves. I have no idea how much has been wasted on the 365 cycling initiative in the Pozega region, but surely it makes sense to include these guys in a meaningful way? All the information on their website is excellent, and it would be a small cost to put that into English to make it a tourist resource, although they have even managed to present their race in English.

One of the problems with promoting Croatian tourism (and there was talk of it changing, perhaps it has now) is that tourist boards were not allowed to be commercial in any way. When I wrote a 220-page guidebook for the island of Hvar, the first in English at least for at least 20 years, I had been hoping to sell it in the tourist board offices, but was told this was impossible for legal reasons.

This surely has to change in the modern age or at least a better connection and accommodation with private enterprises who are already delivering but do not have the benefit of the wider exposure official tourism promotion can bring. Far from the impression that the Pozega region had little to offer in terms of cycling through the official Croatia 365 promotion, I now feel motivated to discover more through the efforts of Lux PZ, and thereare  similar examples of this disconnect all over the country, and in all sectors, several of which we will be featuring in the coming weeks with the aim of effecting positive change. 

It is time to bring them together, one small and achievable step which will transform the offer of Croatia’s year-round tourism offer. 


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