Continuing our look at the bloggers of Croatia, today TCN meets one of the most established and still one of the best – Secret Dalmatia.
Some blog for money, others for clicks, but the percentage of bloggers who blog out of passion for their subject are few and far between.
Now in its seventh year, the Secret Dalmatia blog continues to take its readers to parts of Croatia as yet undiscovered by the majority of its citizens (and in some cases nobody), part of the appeal of one of Croatia’s most innovative and successful boutique tourism experiences offered by Alan Mandic of SecretDalmatia.com.
Educated in the States and with a passion about the heritage and traditions of his native Dalmatia that is sadly lacking elsewhere these days, Mandic has combined his understanding of the needs of the luxury tourism market with the treasures of undiscovered Croatia to produce a portfolio of tours which set the industry standard. The Secret Dalmatia blog is a unique window into some traditions and forgotten places in the country. TCN caught up with Mandic over a glass of wine at Paradox Wine and Cheese Bar in Split on January 27, 2016 to find out more.
1. Yours was one of the first English-language blogs in Croatia. Why did you start it and what were you hoping to achieve?
It all started when Jane Cody back in 2009 – now rarely active but hers was the first proper blog on Croatia, Croatiaonline.com – told me that I should start the blog since I am traveling a lot and I like things less ordinary. First it was trying to get more exposure to really nice places I wanted people to see, but now I write it primarily for myself and it is more of a journal. If people like it, fine but Secret Dalmatia is simply not for everyone.
2. Secret Dalmatia. Your blog lives up to its name, and you brought several Dalmatian treasures to the English-speaking world. Tell us about a couple of them.
Ley lines was one of my favorite. It is so silly and unusual and probably just a coincidence.
And the discovery of a possible Dalmatian Pyramid was fun and attracted a lot of national media attention.
But the most important was the coverage of the serious archaeological find near my home town which we, Secret Dalmatia, sponsored. (TCN reported on this find recently and you can learn more here, as well as see more videos of the excavation).
There are plenty more stories to cover and new discoveries to make!
3. Your tours and blogs are innovative and different to the rest, and you take clients to places others have yet to discover. How would you describe the potential of undiscovered Dalmatia?
It is stunning! But it is really not for everyone and it is for real travelers only – from the distant volcanic islands to the hidden canyons and all that natural beauty comes with great stories. Just a magical part of the world full of surprises at every step.
Of course, tourists will continue flocking to our coast but there is much more in Dalmatia than just the beaches and, now ruined, coastal villages and towns.
I do believe that there is potential for bringing select groups to many of the places I am writing about, and we did have travelers visiting, but the majority still stays on the most basic path.
4. Your thoughts on how Croatia markets itself as a tourist destination, particularly to the North American market, where you are very active?
It can be much better as the market is “hungry” for a destination like Croatia: unspoiled landscapes, welcoming people and great and authentic experiences. Great food and wines. We are also very safe and most of the people speak quite good English. But we do need direct flights to really tap into that market.
All these points need to be stressed out far more to the American market as all this is quite important but we also need more presence in their press, online publications and TV shows.
5. Tell us a little about wine and gourmet tourism. Is there demand, and what makes Croatia a quality foodie tourist destination?
There is a huge demand and we have numerous experiences in our offer. Many of them exclusive. We were the first to start a separate web site dedicated to food and wine travel back in 2009. It has just been redesigned: www.culinary-croatia.com
Travelers are always interested in unique food and wine but the combination of our partners and their passion is what makes all these experiences very special and unique. I do believe that we are slowly losing the authentic tastes and we, although small, are working hard on keeping and preserving our traditions.
6. Your advice to the tourism chiefs to develop tourism in Dalmatia?
More high quality hotels, stop apartments, strongly enforce preservation of the environment, and more funds on promotion of our cultural and natural heritage.
7. As one of the most established bloggers in Croatia, how do you see the blogging scene today?
I have seen many blogs come and go in the past 7 years of writing and it is just because many people loose their motivation for writing quite fast or they are motivated by “wrong” reasons. But I do see now several quality blogs in English language on various subject. There is still room for several thematic blogs but, who will write…
8. And finally if you were to recommend one region off the beaten path in Croatia, which one and why?
Bukovica – the mystical hinterland behind Zadar and Šibenik is one of the places I go to when I need to relax and enjoy nature. Read, for example, about the last oak forest in Dalmatia (see photo above). For islands, Dugi Otok is the most beautiful and most unique of all our islands.
To learn more about Secret Dalmatia, visit their website.