May 16, 2020 – For a country so heavily dependent on tourism, communication from the Kings of Accidental Tourism is beyond sublime, a far cry from the outstanding communication from Vili Beros and team. What went wrong, and can we have a Koronavirus tourism Viber account?
Do you remember King Vili and Queen Alemka?
The very public and accessible faces of the crisis management team which has spearheaded the health response to the coronavirus crisis in Croatia. New Health Minister Vili Beros only came into the job on January 28, 2020, but he immediately brought in a sense of calm, order… and communication.
They did such a good job that they won the thanks and admiration of the nation. Here they are, number 1 and 2 in the last poll by Index.hr on the top 20 positive and top 20 negative people in Croatia. Number 2 Most Positive is not a position many ministers have held since polling began.
It wasn’t just the health measures, however, it was the communication. It was beyond outstanding. I was full of admiration, gratitude and stress-free sleep. I knew that Vili was taking care of me while I slept, and I knew that he would explain everything he was doing, what I needed to do, and why, to get us all through this.
It actually felt for those giddy few weeks that I was living in a real country.
We got a dedicated Koronavirus website, which was full of incredible data, info and updates. It even had a section in English, something that many local tourists boards here cannot manage. The site was updated at 14:00 every day, to coincide with the daily press conference where Vili, Alemka and the team updated us live on television and took journalists’ questions.
There was a Koronavirus Viber account you could subscribe to to get the latest updates – over 400,000 did in the first 24 hours. Since its inception, the Viber updates have been regular, updated and informative. There was even an Android app called Andrija just for corona.
And all this within the Mighty Kingdom of Uhljebistan. A Minister seemingly working for the people and not for himself. A surprising and refreshing change. Could this be one more step on the road to Croatia 2.0 and ridding the country of a far more difficult malevolent virus – Uhljebistan itself?
Sadly, those halcyon days look to be over.
Croatia’s focus in the corona story shifted from health, health, health to health, health, economy (understandably). But now there is a third factor which will quite probably play the biggest role of all – politics. It is election season, baby, and reelection is more important of all in the Mighty State of Uhljebistan.
Tourism is now the focus – and how to ‘save the season’. King Vili has passed over the stage to Minister of Tourism Gari Cappelli, whose ingenious corona-era slogan – Croatia Breathes Tourism – perhaps gives you an indication on where this story is heading.
The arguments about having a tourist season, who should come, and what level of measures should be taken are all part of very complex discussion. That is not the focus of this article. The focus of this article is how Croatia has gone from one of the global leaders in terms of corona communication thanks to Vili, Alemka and co, to the communication skills that would not be out of place in Pyongyang.
I am getting a ton of emails at the moment with questions like this:
I’m trying to find out if my holiday in June will be going ahead. It’s hard to find anything out from the airlines and the Croatian tourist board.
We are due to go Dubrovnik on June 17th for a week. I’m just wondering if you have any news?
But frustrated and desperate emails from the people who were trying to save the season – foreign tourists – kept flooding the TCN inbox, as we were the only source trying to give daily updates from the info we could find after much research.
And then – at least I thought – a breakthrough of common sense. State Secretary of Tourism Tonci Glavina has always been one on the most communicative members of the government. Bilingual in language and mindset after studying in California, I posted the message above on his wall earlier this week. He was, as expected, responsive, and I agreed to send the questions to help the ministry do its job.
I sent 14 questions the same day, mostly generated by TCN readers, to both the Ministry of Tourism, press department and the office of the State Secretary (who had asked me to send them), as well as the press department of the Ministry of the Interior.
After three days, I had received no reply from anyone. I emailed the tourism ministry again, then called both the press department (whose job it is to talk to the press) and the office of the State Secretary. Silence. I then called Tonci’s mobile and got a message that he would call me back.
Which he did. And we chatted for 40 minutes, off the record, so I am not at liberty to divulge the contents of that chat.
But I still have no answers the following day. And nobody else does either. Personally I am embarrassed on behalf of the public officials who continue to take salaries for such incompetence as so many are losing their livelihoods, but I have a simple suggestion which would solve all this information chaos in one go, while giving Croatia a great chance to promote special offers AND gather data on tourists via their data.
It is a simple idea. One which King Vili has been using for weeks.
Can we have a Viber account similar to the Koronavirus.hr, but focused jus ton tourism and travel updates. Daily border updates, flight info, update in measures, offer of the day, fun fact about Croatian tourism. A mixture of information to allow people to understand what is happening and to entice them to spend their cash?
How hard would that be? Am sure King Vili would share knowledge how he did it. He is a team player after all, working for the people.
TCN would be more than happy to work with the ministry if required.