May 23, 2020 – After weeks of incompetence, the Kings of Accidental Tourism seemed to have finally got some coherent information and an efficient system to answer tourist travel questions. But what happens when you contact the email address?
The Minister of Tourism is apparently not very happy with me. I am apparently making his life very uncomfortable at the most inconvenient time. No, I am not talking about the tourist season, but rather the upcoming elections.
I am glad if I make him unhappy (although it is nothing personal, I have never met the guy), even more so if I make him uncomfortable. For finally, it seems, he has started to do his job. Kind of.
The minister has been the minister now for 4 years. The only memorable thing I can remember of his term so far are him saying ‘This is not accidental tourism’ when he catches my eye at press conferences, and for his award-winning pandemic tourism slogan, Croatia Breathes Tourism.
Oh yes, apart from that incredible moment in Vinkovci at Days of Croatian Tourism last October when he announced – to thunderous applause from the party faithful:
“Croatia is the best tourism destination in Europe.”
No facts to back up the claim. No numbers. Which is odd because The Capp loves his numbers. 40 million tourists, a record year. This is not accidental tourism. 3 billion overnights. This is not accidental tourism. That kind of thing.
He also has a fondness of some other numbers, as our colleagues at Index.hr informed the nation recently – fax numbers.
Four years into his reign in the Kingdom of Numbers, Numbers, Numbers, our esteemed minister decided to upgrade from the fax number (the year is 2020) on its homepage – email is a concept the Ministry of Tourism was just hearing about, to a sudden change of communications strategy just over 2 weeks ago. Out with the fax and in with 4 emails. I am not sure what brought on so much bold and dynamic change after four years of blissful fax heaven.
I could go on at length about all the other changes that have happened after the Croatian media covered my story, but I want to get to the point of this article, which is to explain to tourist businesses now that many tourists will not come to Croatia this year because they cannot get any information on the situation.
On paper, after weeks of ineptitude, it seemed that there was finally a coherent message. TCN has been doing travel updates throughout the crisis (and you can bookmark our daily update here, now available in 12 languages), and we recently started a Viber community called Total Croatia Travel INFO.
The Viber community concept is completely out of my comfort zone and I will return to it in a minute, but one of the recurring comments from community members has been the lack of response from the official central email tourists are encouraged to send questions.
A few examples.
This comes at a time that we have 319 tourist boards in a time of nothing happening, and 75% are too busy to open an email with an offer of a free destination article form an award-winning travel writer. That is not 75% who did not respond, that is 75% that did not even open the email. Of those that did, 68% were too busy to click on the link.
This is not just another Uhljebistan story. This is an issue which will cost many jobs and closed businesses in the next few weeks. Croatia’s private tourism providers are on their knees. The next two weeks are crucial, and while Greece is doing INCREDIBLE PR and clear communication, life in the Kingdom of Accidental Tourism goes on as before.
As we explored recently in Jebote! As Greece Restarts Tourism, Croatia Lauds Conference Success, in a Pandemic, our heroic Ministry website was reporting on a meeting with truck drivers, while the national tourist board director was congratulating himself on Croatia being the 34th best conference tourism country in the world, and number 1 in the region.
“After various world associations held 114 conventions in Croatia in 2018, even more conventions were held in 2019, 123, and Croatia went up four places in the ICCA rankings, to the 34th place globally by the number of conventions held. That is the highest position Croatia has taken to date, which also confirms its status as the leading conference destination in the region,” said HTZ director Kristjan Stancic.
He thinks this is great news for Croatia’s conference tourism, which is on an upward trajectory, as well as for Zagreb, which has taken the 48th place in the ICCA rankings for conference cities, jumping up by 20 places compared to 2018.
Conference tourism on an upward trajectory in the Zoom and Corona Age. Clearly, the gurus of the Kingdom of Accidental Tourism are ahead of their time.
While The Capp was coming out with his breathtaking corona-era slogans, and a 17-year strategic plan was put out to tender to the cousins, nobody was answering the emails.
And so the tourists – who LOVE Croatia and contribute 20% of its GDP – are looking elsewhere.
With only 319 local tourist boards, 20 regional tourists boards, 1 national tourist board, a ministry of tourism AND a dedicated tourism body within the fabulous Croatian Chamber of Economy, who could possibly find the manpower to answer questions from tourists?
Surely everyone knows that in the Kingdom of Accidental Tourism, tourists simply come.
I decided to try. As an experiment.
Last weekend, I called PR guru and champion of orange shoe fashion, Kresimir Macan, suggesting he take me in his Porsche to the main border with Slovenia at Bregana. With information so hard to find, a little first-hand reporting might be useful. MUP were extremely responsive by email with the media permission and very helpful at the border. You can see the realities of life on the Croatian-Slovenian border on May 17 here.
“We have that really good Viber account, Koronavirus.hr for corona updates. Why doesn’t the Ministry of Tourism have the same for latest travel advice?”
“Why don’t you make your own Viber community?” asked Macan.
“I wouldn’t know where to start.”
Two days later…
I have known Kreso for 6 years. And I have known many who have worked for him. They are some of the brightest minds who go on to do incredible things in the public and private sector. So when he suggested I come to the office and have a chat with his two interns, I knew it would not be just a chat.
After we got over the initial embarrassment that I did not know how to download Viber to my desktop (thanks, kids!), we – or rather they – got to work. In precisely 22 minutes, we were live with my Viber community Total Croatia Travel INFO (and you can join too – but you need to download the app).
Nobody has helped me more in the last 5 years than Macan. He is a controversial chap and a polarising figure (he is the erstwhile Communications Director for current Prime Minister Plelnkovic), but he is a master of his craft. I sat and watched, and within an hour, we had an infographic with the relevant info that people needed to know.
An infographic that was available in multiple languages thanks to the generosity of the Viber community we had created, as people volunteered their time to help others.
I built a master travel info article, which I pinned to the top of the Viber community, so all could see. I update it daily.
Meanwhile our travel update page, which links to all the relevant official pages, is now available in multiple languages – the translation is not perfect, but then it never is when the budget is zero:
Pour lire ce texte en français, cliquez sur (article in French)
Para leer este texto en español, haga clic en (article in Spanish)
Per leggere questo articolo in italiano (article in Italian)
Om deze tekst in het Nederlands te lezen, klik op (article in Dutch)
Chcete-li číst tento text v češtině, klikněte na (article in Czech)
Aby przeczytać ten tekst po polsku, kliknij (article in Polish)
Да бисте прочитали овај текст на српском, кликните на (article in Serbia)
Чтобы прочитать этот текст на русском языке, нажмите на (article in Russian)
Če želite prebrati to besedilo v slovenščini, kliknite na (article in Slovenian)
Pentru a citi acest text în limba română, faceți clic pe (article in Romanian)
For å lese denne teksten på norsk, klikk på (article in Norwegian)
A szöveg magyar nyelvű elolvasásához kattintson a gombra (article in Hungarian)
We had LOTS of engagement in on our little Viber community. We decided to invest some time to answer the questions in real time. For free. This is a community after all.
The community is growing quickly and is VERY helpful, with people sharing experiences (including no response to emails by the Kings), and I have learned a lot.
(Answering tourist questions in real time, making their choice to come to Croatia on holiday an easier one. Join the Total Croatia Travel INFO Viber community – you will need to download the app).
This is what Macan, two interns and a fat Irishman have managed to do as a part-time extra to our working days since Tuesday.
Meanwhile, in the Kingdom of Accidental Tourism, the minister is breathing tourism, the national tourist board director is feeling pleased with the upward trajectory of his conference tourism strategy, and business after business is going out of business.
Because nobody has time to answer the emails.
To learn more about the brilliance of the Kingdom of Uhljebistan, follow the dedicated TCN section.