Acantho – Croatia Charter Holidays, Meet the Ladies You Can Trust

Total Croatia News

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Looking to charter a yacht in Croatia, how do you know who to trust? We want to help in this process by introducing you to different people in the industry, first up, meet Ivana Vatavuk and Karmen Hrvatić from Acantho – Croatia Charter Holidays.

One of my favourite aspects of working in the yacht charter industry, as well as guest interaction, was meeting some of the incredible people who make the yachting world what it is; from the suppliers and restaurateurs to yacht crew and charter agents. There are so many pieces which make the whole picture and for an incredible guest experience from beginning to end, every single person in this chain has their role to play; particularly, charter agents and crew.

Like any industry, there are genuine, passionate people who excel at what they do and make a difference to the overall guest experience – these are the kind of people and stories I intend on sharing.

I met Karmen Hrvatić and Ivana Vatavuk from Acantho – Croatia Charter Holidays, almost two years ago during a ‘Fam Trip’ (organised tour for charter agents) and was instantly impressed. They were positive, enthusiastic and I would discover over the course of the week that they were also extremely knowledgeable and passionate about what they do.

We received a few groups from Acantho on our yacht and the guests always came aboard excited and commented on the professionalism and positive experience they had with Karmen and Ivana throughout the whole booking process. Trust me, it makes a difference; we have had guests arrived flustered and upset before because they were given incorrect information – they were advised to fly into Dubrovnik and drive to Split and that it would only be a 2-hour drive, it was closer to 4-hours because it was August which equals peak-traffic. It seems like such a small thing but while the holiday may officially begin the moment guests step aboard a yacht, there is so much that happens beforehand and a good agent can ensure it is a positive experience from beginning to end.

Over the years, I have seen many different styles of agents and I know it makes a difference but with a saturated market of charter companies and agents, how do you know who to trust? This is why I have decided to share some stories from different people in the charter industry, to make it more human and approachable.

So, I met up with Karmen and Ivana to learn more about their story, here is what they had to say.

When did you both start in the yachting industry and what was your experience prior to this?

We have both been curious about tourism from our teenage years, from the age of 14 we already knew that we wanted to make tourism our career. We were both exposed to it in various ways and had a mutual passion for languages – between us we speak English, Italian, German and Croatian!

Karmen: I started helping my family with apartment rentals on the island of Vis as a teenager then I worked in a tourist agency as a summer job on Vis – booking accommodation, excursions, transfers etc. I studied Culture and Tourism at the University of Zadar and also did various trips to Italy for language studies. Finally, I ended up working as a booking manager in a yachting company in Split.

Ivana: I also had a passion for languages and studied them in high school in Split, I studied Economics in Tourism in Dubrovnik University and did a study-abroad in Germany for language. I started working in the yachting industry in 2003 as a booking manager and accounts in a yachting company in Split. That’s how Karmen and I met.

When and Why did Acantho – Croatia Charter Holidays, Begin?

After working for someone else for so many years we decided it was time to do it for ourselves, like anything else, there were aspects of the business we believed we could develop. We both wanted to work in a company that expanded beyond “only yachts” or “only accommodation”, we wanted to explore all possibilities of guests coming to Croatia multiple times and be able to offer different experiences and challenge ourselves in the process.

After working together for a couple of years we knew we had similar passions and vision, so we started our company in 2008 when everybody said it was the worst time for starting a tourist business and the yachting industry wasn’t doing well. But, we kept pushing, didn’t give up on the idea and here we are, nearly 10 years later.

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Aboard Navilux yacht

What has kept you in the yachting industry so long?

Simple – love for the job! It is also thanks to great crews and yachts who have been here for years providing the best service as well as getting to know the new yachts for our guests. We believe that yachting is the best way to explore Croatia and we pride ourselves on delivering excellent service and love the challenge of exploring new ways we can improve our offer and the guest experience.

What do you enjoy most about your role?

Interacting and getting to know guests from different cultures and finding the best possible service to suit a client’s specific preferences. There is an art to this and it comes down to understanding the guests’ wishes and knowing the crew and boats well, which is the other highlight of this job – working with great crew and yachts. Through this job, it has also meant that we have been able to get to know our country even better and we continue to discover and learn!

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Aboard Gulet Perla in Sibenik

What is the most challenging aspect of the role?

Being on-call 24/7 throughout the year – because yes, we even have requests for a yacht on Christmas Eve! Bureaucracy is probably the next; high VAT rates and constant changes to laws and regulations make our job harder than it needs to be.

Where do most of your clients come from and how do they find you?

Most of our clients come from Europe, Australia, and the US but we also have a lot coming from South Africa and some South American countries. Our best form of advertising is ‘word-of-mouth’ – they heard about us from friends, family members or colleagues who already chartered a yacht or rented a villa through our agency. We have a 50% return-client rate and we are very proud of this! If people choose to trust you with their holiday once, it is an honour but if they return – this is the greatest compliment they can give.

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Karmen dining with repeat clients from Norway.

What do you think is the perfect Dalmatian sailing itinerary?

For first-time charterers to Croatia, a one-way route from Split to Dubrovnik is the ideal route as it offers the highlights of Central Dalmatia and the islands. We do our best to adjust our service to match the wants and needs of our clients – for different families or groups of friends, there are always different recommendations from our side. You have to take into consideration that some like to enjoy only peace and quiet on their holidays while others like child-friendly beaches or the best locations for nightlife… so our perfect itinerary and suggestions change according to the guests’ preferences. You have to take the time to get to know and understand the guests first.

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Ivana and Karmen testing out zip-lining on the Cetina for themselves!

When do people start booking their tours for the upcoming season or what do you recommend?

Generally, people book 6-months in advance for sailing boats; however, for specific yachts and gulets or for a larger group, we advise at least a year in advance – or even more in some cases, for example, Gulet Linda is almost completely booked for 2018 and we already have requests for 2019.

How do you stand out as charter agents?

First and foremost, we make a great team! Besides this, clients can trust that they can reach us, we are on-call 24/7, we speak multiple languages, are adept at resolving any issues on the spot (which can always happen with anything related to travel).

We pride ourselves on our relationships with businesses and yacht owners, so our clients will benefit from these genuine relationships – as it means that we can make recommendations based on understanding our guests’ needs AND how that could match with different yacht crews or accommodation.

Because we live here, we truly understand the region, we both love to spend time at sea and often travel to explore new destinations and inspect the villas we offer. We are also passionate for the outdoors and culture and do our best to bring this knowledge and passion to our guests through our recommendations. Everything we suggest, we have had a personal experience with, we aren’t reading it from a travel guide, this is one of the greatest advantages of working with a local agent.

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Ivana, waiting aboard Gulet Linda for guests!

Any advice for people looking to come sailing in Croatia?

Take your time to explore – Croatia is much, much more than just Hvar and Dubrovnik. Croatia has such diversity, be sure to discover the landscapes, culture, and history – don’t collect selfies, collect memories.

Then, contact us and we will do the rest!

If you are interested in chartering a yacht in Croatia or booking a villa, visit Acantho – Croatia Charter Holidays or stop by their Facebook for more from the ladies.

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