July 26, 2019 – As the Ministry of Tourism restricts access to the transparent and award-winning eVisitor statistics system and last available statistics pointing to another record season, many destinations are reporting the exact opposite. So is anyone having a record season in Croatia?
The debate on the 2019 Croatian tourism season continues while we wait for the Ministry of Tourism to restore access to its real-time tourism statistics programme, eVisitor, I decided to feature some businesses who are having a record season while so many are complaining. What were they doing differently, and what are their thoughts on the direction of Croatian tourism. A reminder first of what the UNWTO said about eVisitor when it gave Croatian tourism chiefs a prestigious award for the programme, for which congratulations:
eVisitor is a unique online information system that provides insight into tourist traffic and accommodation capacities (commercial and non-commercial) in Croatia. It generates statistical reports and marketing indicators in real-time (i.e length of stay, location, gender, age, country of residence, type of facility, destination, etc), which enables more efficient monitoring of tourist traffic and revenues, allowing better control over the collection of accommodation fees creating a synergistic effect of all Croatian tourism stakeholders and contributes to ensuring their competitiveness.
Can we have access back please?
A few days ago, I posted on my Facebook wall that I was looking for any tourism businesses who were indeed having a record season to be featured on TCN. Although it is the peak season and people were busy, I was expecting a few replies. I received just one reply, which you can read below (the offer is still open, details at the bottom of this article).
Meet Ante Lacman of Hvar Tours and Intours who is enjoying his record season. He nicely explains how he is doing so well when others are not, and he offers a few thoughts on the direction of Croatian tourism. Fasten your seatbelts.
1. Tell us a bit about your business and what you do?
My name is Ante Lacman. I am the owner and co-owner of two DMCs.One is the regional leader and is regionally based – Intours DMC – and specialises in MICE (meetings, incentives, conference, events), also PCO….With offices in Ljubljana, Split, Dubrovnik and Montenegro we work and cover the entire region.
The second DMC, my “precious”, my “firstborn child” is Hvar Tours DMC, a local story, exclusive tailor-made programs with personal care and character. A destination experience programs with the Hvar Tours DMC signature. Simply put, I love my home, and everything that makes it so special; landscape, lifestyle – in my way of course, people – at least my circle of people that are charismatic and in some way the essence of this beautiful island. Each year there’s less and less of them..The bottom line is we put our guests, clients in touch with all that and them, without fabricating… Genuine authentic experiences.
2. Lots of people are complaining about a terrible season – how is it for you?
Never better. We are breaking every record since we opened! In some moments we were praying for a bit of relaxation. My team, the people “who run the show” needs to be fresh, relaxed in order to provide the best out of their personal character. 2018 season was a year of disappointment and well as an “eye-opening” period in the context of some of the associates, experiences and direction I want to take further with my Hvar Tours DMC. You can’t imagine how people around us are not creative, and all they can invent is just a copy-paste process…
When we started with the Blue & Cave tours in 2005/2006 there was nobody.. When we started with Hvar wine tours in 2006 there was nobody…. Now, there’s lots of flies around the sh*t…And up to 2018 each year I made, two, three steps forward just to make and perceive my product as different from competitors; I would invest time and money into new programs and then either your competitors copy-paste you, former associates whom we helped to grow their business go behind your back to current suppliers who also forgot who launched them and put the on the map o destination experiences, and they in hurry, don’t understand that getting to a 100% occupancy ratio is at least middle terms process of 3-.5years which has its own rules of how to get to a certain level.
Luckily and in the past 2 years, we have filtered a really good team of suppliers – local hosts who literally leaned and gave us entirely to invent, create & book their services, venues, experiences exclusively through us. This is how we process and control the quality of service and assuring constantly the same standard of delivered service.
We bring business and the business environment we both (us and suppler) agree – for example, massive crowds, mainstream places published on every God Damn guide is not where we go and prefer…For example we want our guests to meet hosts – crazy winemaker who is at the same time TOP chef and is creating just for us authentic, extinct grape varieties that you can not try in any other place that his home, try medical wines paired with the medical food(oh’ you will hear soon about it). we want them to do some crazy things they can not do in their homes, like swimming and wine tasting at the same time, or wine tasting in the cave underwater, or go with the master museum custodian on the tour at the backstage of our Hvar history etc, etc….
We provide different thematic tours, provide small niches within the regular category tours, immerse history though a nice, healthy and interesting way – for example see our latest Island Hvar Olive Adventure – Pick Your Own and Make Your Own… Crazy locations, originality is the direction we set and successfully are sailing towards. The end, well we hope we’ll never reach it. Those ones who share the same mindset and philosophy we invite to join us on the amazing journey. We promise it will never be boring…There’re some new tours to be launched very, very soon – I wish Don LaFontaine here with his preview guy voice here ha ha ;))))
3. What services in particular are proving popular?
As mentioned, we provide exclusive, tailor-made Hvar Tours DMC signature programs… Without any false modesty, I’m proud to say that we are the leading destination experience provider when it comes to tours that are connected with the culinary, gastronomy, wine…Especially wine tours. Above all are of course sea experience programs.
4. Why do you think so many people are complaining?
Ah, wrong mindset mainly from the authorities that create laws and rules – government, ministry, the national tourist board and their local staff who are 99% political appointments. Then it just trickles down to the people that are part of the machinery. I was warning about the manpower, noncreativity or copy-paste process problem 10 years ago.
And look what we have now. Instead of having specialised schools for tourism – because whether we want to admit or not – this is the only way for prosperity and some kind of development, in every coastal place like Umag, Rovinj, Opatija, Rijeka, Krka, Pag and down the south, including our proven professionals from different tourism branches – Zirojevic, Rudi Štefan, Bibich Alen, GM and sales director successful hotel companies, marketing like B&Ž, – as who could not only teach but crucially INSPIRE kids and people to stay in Croatia and become TOP chefs, or top waiters, sommelier, GM, experts in their fields ..What we do!”? We don’t give a, ah You know….I would close borders for two years and go through an entire reorganisation reset; professional & private, restoring the nature. Which in a way would create a demand for Croatia. Imagine, just sending seductive photos of places, food… Hm, I’ll think about it and might come up with an essay.
We make huge numbers on private tours through Hvar Tours DMC, I bring at least 25-30 MICE groups to Hvar , read PRE & POST SEASON. ! I do not want to bitch and give tutorials and explanations on how, etc – but do you think has anybody asked me and said how we can improve it! What can we do to support You to make it even more successful. Once I asked, and I got “I’m sorry…….”
5. Are you happy with the direction of Croatian tourism? What would you improve?
Mindset!!!! Everybody would like to get rich with few drops of sweat! And it’s just doesn’t go that way …
OK for some places in Croatia to be orientated to massive/resort category of tourism, but in 99% I would turn to small, boutique, family tone…As it’s proven in fact to be the right course. Small, boutique, family there’s always some kind of story, experience, connection that makes guests interested and gives him a feeling of being at a unique position and place. Look at social networks, that’s why they exist ;))))
For example restaurants, maximum 5,6 tables so that you can pay attention equally to every table in terms of food, service, communication. For example, one of the most popular, and fastest-growing restaurants in Hvar in last the two years has the following philosophy; owner – one of my childhood best friends – is a diver catching fish during the morning, and top chef in the evening. He makes traditional meals like octopus salad but like not any other(I will not reveal secret;) but also has some signature meals you will not find anywhere else in Hvar and on planet earth. In general, when I look at the restaurants from Montenegro to Istria, there are lots of similarities. Only a few of them have made changes, only a few. Because they have guts and courage to step out with forward-thinking, by being creative, their main mojo is creating something original, to make them self-distinctive from others. Not money….Don’t get me wrong, we all work for money, but we live & serve for gratitudes/applause and maximised experience. At least that’s how I look at this…In this scenario, guests will want to take a part of that, and pay really well for the experience.
Wages – for God sake, pay your people, workers properly because without them you are nobody!!! Talk to them, they might share some nice ideas with you, reward them for that! Don’t do or treat anybody differently than you would your own children.
When we came to wages – I have one maybe weird explanation and solution for improving the general mindset in Croatia, until the moment the teachers in schools will not have at least 1.500 – 2.000 EUR per month than do not expect any progress in any sense and meaning of our mentality, mindset, environment, raising children, emigration and birthrate.
Learn more about the services of Hvar Tours on their official website.
Are you having record season in Croatian tourism and would like to be featured in this series. Please contact us on [email protected] Subject – Record Season.