(Photos copyright Ashley Colburn Productions)
Golden Pen and Emmy Award winner Ashley Colburn has successully bridged the gap between America and Croatia, enthusiatically promoting her love of her second home at every opportunity. How is Croatia perceived in America, and what makes Croatia so special?
Croatia…what does this word mean to Americans? For years it was a place they saw through the television screen that underwent a devastating war in the 90’s. While we can all admit that time passes faster than we can imagine or want, the 90’s was a long time ago. When I tell people that I spend several months a year in the Croatia, they give me a concerned look and remark. One of my favorite stories to tell is while I was on a plane leaving the Dominican Republic I sat next to a couple in their 60’s and I sparked a conversation. When they asked where I was headed, I told them Croatia. They responded, “Isn’t that a third world country?” As I laughed, I informed them that they just left a third world country and I was determined to convince them to book a trip here before the plane landed. I think this older generation is one of the markets that Croatia Tourism needs to target. Luckily the Mediterranean cruises often have a stop in Dubrovnik, so these naïve Americans can get a taste of Croatia with the arrival into one of the most beautiful cities in the world. While many in tourism might be against these 8 hours stops, I look at this as a way where Croats should impress them the most. Make them feel welcome; tell them about other areas of the country and get them to return!
While the older generation is still getting to know Croatia, the younger generation is more informed. Home to events such as Ultra Europe, Yacht Week, ATP Tennis Tournament- word is getting around that Croatia has “the best parties in Europe,” just by word of mouth. Not to forget HBO’s hit TV show, Game of Thrones has drawn lots of attention to Europe and this is a wave that those in tourism should ride while its at its peak. Another main reason young people are drawn to the country is through the beauty; the beauty they see popping up on social media, blogs, ads, etc. This is the new generation and internet popularity changes the perception of places and often pictures make people add destinations to their bucket list.
While sun, sea, good food and wine and a rich culture are enough reasons to visit Croatia, there are improvements that I think can bring even more tourism and throughout the weeks I look forward to sharing more. Coming from an American who considers Croatia to be her second home, I do want to focus on what I love about the country and what I want others to experience. I love that when I come, a taxi driver won’t rip me off, and in fact he will probably hold a conversation with me. I love that everyone speaks English, but as I stumble through the difficult grammar, I am always praised for trying. I love that I am still appreciated as a tourist, considering this is how most people survive. I love that almost every dinner with friends in a konoba ends with singing and instruments. I love that kids can still walk to the market to buy an ice cream by themselves and everyone watches out for one another. I love that most of the food I eat comes fresh from the garden, or the neighbors. I love how I can still see people practicing their trade here: shoemaking, embroidery, shipbuilding and more. Most of all, I love the tradition, the pride and the love that Croats have for one another and their country. This is what brings me back, and this is what I want all Americans to experience and why I am proud to promote Croatia. So while it is the middle of high season, stay strong and just be yourself because this is what travelers will want to experience. I might not be blood related, but I’m Croatian at heart.
Check out some of Ashley’s work for Sailing.HR below.