Back in the USSR: Croatia Restricts Public Access to Tourism Statistics

Total Croatia News

July 11, 2019 – When the tourism numbers are good, Croatian officials want to tell the world. So why the sudden change in transparency in another ‘record’ year?

I am one of the few people living in Croatia who has lived in the Soviet Union. 

It was a fascinating experience, although my time there was in 1991 just before the death of the county, and ironically the birth of another – the modern Croatian State – were a little more chilled than previous decades. 

Although the latter days of the Soviet Empire were considerably more relaxed than the Stalinist years thanks to Gorbachev’s policy of ‘Glasnost’ (openness), there was still an element of information control. The Five Year Plan statistics may have been a thing of yesteryear, but life in Moscow in 1991 was a little different to Manchester on a wet Tuesday. 

And then I moved to the mighty State of Uhljebistan, a country with no borders which exists for the chosen few and their thousands of cousins within the territorial borders of the Republic of Croatia. 

Croatia is an incredible country, and I genuinely think I couldn’t live anywhere else, but it is a rather unusual place once you scratch below the surface. I have written about this before, so no need to repeat – all is explained in this article and associated links – The 3 Stages of Learning for Foreigners in Croatia: Love, Hate and Nirvana

But for all the corruption, nepotism, inefficiency and complete lack of any strategy, occasionally a piece of absolute genius appears. So good, in fact, that it is hailed as the world’s first and wins a coveted award from UNWTO (United Nations World Tourism Organisation), who even posted this slice of Croatian genius on the official UNWTO YouTube channel. 

I was stunned when the innovative eVisitor system was introduced in Croatia. In a land the company stamp, public notary and bureaucracy were king, here was an innovative, TRANSPARENT idea that allowed guests to be registered online, for data to be collected in real time, and – as the video above states – “the information is available in real time for research and destination management.”

A tourism blogger’s dream! UNWTO introduced eVisitor on their website like this:

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.

Seriously impressive. In the digital age, Croatia was leading the way in digitalisation. I could not have been more proud of my adopted home country. 

And things were good. 

The obsession of the Kings of Accidental Tourism with numbers made eVisitor the perfect tool to show how brilliant they were. Tourism in Croatia was booming – in terms of those all-important tourist arrival and overnight stay numbers (who cares about the quality of the experience?), and eVisitor was the perfect promotional partner. Just look at how Split has changed in 9 years in terms of accommodation. Tourism is booming, and everyone is getting a part of the pie. 

Until things go a little too far, of course. The Split Tourist Board has delivered on increased tourism numbers, but apartments were empty. Too much oversupply. But the numbers were so good. 

And then, something happened. This outstanding example of digitalisation – hailed by global tourism bodies as a beacon of innovation, and a tool where “the information is available in real time for research and destination management” was suddenly not available in the same real-time format to the public, as it had been in the past. 

Respected tourism portal HRTurizam carried the news, as well as plenty of dissatisfied commentary:

Tourism Minister Gari Cappelli announced at the press conference that he will no longer publish the monthly arrivals and overnight stays of the eVisitor system, but three times a year at the beginning of July for the first six months, in September with the main season results and end of the year as a final report whole tourist year.

“We want to approach tourism in a comprehensive way. The approach to tourism results and tourism is changing globally and it is difficult to track the results from Thursday to Thursday and be objective in such analyzes, as it is often about unparalleled data, due to holiday schedules and the like. This is not fair either to tourists or to guests. That is why we will no longer compare day by day, but we will do the presentation of “snapshots” for the pre-season, the main season and the entire tourist year “

If the numbers were as brilliant as we keep hearing, why the change of approach? What happened to “the information is available in real time for research and destination management.”

The logical conclusion was that the numbers were not as good as planned, and the change was an approach to manage the bad news. Or perhaps they were. The conspiracy theories began.

I felt like I was Back in the USSR. 

In an EU democracy in 2019. 

According to HRTurizam, journalists can apply for the statistics each month, and they will receive them. Why the need for all this? Let journalists do their job, unless there is something being hidden. 

The Kingdom of Accidental Tourism is a unique place. First they surprise you with an innovative digital solution which kicks ass over the planet and is globally recognised. Then they make sure it can’t be used in their home country. 

Ah, jebiga, where is my Soviet waiter? Pivo, pozhalujsta.



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