Ivan Brezak Brkan, an online strategist, journalist and editor-in-chief writes for Netokracija.com about the manner in which tourism data is made public in Croatia.
When he presented the results of the visits based on the national eVisitor system for the recording of tourists in Croatia, Minister Gari Cappelli explained why the Ministry has decided to make the results public three times in a year instead of once a month:
“I want to approach tourism in an as overall manner as possible. The way we appreciate tourist results and tourism globally chages, and it’s difficult to follow the results from one Thursday to another and keep objectivity in those analises, as that data can often not be compared, because of the holidays and similar factors. That’s not fair towards those working in tourism, nor is it air to the guests, either. That’s why we won’t be comparing day-to-day, rather, we’ll present “the laps”, the results at the end of the pre-season, the main season and during full tourist season,” Cappelli explained.
At the same time, the minister promised that the media will still be able to request the data and that they will receive it, although since May that has not been possible. The results for May were published two months later, on the Croatian Tourist Board’s website.
Ever since the announcement was made, it was obvious that it made no sense, as commented by Goran Rihelj for HR.turizam, but also that it’s a PR decision that could harm Croatian tourism in the long-term. Marko Rakar, the analyst, explains that it’s public data that needs to be published:
“The reports from the systems like these should be automatised, and published at the moment we believe that we have full and precise data; there’s no reason to have it any other way. It’s not the ministry’s job to decide what is or isn’t the relevant period of publication, that’s the media’s or the expert’s job to decide.
The data needs to be accessible, as it was acquired through the publicly funded system of taxes, as well as be open and available without procedures, announcements, or a waiting period. The proposal to present the data three times in a year is an intellecutally limited view of an “uhljeb”, as always, who doesn’t have the capacity to see the bigger picture, or work for the betterment and the development of this country. Rather, as any other gatekeeper, they’ve decided to collect the data and make it available to whomever and whenever they want to, while maintaining the inability of any kind of independent control and the discovery of false data.”
The only advantage of the reports every three months would be for the Ministry of Tourism and the Croatian Tourist Board to present the data in a manner that works for them, “packaging” any bad results more easily. Media portals such as Index or Telegram would find it more diffidcult to use arguments about the problems during the tourist season if they had no data to support their ideas. Some media portals have the tendency, of course, to give in to the dramatic titles and speculation instead of a proper analysis and critical opinions, but open data is the best basis for the independent analysis of all viewpoints.
Less than a week later, the Ministry of Tourism reversed their decision and decided that everything will be as it was, and that early in every month, the statistics from Croatia’s eVisitor system will be published on HTZ’s website in PDF format.
Image by Netokracija
It would appear that someone warned Minister Cappelli that on July the 16th, 2019, the new European directive on open data and the re-use of public sector information came into force. Its goal is exactly to prevent what was proposed just a few days ago in the Ministry and the Tourist Board.
Melisa Skender from GONG commented: “The EU directive on open data puts the statistical data, and the data from HTZ is in that category, in the group of special, highly valuable sets of data that need to be available in machine-readable format. PDF is certainly not that type of format. In the other words, despite what HTZ has said, everyone who wants to demand the information in an open format, such as on an Excel table, should get the data.”
The Ministry of Tourism might hope that changing their minds about when the data is presented solves at least one reason to be criticised. However, we must at this moment understand that the monthly reports in PDF format are simply not enough. As they’re not machine readable and according to the standards set by the EU Directive, the consequences are:
- It makes it more difficult for the rare types of media in Croatia that has the capacity and the desire to perform data investigative journalism to perform the data analysis;
- To the people working in tourism, it makes it impossible to analyse the data for their portion of the market, or to compare data from various sources;
- New entrepreneurs are not given the opportunity to use the open data to find the new ideas to create new value and jobs on the market;
- It makes it more difficult for people in hotels, renters and those in the hospitality business to use the data to bring better business decisions.
Rakar makes a point that the Ministry of Tourism and HTZ should take it a step further: “They should be providing the sets of data with rich historical information and more precise localities of where tourists chose to stay, so that the aforementioned people in the tourism business could make business decisions on time and be able to create plans based on real data, and make decisions on investments and new content.”
Cappelli does not need to re-invent the wheel. The global tourist market is filled with the examples of how to present the data contained within the eVisitor system. The town of Glasgow, for instance, hosts a website which is a dashboard, where you can see both the big picture and the segments. Unlike HTZ, Glasgow allows you to see the data for specific types of tourists, such as for instance, the foodies.
Image by Netokracija
Probably the best example, which should be the role-model for Croatia, is New Zealand, which is an overall role-model on how to do branding and tourist positioning. You can access all of their tourism data on Stats NZ, and it’s even possible to analyse the data and even download it if you want to. To make it easier for the public and the media to find their way to the data, their Ministry provides you with the comprehensive series of links, which will take you to the specific segments.
Image by Netokracija
One of the examples of what could be done with the data was given by Professor Bela Stanić from the Griffith Institute of Tourism, as he announced the work on the project Human Sensor, showing that using analyses in real time can lead to more relevant information for tourism using social networks, blogs and tourism websites. The announcement of this logical step came in 2016, and now in 2019 we’re dealing with PDF format, which limits access as well as not publishing at all. Considering the fact that even the banks will be forced to open up in September of this year, there’s no excuse for the Ministry of tourism and HTZ!
If they really want Croatian tourism (and the economy; as tourism makes up 20 percent of Croatia’s economy, which is the highest percentage in Europe), Minister Gari Cappelli needs to make sure that in the autumn, in preparation for the tourist season 2020, Croatia’s eVisitor system is open through the actual internet dashboard and an API available not three times in a year or once a month, rather – the data should be available in real time. Nothing less will suffice.
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