One of Croatian Tourism’s Biggest Problems Explained in 2 Photos

Total Croatia News

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July 21, 2019 – A new sign telling people who are already in Jelsa where they are is a symbol of one of the biggest problems in Croatian tourism. And quite easy to fix. 

This is not an article criticising my beloved adopted home town of Jelsa, although it could easily be one. I am actually working quite hard documenting various parts of the summer season, such as it is, in Jelsa, with the aim of producing a detailed and constructive report on what is going wrong with the town’s tourism and – I hope it will be useful – several concrete and easy to implement steps to improve the quality of the tourism offer. 

But a new attraction to Jelsa this month caught my eye and was probably the best visual explanation of one of the biggest problems in Croatian tourism. And one that is quite easy to fix. 

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The official town Facebook page announced a new tourist attraction for Jelsa a few days ago – a new red sign with big letters on the Jelsa waterfront close to the main square. The post got 161 likes, 50 more than a post a few days earlier when Jelsa announced 270 million kuna of EU funding for EU infrastructure, so very popular. 

In this Instagram age, I can see the logic in it. Some people love it, and some people hate it (my opinion is irrelevant). But then if you have the formula for how to please everyone in Croatia, please send it on. 

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And this is the view of the new attraction that people already in Jelsa see. It is also the view from the main square, and the view most familiar to the tourism chiefs and people who came up with the idea. 

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And this is the view from the water, the first impression and welcome to Jelsa when you arrive by boat, as many do. 

Not quite the same. The first impression a foreign tourist will have of Jelsa. 


(Photo credit Secret Dalmatia)

One of the things I do when selling TCN services is to explain that we are a website with local knowledge and a foreign eye. As a foreigner who has travelled to 95 countries and lived in 10, I have learned a lot over the years on my travels, and my observation skills are not too bad these days. As an adopted local living in another country, I have access to that local knowledge. Knowing what a foreign tourist wants and being able to provide the best information is one of the key things which has made TCN so successful. Let me give you an example of what I mean. 

Every local in Split knows where to buy tickets for the ferry and the catamaran.

Almost no tourist does. 

So, 7 years ago when we started Total Split, we provided a guide how and where to buy tickets for each service, including this map above. 

The reaction was interesting. I got so many comments of thanks, and many people added the link to their accommodation rental pages. Here was something very useful to enhance the experience of their guests, as well as saving the hosts from repeating the same information at the same time. It remains one of the most popular articles on Total Split. 

“I would never have thought about how hard it must be for foreign tourists to get this information,” remarked more than one person. 

Local knowledge with a foreign eye. It is something that Croatian tourism is desperately missing. Please don’t think I am advocating for myself – I am no expert at all, I just write about things as I see them. 

But not getting a foreign expert eye to help is fairly widespread in Croatian society. Why pay for a competent international expert when you can make a Croatian cousin a little richer? 

Croatia held yet another branding conference a few weeks ago – maybe one of these conferences will end up providing a brand at some point. This from my previous article Branding Croatia for the Future: 5 Gifts and Trends to Focus On:

The other observation another friend participating made was that the speakers were all Croatian, and that surely for such an important topic, the input of international experience and viewpoints were essential. If Croatia is to develop a global brand, then surely one should take on board the views of those living in the global community. To not do so, my friend said, would be akin to having the big fish in a fishbowl talking with authority about things that happen in the ocean.

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A last word on the use of the sign. They can work well, especially if you have them facing the right way. The last time I saw one was on the magnificent island of Zut as Restaurant Festa held its second Festa Days with 5 Michelin Star chefs and 5 of Croatia’s top chefs. 

Festa is an incredible story of how to build incredible tourism from nothing. In 1993, in the middle of the war and on an uninhabited Kornati island with no water, electricity or ferry connection, a restaurant opened. It is one of the best culinary experiences I have had in Croatia, and a great example of what can be achieved with the right vision and determination. You can read about my extended look at The Paradox of Croatian Tourism: Case Study – Restaurant Festa, Island of Zut

Interestingly, not only does Festa put the sign the right way around, but they also take lots of international advice and opinions. 


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