Croatian Tourism Lessons from World Championships in Olive Picking on Brac

Paul Bradbury

Updated on:

October 24, 2023 – Some useful Croatian tourism lessons from the outstanding World Championships in Olive Picking in Postira on Brac.

I am still smiling, some 48 hours later.

Part of that I am sure is the fact that any weekend on a Dalmatian island out of season is rejuvenating, but this one especially so. As I wrote yesterday, the World Championships in Olive Picking in Postira was one of the best in my 21 years in Croatia. A simple idea that was superbly crafted, organised, and executed to lift a whole community and their very international guests.

A comment I get a lot from Croatians on my positive YouTube videos about the magic of Croatia is that ‘ you see things that we don’t’ and ‘it takes a foreigner to point out the magic which we just take for granted.’

Nowhere is that more true than in the natural and healthy way of life, the access to the freshest seasonal goods. I first learned the power of this many years ago when a friend with a luxury tourism business on Hvar explained the secret as he had learned it.

He was with a group of New York Jewish clients having lunch and olive oil tasting in a picturesque olive grove. One came over and asked my friend to confirm a tree nearby was a lemon tree, as he had never seen one before. Upon confirmation, he asked if would be ok to pick a lemon from the tree.

“Pick six, if you like.”

At the end of an excellent week, he thanked his guide for a superb experience, one of the best trips of his life.

“But I want to share the highlight with you. It was picking those lemons. It was an indescribable feeling. Living in New York, I have only ever seen lemons in supermarkets and gin. Such a magical thing to be able to do.”

And my friend understood that utilising the magic of the Dalmatian way of life, which cost nothing, could not only be sold for big bucks, but could bring great satisfaction and lasting memories for visitors.

This anecdote came back to me this weekend as I sat with Postira Tourist Board Ivana Jelincic to talk about tourism in the town, as well as the origins of World Championship. It is hard not to be charmed by Ivana – she has so much passion for her job and love for her town, and I met her during her favourite event of the year. She was buzzing, the whole town was buzzing, the event gave Postira a huge lift. The community was hugely involved in the event, locals were drinking coffee with international competitors.

And it all started over a coffee in the shoulder season.

“There is no olive picking world championship in olive picking. Why don’t we start one?” suggested local Ivo Ljubetic Steka and his wife Eti to Ivana. Brac is famous for its olives, and it would be a great promotion of the healthy lifestyle and culture, while bringing the town to life in late October. The idea was good, but it quickly took on a life of its own.

Videographer Hani Salama made an incredible promo video (see above), which was widely viewed, and soon after, Ivana was contacted by a journalist from the Olive Oil Times, who wrote a great piece about it. So now HAD to move forward with the project, together with the Postira Agrocooperative.

She sent out hundreds of emails internationally to find teams to come. Meanwhile, over coffee, the rules of the competition were debated and finalised. Ivana found sponsors, and the first World Championship was held in October 2017, with 8 teams. It was a stunning success. And the value of the media coverage was 7 million kuna (almost one million euro). The media dream team of Daniel Lacko, Vida Ungar, Domagoj Blazevic and Bojan Haron Markicevic performed miracles.

Although TCN has covered the event every year, I had never been until this year, and you can read my report in World Championships in Olive Picking: Croatian Tourism at Its Finest or check the video report below.

I was trying to pinpoint what it was that made the event so special, and I think it came down to one word essentially – inclusion.

In an era where tourists are not always welcomed as much as their money, here was an event which included the whole town, and one which the locals very much looked forward to as one of the events of the year. I have rarely seen such relaxed integration on such a scale between locals and tourists – and it was all totally genuine and from the heart.

And locals were involved every step of the way. In addition to the Croatian team, which was from Postira – and won – there were so many others involved, including the local kindergarten, who were a very enthusiastic addition to the champtionship, as well as providing refreshments for the teams. And the kids from the local cooking school cooked a superb bean stew at Kastil Gospodnetic in Dol. The fabulous olive oil museum in Skrip was also a highlight ofthe weekend.

Dancing in the Grove

Competitors were international, but many with local roots. Half of the Germans lived in Postira, a Latvian in Split persuaded others to fly in, the digital nomad team were the life and soul once again, and a nomad from last year inspired both Team Ireland and Team Spain.

The inclusion was everwhere, from the bonding over the welcome dinner on the opening night, to the chance conversations along the riva. I think I met more people in a weekend in Postira than in 2 years in Zagreb.

And all left with a beaming smile, a healthier outlook on life, and memories of an incredible island and outstanding weekend. There is a high rate of returning pickers, and no wonder why.

Simple, natural and spectacular Dalmatian island living, a unique experience, and a chance to discover the true magic of this country. The media coverage is significant – a wonderful promotion of Croatia.

When I got home, I started to Google, and here is what I found:

There is no World Championships in Grape Picking.

There is no World Championships in Truffle Hunting.

There is no World Championships in Lavender Picking.

And no doubt there are others. While Croatia talks about promoting itself as a foodie destination, why not work with the fabulous team from Postira to learn the lessons and replicate this in other foodie sectors?

I had a drink with a friend of mine in Zagreb, the Postira glow still shining on my face.

“Oh, so you discovered the Postira gem? We have a house there and go every year. It is just the most magical place.”

It truly is.


Subscribe to our newsletter

the fields marked with * are required
Email: *
First name:
Last name:
Gender: Male Female
Please don't insert text in the box below!

Leave a Comment