The gentle policy of education, education, education by the new mayor of Hvar Town continues on July 23, 2017, with a video message posted on catamarans and ferries.
After six months of living in Varazdin, I had begun to forget the joys of island living. Morning meetings in Split necessitate the lovely 06:00 catamaran, which I took for the second time in a week yesterday. I was tired and just planning a 90-minute sleep, when something caught my eye.
Those Hvar signs…
In among the video adverts (of varying professional quality) for restaurants, tour agencies and bars, was an advert placed by the Town of Hvar, politely pointing out the new tourism rules for the centre of the town. It was an extension of the signs erected by the town’s entrances recently, signs which attracted worldwide attention. You can see the video ad below, with apologies for the poor camera work. In my defence, it was just after 6am, I had no idea when the advert would reappear, and I was trying to cope with a hangover in a dignified manner.
The reaction to the signs, and the policy in general, has been mostly positive, but also mixed. When I posted a photo on Facebook of two male tourists walking topless through the square at 08:30 on the first morning of the new regime, there was uproar. Where are the police? The fines?
It doesn’t work like that, explained Mayor Riki Novak, when I took the New York Times to meet him. Everyone is welcome in the town, and there is no desire to ban or fine anyone, but there is a desire that people follow some not unreasonable expectations of dress and eating and drinking in the street. His policy is one of education, education, education, followed by warnings and ultimately, fines. He doesn’t expect to solve the problem this summer – how could he? – but as a strategy to get Hvar back on track for its big 150th tourism anniversary next year, it is a solid start.
There is one aspect of Hvar as a party destination which a lot of local people miss, and it is crucial.
As long as Hvar is PERCEIVED to be a party destination, it will continue to attract the type of young drunken party tourist that has caused the current situation. With the notorious party resort of Magaluf now introducing rules to stop the debauched behaviour there, the Daily Star’s words show why perception of a party destination is very important:
“Meanwhile, authorities in Magaluf, on the Spanish isle of Majorca, have also vowed to put an end to the “anything goes” culture of Brits abroad.
“Local authorities on the Spanish island recently resorted to banning all-inclusive holidays in Magaluf in an attempt to try and kerb British drunkenness.
“As a result of the crackdown in Maga, Brits are flocking to other European resorts in search of looser rules.”
The mayor’s signs have made a great start in changing that perception, and that change is more important (in my opinion) than fewer tourists eating and drinking on the streets or walking through the square topless. Possibly the best endorsement of the policy was this article, which appeared in prominent Australian media, Infamous Party Spots Where the Fun Times are Over – number one: Hvar Town. After years of being told Hvar is the ultimate party destination, the first, gentle seeds are being sown to Australian tourists that it is not.
An interesting development to watch is what will happen to Ultra Europe. The initial five-year contract with Croatia is up, and has been renewed for Croatia. Perhaps it has been for Hvar already, but I don’t think there is a better example of the perception of Hvar as a party destination than 5,000 jumping around in a pool at a music festival. The images are very sexy indeed.
“It is just one day in the season,” a local official told me recently, “it is not a problem.” It was a statement which got me thinking. When Joe Basic, who has done an excellent job promoting Ultra, held the first Ultra press conference in 2013 at Poljud, he announced that ‘we are changing the profile of the destination’ – he certainly has. The very sexy and viral Ultra videos have done much to promote Dalmatia as a cool party destination. The mayor said he will be contacting both Basic and the Ministry of Tourism to request that both stop promoting Hvar as a party destination. ‘Just one day’ or perhaps the biggest online reinforcement of the notion that Hvar Town is the ultimate party destination?
Will Ultra renew their beach party for 2018 in Hvar Town’s most popular family hotel in peak season? Probably. Will that help perpetuate the image of Hvar Town as a party destination. Almost certainly.
The mayor’s education programme is a great start to changing the perception of the destination – the biggest battle – but it will take concerted cooperation and a shared vision from some of the town’s biggest tourism stakeholders to deliver Hvar Town as It Once Was.