October 25, 2018 – The movers and shakers (and one fat foreign blogger) from the Croatian tourism industry descended on the island of Hvar for this year’s Days of Croatian Tourism gathering. Some thoughts on visiting the sunshine island in late October with up to 2,000 other delegates.
Hvar in the shoulder months of the tourist season has always been one of the jewels of tourism in Croatia. Come in peak season, and one may found the crowds and heat a little oppressive. Come in winter and there is little open as the locals take a well-earned rest. But from Easter to June, September to October, this most picturesque of destinations – a destination which truly has it all – shines, aided a little by that endless sunshine. October is such a good month to visit – there are a number of key events in the tourism calendar, as Hvar Town has worked to extend the season, and with much less tourists around and locals able to breathe after the stress of peak season, the town has a relaxed calm and can be explored at leisure.
But how would Hvar cope with the influx of up to 2,000 visitors for the 2018 Days of Croatian Tourism, the most important tourism industry gathering in the country, and one which this year was hosted by Hvar Town, which was celebrating 150 years of organised tourism in Europe?
I had never been to Days of Croatian Tourism before, and I have always been curious about the event. I had assumed it was mostly about self-congratulatory back-slapping, which is why I avoided it. But I was curious to see how Hvar would showcase itself, and so I applied for my press accreditation. And while the element of self-congratulation was strong, it was outweighed by the networking opportunities and insights into the Croatian tourism industry. TCN will be taking an in-depth look at Days of Croatian Tourism issues beyond the bright lights and awards in the coming days.
“But Hvar really is beautiful,” remarked my Croatian colleague as he settled into his first coffer of the day at Hotel Adriana’s newly revamped ground floor bar.
I like visiting Hvar with Croatians from the mainland. While I have my perspective as a foreigner who lived there for 13 years,
I love the ground floor of Hotel Adriana. While most people rave about the views fromTop Bar (which ARE fantastic), the ground floor is the best living room in the town, superb for people watching and total chilling. I once stayed at the hotel, and the buffet breakfast experience remains one of my favourite things to do in the town. Open from 07:00 to 11:00, the outdoor terrace is so close to the water that you can hear the waves lapping against the harbour wall. It is a superb place to unobtrusively observe the relaxed pace of life, and to watch the town waking up – the fishing boats, the early catamarans, the kayakers, the speedboat transfers and the super yachts. Each has its own pace and agenda. Different world existing in perfect fjaka harmony.
Hvar has a wealth of historic buildings, which have sadly not been put to the best use in recent years. The Austrian entrepreneur who created Hula Hula and took it to the top 50 beach bars in the world (in the days when Hula Hula was truly amazing) tried to get the local authorities to give him a concession to take the Arsenal, Veneranda and the Spanish Fortress under concession to build up Hvar as a premier European destination of culture, with high end events. HIs vision didn’t get very far, but it good to see some of these venues are being used more creatively these days. And what fantastic locations they are. The first discussion panels took place in the Arsenal, on the corner of the main square. Above, the oldest public theatre in Europe, dating back to 1612, below, Roman ruins excavated a year ago. And the Arsenal itself – a magnificent welcome to Hvar.
Outside for a glimpse of those divine Hvar sunsets.
And then up to Veneranda for the awards ceremony. Seven years ago, Veneranda was the thumping nightclub where a certain young British prince fell into the nightclub swimming pool. The nightclub is no more, and these days Veneranda hosts a range of cultural events – a welcome upgrade in quality.
We will be covering the awards in a separate article, but the event is being followed today by the Croatian Government holding a special session, with a focus on development of the islands. Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic was at last night’s awards, and was on hand to present the award of best destination to Zagreb to Mayor Milan Bandic (captions for the above photo, courtesy of Hvar Tourist Board, more than welcome).
The conference over, the Arsenal was reorganised to host dinner, with food prepared by Suncani Hvar Hotels.
My favourite Nikola Tesla quote aside, there was plenty of interest in Hotel Amfora, which offers the premier conferencing facilities on Hvar. We will be looking at some of the content and lessons learned from some of the panels in subsequent articles.
Among the most thought-provoking was a presentation from Joska Stella, Director of the Central Dalmatia Tourist Board, on a feasibility study on how to manage the surge in tourism numbers. The conclusions and findings were fascinating. More soon.
Hvar continued to shine, and the final evening highlight after dinner was a spellbinding concert by Klapa Intrade from Zadar on the main square. Although I quite like klapa on occasion, I had never heard anything like these guys – they were sensational. I felt a little self-conscious taking my beer onto the main square, having written extensively about the fines promised by Hvar Mayor Riki Novak for drinking in the street, but I was in good company. It was a truly fine evening with plenty of crowd engagement.
48 hours in Hvar Town in October, and I had fallen in love with it. Again. Visit Hvar in October – it is a truly delightful experience.
Special mention to Suncani Hvar Hotels for the conferencing and catering facilities, as well the accommodation for many of the delegates, of course. A strong hotel chain working in tandem with the tourism authorities is a powerful combination, and the future of shoulder season Hvar looks very bright indeed. To learn more about Suncani, click here.