February 12, 2019 – The Hvar Tourist Board has finally launched a new website. It might have been better if they hadn’t.
Let’s start with the good news, as I always try and be positive. The Hvar Tourist Board has issued a tender looking for help from a PR company for 2019. Hopefully, this will finally lead to a proper promotional campaign for the town, which has so much potential to grow as a quality destination, but which has ambled along through accidental tourism for years now.
Because the Hvar Tourist Board certainly needs help.
It is more than two years since I left my adopted island after writing over 9,000 articles about Hvar, bringing the New York Times to meet the Mayor of Hvar, The Sunday Times and Travel + Leisure to name but a few. A lot of my energy was invested in tourism on Hvar for the longest time. No longer, as I am working on other projects these days, with more of an international feel based up in northern Croatia. But I still have a soft spot for sunny Hvar and want to see it do well.
And it can only do well if it can recognise its mistakes and learn from them and improve. My experience after 8 years writing online in Croatia is that the only way to effect any sort of change is to do so publicly. And, with no pleasure on my side, let’s take a look at the new website, recently (and presumably expensively) launched by the Hvar Tourist Board. Some comments, which are intended to be helpful.
1. Remember the purpose of the website – to give information to tourists.
The English text on the site is terrible. What, for example, does this opening sentence about the town even mean? We have dealt with the bizarre notion of branding Hvar as Genuine Hedonism while the tourist board stated that they are not looking to promote its image as a party island. But a mundane, tourist present? And this is the opening sentence.
How much does it cost to get a native speaker to read through and edit text? Rather than wasting money on private parties in Belgrade, a fraction of the money spent could have resulted in an engaging website in native speaker English. Simple first impressions. It is a real turn off to the people looking to use the service – tourists.
2. Don’t launch a website if you don’t have enough material
I fell out with the Hvar Tourist Board a few years ago through sheer frustration with their inactivity when I pointed out that the latest news from Hvar Town on their website was that it had snowed in Jelsa 16 months previously. it seems that this love of news from previous years continues into 2019:
There are just three items in the news section, two which took place in 2018, and one in Spring 2017.
Similarly with events, just three on the site, and only one still to come.
As for what others say about the Hvar Tourist Board, perhaps the less said the better.
3. At least get the information correct
It can’t be that hard to get the information correct if you live in the town and have the resources of the tourist board. But apparently so?
How many clubs does Hvar have? According to the new site, there are four – Carpe Diem, Laganini, BB Club and Top Bar. No mention of Pink Champagne, SEVEN or the strip club at the top of the hill, whatever it is called these days. And if Top Bar and Laganini are clubs, where does that leave the likes of Kiva, Nautica, Hula Hula?
And even if the information was correct, how hard is it to get the right pictures? Top Bar was renovated in the winter of 2017.
4. If you are going to recommend island businesses, don’t forget to recommend the best ones
I was surprised to see the tourist board recommending individual businesses over others, and even more surprised at the ones not recommended. For the wineries for instance, the Tomic winery is the most visited by tourists, as well as having wines in over 500 locations all over Croatia. Similarly, Vino Ahearne is run by one of less than 400 Masters of Wine in the world, and the only Master of Wine, who is making wine in Croatia. Jo Ahearne MW is currently on a wine tasting tour of Australia and Japan, where she is exporting her wines from indigenous Hvar varieties. One of her wines was named in the top 10 in all Croatia in 2018. But not good enough to get a hallowed tourist board recommendation.
5. Are you Hvar Town or Hvar Island?
One of the many crazy things about life in The Beautiful Croatia is that there seems to be a local tourist board for almost every village. I am exaggerating, of course, but the island of Hvar has five separate tourist boards, which means five separate websites which focus almost entirely on those five individual areas. And yet there is some overlap. So here we have a situation where the Hvar Tourist Board is recommending winemakers from Jelsa, Vrboska and Sucuraj, but there is no mention of the towns whatsoever on the site as they are in different districts. The Stari Grad Plain gets a mention as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but not the oldest town on the island next to it. A unified website for the whole island would be a logical (and cheaper) option to help the end user, the tourist, but there are too many politics to make that happen.
Enough. There is a lot more which could be written, but hopefully the new PR company hired will be chosen on merit and not other reasons, and will have the experience to put a lot of this right.
It is a big year for Hvar Town, with the opening of Hotel Palace Elisabeth, the first 5-star hotel on the island, as well as the reopening of the oldest public theatre in Europe and the 13th-century Arsenal. I had a phone call from Hvar last week asking for advice on what to do for the opening of the theatre. The person (not an official) was surprised to hear that I had brought the billionaire Norwegian philanthropist who had invested heavily in the Shakespeare Globe Theatre in London to visit the Hvar theatre. What a tie-up that could be for the reopening of the oldest public theatre in Europe.
Instead, we will probably be treated to the same lack of visionary celebrations that accompanied the 400th anniversary of the theatre in 2012. Perhaps the new PR company will be able to do something a little more inspirational.
I certainly hope so. Hvar deserves so much better.