TZ Makarska Director: Tourism Numbers Aren’t Important, We Want to Measure Our Quality

Daniela Rogulj

September 17, 2019 – The peak tourist season has come and gone. But how was it in the Croatian coastal hotspot of Makarska?

Dalmacija Danas spoke to the director of the Makarska Tourist Board, Hloverka Novak Srzic, where tourism is the beating heart of the town.

It’s been two years since Srzic was appointed the director of the Makarska Tourist Board. Makarska tourism is delivering results in numbers, and numerous projects have been launched. 

“I can unashamedly say that we have made big changes. When I became director, there were some nice manifestations in terms of klapa singing and fish evenings. The tourist board was located on the waterfront, in a neglected area, completely inappropriate to Makarska tourism. They had a lot of copyright-free photos, a few leaflets that were decades old. So, the situation was not so good. In these two years, we have acquired a bank of photographs, more than ten thousand photographs in particular. We have created a logo, which should be recognizable in all advertisements, brochures, in which we want to highlight our natural beauty. So the slogan is ‘Embraced by Nature’, as Makarska is.

I would emphasize that the Tourist Board did not advertise on any social platform before my arrival. In addition, we have created two new locations for tourist events. They are Fr. Jure Radic Park, which we opened with a craft beer festival, and the plateau in front of the Osejava Hotel, where two years ago the Russian Imperial Ballet performed Swan Lake. This year, there was the opera ‘Ero s onoga svijeta’, which was performed for the first time in Makarska. We had almost 4,000 visitors in just those two events. We have also organized several new events. I want to single out Šumoteka, in which we promoted writers and books, also in the Fr. Jure Radic Park, and Music Night Under the Stars. We had a Tribute festival, which was visited by almost 1,000 guests. We also raised the bar of our Jazz Festival, whose artistic director is Ante Gelo. The festival was visited by world-renowned musicians, and I believe it is one of the best events we have had this summer.

After two years, are Srzic’s goals the same or are things different than she imagined?

“Things are different in that the mentality is as it is. I was not promised something by either the HDZ or the SDP. I opened the doors to all young creative Makarska citizens, from designers to creators, painters, writers and various others, to collaborate on various events and projects. I don’t want to look back at what was. You have to look forward, and there is not much to brag about because the works speak best about you.”

When will the announced Multimedia Visitor Center begin operating?

“We have new offices in the new PP Biokovo building, and a multimedia visitor center will be completed by early October. As soon as I became the TZ director, we proposed the project to the Ministry of Culture and we received 700,000 kuna for the center. In doing so, the City of Makarska and the Tourist Board invested their money.

There will be a gift shop, a place where tourists will be able to feel the familiar bura wind, which will be very interesting. There will be a big display around the tourists, and we have recorded the biggest bura, so everyone will get a real experience of our wind.

We will also open a Public Invitation for creatives to participate in the souvenir-making business. We will have our famous desserts, Makarska cake and rafioli, which are widely known. There will be a large interactive desk where they can find all the information.”

Furthermore, Kotisina, the historical and cultural pearl of Makarska, is almost ready. 

“We renovated the churches of Sv. Ante and Sv. Martin and Multimedia Kastel will be ready by next summer. It is a brand new tourism product. 

There will be a Skywalk at Biokovo, also by next year. The cable car is, for me, a capital project of the City of Makarska, which will completely change the image of the city. We did not give up on this project, it has just slowed down a bit, but I will do my best to push the project. I think it might all be completed in two years, in terms of economic studies and papers. This miracle that would drive from the sea to Biokovo is our wealth and highest quality.

People outside Makarska are worried about over-concreting the beautiful city. Is Makarska working on sustainable tourism?

“All of us, of course, are committed to this sustainable tourism. And that sounds great. I want to say that there can be no tourism unless you are protecting your space and natural beauty. Makarska was largely devastated by residential buildings, poor tourism and communal infrastructure, which did not accompany that construction. We also had one panel this year, at which the famous architect, Ante Vrban, said that Makarska is quite devastated, but not to the point where things cannot be fixed.

I will probably suggest that the City of Makarska decide that a building permit cannot be issued for residential buildings with more than ten apartments without a connection to water supply, sewage, electricity and that the access road must be at least nine meters wide. In the last session, I asked how it’s possible that a hundred apartments were built without this utility infrastructure on a two-meter-wide road. I appeal to all councilors, and especially to the executive branch, that we all sit together and discuss urbanism, which is the wound of our tourism.”

Is the structure of Makarska’s guests changing? 

“We can be very satisfied in terms of tourism results. We have a 2 to 3% increase in arrivals and overnights. The guest structure is changing. The German market is returning to us, arrivals from the UK have intensified. Also, the Italians are coming back to us. We still have the most Pole, and they will be our regular guests. I would also like to single out the Czechs, who are a wealthy country compared to Croatia. I am pleased to note that four-star hotels have increased by 7% and private four-star accommodations have increased by as much as 14% compared to last year. The message to our investors is that they need to put money into accommodation. Those garages won’t work anymore.

Srzic added that at the state level, we need to stop counting overnight stays. 

“In terms of population, we have reached the growth limit. The respected Politico magazine surveyed tourism trends in Europe from 2009 to 2017. Accordingly, Croatia grew by 130%. Lithuania ranks first with 189%, Portugal growing 62%, France 47%. It’s about the number of overnights. The EU has about 31 million beds, a third of which are in France and Italy. However, Croatia is at the top by the number of beds in terms of population. Thus, in Croatia, there are 255 beds per 1,000 inhabitants. By comparison, France has 77 tourist beds per 1,000 inhabitants, Italy 83. Competitive Greece has 118 and Spain 76.

In Makarska, we do not want to count more tourists, but to see how much money they have left, how they received our gastronomy, what our employees are like, the cleanliness of the city, and many other things,” Srzic concluded.

Excerpts translated from Dalmacija Danas.

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