As the flagship tourism project Croatia 365 comes under closer scrutiny, TCN continues its series on February 26, 2016, looking at the people making tourism happen with private initiatives. This week, a fascinating interview with one of the organisers of Dalmatia Ultra Trail, and a glimpse of the massive potential of official support of private initiatives.
In our continued attempt to turn the recent Croatia 365 news coverage into a positive direction, today we continue our feature on the heroes of Croatia 365 tourism from the private sector, with an interview with Marko Herman, president of Trail and Trekking klub Strka, and a member of the organisation committee of Dalmacija Ultra Trail.
I am sure I am not the only one who was more than a little impressed at the excellent trailer (see video below) for this new race in October, which will be one more important step in establishing Croatia as an important year-round adventure tourism destination, and I was keen to learn more from Marko about the origins, preparations for the race.
I was not surprised to learn that the initiative was a private one, but I was greatly encouraged that it was embraced initially by the Omis Tourist Board (now a co-organiser), as well as the Central Dalmatia Tourist Board and other local TZs. Is there perhaps a model for the future development of tourism in Croatia – a task force of successful private tourism experts sitting with the national tourist board to coordinate a coherent strategy which is effective to the end user, the tourist in the destination?
1. The Dalmacija Ultra Trail looks fantastic – how did the idea come about?
The idea of making an ultra trail race in Dalmatia has been ”cooking” in our heads for a few years , but trail running in Croatia just recently became recognised as a serious sport, a means of recreation and economically significant branch of adventure tourism. That’s why we decided to organise such a race this year. The catalyst for that was the rapidly increasing number of participants in races that we already organise : Marjan Trail, Jesenice Treking, Imbertrek, Mosor Grebbening, Biokovo Vertikala and Vela Strka , where more than 1500 runners participated. The other reason is that Croatia has just one similar race, that’s 100 miles of Istria in April, so there’s enough room to make another similar race. We decided to place it in October, 21-23, to be exact. Dalmatia has so much to offer on this race, from natural beauties to cultural and historical heritage on whom we are all very proud of, and we want to show that not only to people from Croatia, but worldwide.
2. Tell us about preparations and your target group for participants
Preparation for a such big event takes lot of time and work because we set high standards. Preparations started 7 months ago, and we still have 8 months to go. It took us lot of time to create our visual identity, and to produce a short film about the race, web page, marketing… What is very important in this project is that we had to include all tourist boards, municipalities and cities on the race route, because it is impossible to finance everything from the sponsors and race fees. Luckily, we had a very good response from almost everybody we contacted, because they recognised the importance of this event in promoting Dalmatia as destination for adventure tourism. What we want is to attract people from abroad as much as possible and create a respectable international trail race.
3. Preparing the trail must have taken some time. Tell us a little about it.
First we had to define the routes for all distance categories ( there are four distance categories : 165 km, 110 km, 60 km and 22 km) and record the GPS tracklog. In finding perfect trails and recording GPS tracklog we walked and ran more than 300 kilometers. Then comes the ”fine tuning” of the route – excluding paved roads as much as possible, finding nicer bypasses, defining control points, refreshment and transition points. The GPS tracklog is sent to ITRA (International Trail Running Association) for evaluation, so this race can get qualifying points for world top races such as Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc.
4. Central Dalmatia is emerging as an exciting adventure destination. Lots of new cycle paths have been added and other improvements. Are you happy with the progress being made, and with the promotion of adventure tourism in general in Croatia?
Things about adventure tourism in Dalmatia are slowly moving forward, both in terms of spreading activities in areas where recently there was no tourist offer at all, like inland Dalmatia, and in the diversity of activities. A big improvment has occurred in the last year or two, but it is not enough. Dalmatia has a huge potential to become one of the leading regions for outdoor activities in this part of Europe because of it’s geographical diversity and climate that allows outdoor activities all year arround. As i said , things have started to happen but thre is still a lot to do.
5. What concrete steps or help are required to develop adventure tourism in Croatia?
We lack a good strategy for developing adventure tourism. It’s true that it has entered the development strategy of the Croatian tourist board, but concrete steps that bring results need to be done. For example, if I want to open an adventure tourist agency, by law that agency must employ a person that has two years experience as a tourist agency manager. I don’t have that qualification, so how am i going to open the agency by myself, unless I employ one more person? There are lot of similar obstacles that have to be removed. Better support and cooperation with organizers of events that promote Croatia as destination for adventure tourism is necessary. I know there is always the money issue, but every investment in adventure tourism will multiply income, because these guests are the best customers, plus it’s possible to expand the tourist season throughout whole year. And three more things: promotion, promotion and promotion.
6. And finally tell us a little about your plans to build on Dalmacija Ultra Trail.
From the first edition we want to make Dalmacija Ultra Trail into a first class trailrunning event, and as such to be recognized in the trailrunning comunity all over the world. We hope to reach 1000+ participants within 3 or 4 years. We also want to include the local community in the project through volounteering. It will take 150-200 volounteers to cover everything. In that way we also want to give somethig more to trailrunners, and that is emotion. Because, that’s the way we started our approach to the project, with a lot of emotion. Thousands of work hours will be incorporated, everything volounteered. A lot of enthusiasm and passion is behind this project and that’s the reason why i believe that we will reach our goals.
Official bodies so far supporting the project:
Town of Kastela, Kastela Tourist Board, Town of Solin, Solin Tourist Board, Klis Local Authority and Tourist Board, Town of Podstrana and Tourist Board, Town of Dugi Rat, Dugi Rat Tourist Board, Zadvarje, Town of Brela and Tourist Board, Town of Baska Voda and Tourist Board, Town of Omis, Split-Dalmatia County Regional Authority and Tourist Board. Omis Tourist Board as Co-Organiser.
Trailer video below, and for more information and the latest on Dalmacija Ultra Trail, follow them on Facebook.