New Approach to Special Interest Tourism: SplitB2B a Total Success

Total Croatia News

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After three intensive days, a new initiative to promote special interest tourism in the Croatian food and wine sector concluded on October 21, 2017. A look at the final day and some conclusions. 

After two days of exploring the treasures of the Cetina region, followed by the island of Brac, 18 hand-picked international tour operators with no previous experience of working in Croatia set off from Split to Klis on their final field trip, as part of the SplitB2B special interest tourism initiative, aimed this year and tapping into the potential of Croatia’s food and wine tourism potential.  


Klis, a small settlement overlooking Split, has seen its fortunes transformed in recent years, after its imposing fortress, the gateway to inland Dalmatia for centuries, took on a new role as a film set for the popular HBO Game of Thrones series. Combining that tourism interest with some innovative improvements of the tourism offer at the fortress, and Klis has gone from being a tourism backwater to an essential stopping point for many. The views over Split and the islands are sensational, as too is the growing number of attractions inside the fortress, which included archery lessons and a demonstration of sword combat from Medieval times.  


This was followed by a short trip to another rising star of Central Dalmatian tourism, Kastela – a collection of seven waterfront settlements between Split and its airport. It also boasts a Game of Thrones filming location, as well as a much more important draw to the wine drinking world – the birthplace of popular American grape variety, Zinfandel. After extensive research, the University of Davis concluded in 2001 that the DNA of Zinfandel and local variety, Crljenak Kastelanski, were a 100% DNA match. The tourism potential of this fact alone, never mind the diversity of Croatia’s 130 indigenous grape varieties, is enticing indeed. Local producers have woken up to the potential and are getting more organised and better prepared to exploit the tourism potential. The visit to Kastela also included a lecture on the origins of Zinfandel.  


A key component of the initiative was to bring local destination management companies together with potential future international partners, and there were a series of presentations to the Croatian agencies while their international colleagues were sipping their original Zinfandel. Total Croatia News was asked to speak about the view and opportunities of Croatian food and wine tourism through the eye of an expat living here for 15 years, and Total Croatia Sailing editor Tash Pericic gamely jumped in to help My Hidden Croatia’s Robyn Vulinovich, who had unfortunately lost her voice. The key messages were that simple, authentic experiences, offering Dalmatian tradition are what excites travellers, and very few tourists to Croatia come for the food and wine, but many leave suitably impressed. It is time to get that message of Croatian gourmet quality out there, as the tourism potential is massive.  


The big guns started to arrive. SplitB2B has been notable for its high-level support, and new Croatian National Tourist Board director Kristijan Stanicic arrived, to be greeted by considerable press interest.  


Stanicic was part of a panel discussion, which also included Deputy Minister of Tourism Tonci Glavina and Central Dalmatia Tourist Board director, Josko Stella.  


And after all the speeches, panels and field trips, the most important part of the event – business to business meetings. Each session had a defined time, and participants had booked their meetings ahead of the sessions. There was a lot of talking…  


Experience Dubrovnik in discussion with a potential foreign partner, the smiles something which was common all over the room. It buzzed with positivity and strong bonds being formed.  

A video tour of the discussions. I spoke to both sides after the event, and rarely have I had such positive feedback to an event in Croatia. Speaking to several local agencies before the event, a few expressed doubt that anything would come of it, but that they were prepared to try. Those I spoke to afterwards were overwhelmingly positive. This is the first year of SplitB2B Special Interest Tourism, with a focus on food and wine. The event will be repeated next year for another sector in Croatia’s diverse tourism offer. Many of the same faces will be back from the Croatian side. 


The closing buffet dinner was accompanied by farewell speeches of thanks and promises of cooperation, with Split mayor Andro Krstulovic Opara (middle) among the speakers and the guests. 


And after dinner, the after party at Fabrique, which went on until the small hours, and which provided a further opportunity for discussions on future collaboration. An opportunity which was taken. Before the party, a chance to enjoy the gorgeous view from the terrace of Hotel Cornaro, which hosted the guests and the conference. An excellent choice, and the hotel’s efficient staff mirrored the quality of every other aspect of the event.  


And, as we returned to our rooms for some sleep before departure, one final touch of quality for each guest – a selection of Croatian delicacies, presented in Croatia in a Box. 

There have been so many initiatives to promote 12-month tourism in Croatia. Very few have had such an impressive approach as SplitB2B, and none have been as well organised. Congratulations to all those involved. The first results may be seen as early as next season, and it will be interesting to monitor concrete partnerships which will result. I am confident that there will be many.  


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