April 26, 2018 – Does a concept to promote the finest aspects of Croatia get any better than this?
Last weekend, I went to Ozalj to speak on a panel about the state of the Croatian media at the 4th Branding Hrvatske conference. I missed most of the conference and discussion on branding, but one thing has been clear to me for many years living in this beautiful country – it has no idea how to brand itself.
Croatia, the Mediterranean as It Once Was was a hugely successful slogan after the war in the Nineties (indeed, having seen one of the commercials in Somaliland in 2002, I decided to buy a house in Croatia), but Croatian tourism promotion seems to have lost its way since then. Croatia, Full of Life, whatever that means, has taken the place of the Slogan as It Once Was, but it has not had the same effect – at least to me.
(TCN with Mate Rimac and his Concept One in Porec during the 2016 Nikola Tesla EV Rally)
Goran Rihelj of the HRTurizam website, wrote an excellent article last year asking why Croatia was ashamed of all its innovators – his point was that Croatia proudly boasts that they are the home of Tesla, Penkala (the pen), Vrancic (the parachute), Vucetic (fingerprinting) and the tie – and yet tourists hardly notice as none are promoted.
And then came along an event which so beautifully encompassed all the magic of Croatia’s strengths, traditions and natural beauty and eco credentials, in the birthplace of Nikola Tesla himself, that every child in the first year of kindergarten would recognise it as the best tourism branding Croatia could ever hope for.
(Elon Musk’s mother Maye returned to Croatia – as many rally participants do – a year after taking part in the 2015 Nikola Tesla EV Rally)
The Nikola Tesla EV Rally, a luxury event taking its international participants on a week-long journey of Croatian luxury hotels, divine gourmet experiences, traditional stone towns and breathtaking national parks – a journey of supreme beauty, showcasing the very best that Croatia has to offer. A rally of electric vehicles, promoting the eco-friendly future of the world in a responsible and appetising fashion.
An event which caught the imagination of many, including the mother of Elon Musk, who came to Croatia to take part in the rally in 2015, riding in one of her son’s Tesla vehicles. An event which saw the producer of the world’s hottest electric car, Rimac Concept One, take part in the rally. An event which saw the first purchaser of that Rimac Concept One (for a cool price tag of US$1 million) take part in the rally with a Rimac engineer, to customise the final touches of his luxury purchase.
(American Paul Runge, the first purchaser of the Rimac Concept One, took part in the 2016 Nikola Tesla EV Rally with his US$1 million purchase – read his interview with TCN here)
Branding Hrvatske? In the birthplace of Nikola Tesla, could there be a better image for Croatian luxury tourism that this? Surely an event which would be wholeheartedly welcomed by the Ministry of Tourism and supported by local tourist boards along the route?
Sadly no, for this is Croatia, where tourism promotion funding, it seems, is reserved for the chosen few. And so, just like Tesla himself all those years ago, the Nikola Tesla EV Rally looks set to be acknowledged and recognised far beyond the borders of the homeland, and we are delighted to announce that in March 2019, the Nikola Tesla EV Rally will take on a truly international expansion with the first every rally in China!
With the lack of official support for the rally in Croatia a sad reality, organisers Tina and Igor Kolovrat have kept their focus on quality of both the rally and their mission to expand the electric vehicle network in Croatia (they are responsible for at least 70% of all the 300 charging stations in Croatia today). While the Croatian tourism chiefs seem not to value the project, others are much more encouraging, and the Kolovrats have had offers to host the rally in two European countries and one in Latin America.
And China, home to 65% of the world’s electric vehicles.
Imagine a high-profile electric vehicle rally of 1,000 cars (planned), organised by professionals from the birthplace of Nikola Tesla, at a time when Chinese tourists are slowly awakening to the potential of Croatia. Strong branding messages of nature, ecology, beauty, technology, reinforced all along the route of the proposed 1750 km route from the panda city of Chengdu to the gates of Shenzhen, a progressive city with a fleet of 16,000 electric buses alone.
Along the way on the leisurely 7-day rally, a chance to promote the electric vehicle story (Tesla has installed chargers in each of the destinations covered by the rally in Croatia), as well as an opportunity to promote Croatian excellence at every turn. And not only tourism.
The Chinese opportunity came from an invitation to the Kolovrats from businessmen who saw what they were doing in their everyday e-mobility business, not just the rally. They saw the possibility to develop a Chinese EV tourist route, as well as explore hi-tech and tourism potential between the two countries. Although the rally will be the main event, it is also proposed that there will be a corresponding economic summit focusing on Croatian-Chinese hi-tech, e-mobility and tourism businesses, and several Croatian businesses with proven products will accompany the rally.
It is planned that this initial rally will take place in March, 2019 and will lead to an annual Chinese rally championship.
Meanwhile, back in Croatia, the 2018 Nikola Tesla EV Rally will take place from June 3-10, taking in four national parks, five islands and 15 of Croatia’s most picturesque cities. It will, according to organiser Igor Kolovrat, have zero funding from any tourist board along the route, and no cooperation with the Ministry of Tourism. A chance of funding up to a maximum of 7-13,000 euro from the Croatian National Tourist Board will depend on the outcome of a tender, whose results are published too late to affect concrete planning of the event.
(Organisers Tina and Igor Kolovrat, pictured here with Concept One at the birthplace of Nikola Tesla in Smiljan, on the 2016 Nikola Tesla EV Rally)
And while the high-profile projects funded by the Croatian tourism gurus come with subsidies and paid PR, the international participants of the rally (from over 30 countries so far) are high spenders and tend to both tell their friends about Croatia, as well as return. They will pay their own way. People like Elon Musk’s mum, who came back to Croatia the year after the rally and raved about Croatia on Twitter, or to buy a property like 5 participants from the Nikola Tesla EV Rally so far, and even start a business and invest in the country. A Croatian tourism promotion story to die for. Or so you would have thought.
And yet, while the Croatian tourism chiefs seemingly have no interest in the branding project of a lifetime, other officials are taking notice. Minister of the Environment Coric has confirmed he will join the rally in Croatia, along with Mr. Ponos, director of the Fond za Zaštitu Okoliša, driving the picturesque route from Smiljan, the village of Tesla’s birth, to Plitvice Lakes, while Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandic and several foreign ambassadors will be participating in the celebrations when the rally reaches the Croatian capital.
As for the reaction in China? With interest and support from the Chinese government, it will hopefully be an event to do Nikola Tesla justice, something that should be happening on an annual basis with full official support in the land of his birth.
For more information on the Nikola Tesla EV Rally (and all the other e-mobility projects on offer), click here www.nikolateslaevrally.com.hr