April 29, 2020 – Is reform of Croatia’s bloated and inefficient bureaucracy possible? Why those interested in tourist board reform should be taking some lessons from Ivan Slavic, Mayor of Sucuraj on the island of Hvar.
Mayor Ivan Slavic wanted to cut costs and bureaucratic overhead within his tiny Municipality of Sucuraj, on the island of Hvar. His gaze gravitated towards the Tourist Board, a bloated body with limited resources and built-in expenses, as well as a mandatory 16-person assembly.
“There’s no reason the assembly should be the same size for every municipality across the country,” he said in a telephone interview with TCN. “It’s absurd.”
He reached out to the tourism ministry seeking a fix, but “they tossed us aside,” Slavic said.
Then the mayor perverted Croatia’s arcane bureaucratic rules to his favour.
He canned the existing Tourist Board Director, freed up salary expenses then redirected the cash towards projects and upkeep. Being the mayor also makes him president of the Sucuraj Tourist Board (at no extra cost), giving him de facto control of the body while the director position remains vacant. There’s no timeline for filling the job, and so the search for a new director can last until the conditions for a new one are right.
My colleague Joe Orovic reached out to Slavic to explain what he did in detail.
We heard that Sućuraj no longer has a Tourist Board director. That from June 1 to Sept. 1 there will be an information desk. Is that correct?
As of September 2019, the Sucuraj Tourism Board has no director. As the Municipal Mayor, I am also the President of the Sucuraj Tourism Board. I will perform all necessary activities related to the normal operation of the Tourist Board, as well as the administrative and financial affairs of the board.
As for the information desk, in accordance with the Tourism Board Statute and the Staff Regulations, we have a designated administrator that we planned to hire from April 1 to Nov. 11. But due to the situation with COVID-19, we have given up and are waiting for the further developments of the situation, because if there is no tourism, no sojourn tax will be charged and therefore no we won’t have any income, so we must not incur costs.
Otherwise, the Sucuraj Municipality is small, with only 2 employees where everyone does everything and by minimizing costs this way we have the best results. Also, by switching to the e-Visitor system, where renters enter information independently, the need for a year-round office is questionable, just for someone to have a salary in a small Tourism Board doing a job that amounts to two hours of administrative work per month, all while there are insufficient funds for any major project which needs to be done and monitored.
What was the basis for the decision? Can you explain what happened?
Considering the financial situation of Sucuraj Tourist Board, which operates in the area of Sucuraj Municipality, where the limited income is mainly related to private accommodation and we have an active car camp, we cannot make more than 185.000,00 kn due to the payment of the sojourn tax, which is the only income of the Tourist Board.
It ultimately means that during the year built-in expenses — the director’s salary — eats up most of the Tourism Board’s revenue, so there is no funding for further investment. The director has to work seasonally in the summer so that the Office and info desks work 14 hours. Therefore, most of the proceeds go to salaries and there’s only enough left over for five to six smaller events, where the Tourist Board co-finances the events of the Associations in the Sucuraj Municipality.
Was this decision easy to implement from a bureaucratic perspective? What was the procedure?
From a bureaucratic perspective, it was not easy to implement because the limiting factor is the Law on Tourist Boards and the promotion of Croatian Tourism
where everything is bureaucratically unworkable. It rigidly defines all the parameters that the Tourism Board must adhere to, from the number of members of the assembly to the number of council members, which for small boards are a limiting factor.
It is better to have fewer people in the Assembly and the Council who are operational and willing to “pull” for further tourism development in the municipality, than a large number appointed under the Law. An Assembly member becomes a member via revenues, yet rarely comes to the Assembly meetings. So due to lack of quorum we had to postpone meetings.
The provision of Article 22, paragraph 3 of the Law on Tourist Boards stipulates that the Tourist Board is represented by the President of the Tourist Board until the election of the Director, so that we are practically in the legal process of selecting a new director until further notice.
Of course, when tourism traffic increases and when the planned tourist zones are created, we will have a director who will then have the resources for further investments, promotion and the like. As a legal representative, I will have the powers of the president to employ seasonal workers at the info desks.
How easily can this be repeated in other municipalities that have only seasonal tourism, from a legal perspective?
From a legal perspective, we need to change the entire Law on Tourist Boards and move towards associations, which we initiated already. We have partnered with other Boards on the island of Hvar regarding the promotion of tourism and have a signed Cooperation Agreement, in which the city of Hvar with the most material and human resources is the holder, and is an engine for the further development of tourism on the island of Hvar.
Finally, with the agreement of all the Municipalities and Tourist Boards, we began to work on the development of tourism throughout the island. From a legal perspective, the law should allow for greater flexibility in the election and number of members of the Assembly and the Council. For example, you have a quality person who is not the first on the list of committee with the right to nominate a member, and you cannot legally appoint this person to the Council or the Assembly. The rules are restrictive, and a person comes into the positions only if everyone in front of him or her gives up.
How much money will the municipality save this year?
As for the Municipality, it will not save anything, but will better prepare the tourist season. According to the Law, one-third of the Tourist Board’s board revenue goes to the Municipality, which regulates beaches, bicycle paths, communal infrastructure from these funds. Until now, most of the funds were spent on salaries. Since the citizens are engaged in tourism and expect a well-kept place, the municipality will use these funds for beaches, parks, promenades, showers on the beach, buoys, etc. All income on this basis will focus on further tourism development projects.
What impact do you expect this to have on tourism in a normal year?
In a normal year, increased revenues and residual income would mean greater investment in landscaping and additional amenities that tourists recognize. I must also point out that, in all circumstances, Sucuraj’s renters are recognized as good hosts and tourists come back and new ones come.
In 2019, Sucuraj had 8,368 tourists, who spend a total of 67,467 nights, almost all of which took place in the summer months, from June 1 to September 1.
As a long-time follower of Croatian tourism, I would like to congratulate Mayor Slavic on managing to bring some sanity to the insanity of the bloated administration that is the local tourist board structure in this beautiful land.
With its 8,368 tourists last year, Sucuraj was by no means one of the most visited destinations which had a full-time tourist board director and its own tourist board. But it fared MUCH better than MANY tourist boards throughout the country. A cursory look at the official statistics (full breakdown in English is available here
) shows just how pointless some of these local tourist boards are. The only function that many of them serve is to fill a job for a cousin.
TCN will be making a few phone calls in the coming days to some of these tourist boards to better understand what exactly they do 12 months a year when there are almost no tourists to show for it at the end. Taking a quick look at the official statistics from the link above, for example, the destination of Sveti Ivan Zelena in Zagreb County appears to have its own tourist board and director. Last year, it registered just 784 tourists all year, of which 400 were foreign. Together, they managed 1,502 overnights between them.
We also reached out to the Ministry of Tourism for their feedback on the Sucuraj situation, and we received this reply from the MINT press office:
According to the Register of Tourist Boards kept by this Ministry, Director Đina Ćurin is registered as the person authorized to represent the Tourist Board of Sucuraj Municipality.
It should also be noted that the Law on Tourist Communities and Promotion of Croatian Tourism (Official Gazette 52/09 and 42/20) stipulates that the director of the tourist board represents the tourist board, organizes and manages the work and business of the board, implements its decisions, and within the limits of the established powers is responsible for the business of the board and the legality of the board’s work. He or she is responsible for work to the Tourism Council and the President of the Tourist Board.
It would appear that news of Mayor Slavic’s cutbacks has yet to reach Zagreb.
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