TCTI Viber Community a Finalist in 2021 HUOJ International Grand PRix Awards for Crisis Communication

Total Croatia News

Updated on:

I don’t think I have ever done a project for free and worked so hard in my life. But the things I learned, and the experience I gained to repivot my business as a result, was priceless.  

A rather unexpected email this morning, informing me that the TCTI Viber community project which took over most of my summer last year and helped countless tourists make their decision to travel to Croatia (or not), has been shortlisted for the HUOJ 2021 1st International Grand PRix PR awards in the category of crisis communication.  

Grand PRix for crisis communication

  • Croatia – the best in the Mediterranean, 404 for the Croatian Tourism Association
  • – Official governmental website for accurate and verified information on Coronavirus, Media Val d.o.o. for the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Croatia
  • The vacation you deserve is closer than you think, but you have to cross the border first – Viber community Total Croatia Travel Info, Manjgura d.o.o., Mediacor d.o.o. for TOTAL CROATIA NEWS Bradbury d.o.o.

 I don’t expect to go any further, especially as the official project is one of the other two finalists, but it is nice to get some recognition for our efforts. As well as showing what can be achieved with a little hard work and a tiny budget. If the hard work of those involved is valued at zero, as they seem to be in official eyes, then the whole project was put together for just 2,000 kuna. The resulting tourism incoming from those who did travel is in the region of at least 10 million euro. And this is a very conservative estimate.

I take zero credit for the whole concept, that was all in the mind of PR guru, Kreso Macan, who very clearly saw what was needed to provide clear information to tourists desperate for real-time updates about the travel regulations. Kreso made available a couple of interns from his Manjgura agency to start with and later teamed up with Alex from Mediacor and Jelena from 4app to add a chat bot. And we were ready to go.


To give you a clue how switched on I was with the new technology, one of the interns had to download the Viber app to my laptop, as I had no idea how to do it. I have learned to trust Macan and his instincts over the years, and soon there were three new buttons on the TCN homepage. 


It all started in May, 2020, when I asked Macan if he wanted to check out the Slovenian border at Bregana to see what was actually happening on the border. There was just NO real official information out there, and the TCN inbox was full of tourists desperate for accurate, up-to-date information.  So much has happened since then, but this was the situation on the ground – Who Can Cross the Croatia Slovenia Border? Who Cannot? A May 17, 2020 Border Visit.


It all went rather quickly after that. Macan and two Manjgura interns chatted in tech talk that I really didn’t understand. Within 20 minutes, we were live with a Viber community called Total Croatia Travel INFO. I was still not quite sure what a Viber community actually did, but I kept quiet and decided to learn from the experts.  

A quick news story and social media share, and suddenly we had 500 members of our community. And the questions were already starting.

In Hungarian. 

Once I was shown the auto-translate button (a very handy tool on Viber), I found myself answering the Hungarians and entering into conversations. It was kind of fun. And it wasn’t just Hungarian. Polish, Slovenian, Czech, Ukrainian. People DESPERATE for information. 

I have known Macan for several years, and one of the things I appreciate most about him is his analytical mind under pressure. He realised that the key to the success of the TCTI Viber community was in reducing the question traffic and automating the process as much as possible. I can’t say I enjoyed working with him every minute, as some days were super stressful, but in terms of results and focus, it was a masterclass. 

Within 2 hours, we had an infographic, which summarised the key information. It was an immediate hit. 

“Could we have it in Hungarian, please?” asked one.

“You send me the Hungarian translation, and we can.”

By bedtime on Day 1, we had the infographic in 12 languages, all translated by members of the community. 

So THAT’S what an online community is about. It was a salutary lesson.  


The questions kept on coming. Macan showed us how to concentrate the information into one place, and the Croatian Travel Update (or CTU) was born. Tons of information in one page, updated regularly, with outbound links to official sources which were updating their information, in order to reduce the workload for us. 

Using the Google Translate embed feature, the CTU became available in 24 key Croatian tourism languages on Day 2. Google Translate was not perfect, but it was not too bad at all. Especially when compared to the official information available. You have to know how to write for Google translate – Ministry of Interior became Croatian Border Police since it perfectly translated in all 24 languages.


Communication with the Croatian border police (MUP) was excellent. So much so in fact that one border policeman not only volunteered to help out with the admin, but ended up being the most active administrator of them all. On behalf of all of us, and the literally hundreds of tourists you have helped, many, many thanks. We WILL have that drink soon. 

MUP overall were sensational all summer. They produced great information, in English, German and Croatia, as well as the hugely successful Enter Croatia form, which reduced border crossing times considerably. And it was left to MUP to answer all the tens of thousands of incoming emails – in all languages – from tourists searching for answers. The efficiency of MUP and the transparency of the information shared was in stark contrast to other official bodies whose job they were doing.  


But the wave of questions kept on coming. Many tourists were too lazy to read the CTU, and so the same questions came again and again. More systems, decided Macan. An investment of 2,000 kuna brought the TCTI chat bot from Jelena at, while Alex from Mediacor, in association with Viber, produced a fantastic Croatian tourism specific sticker pack for a little extra promo. 


As Macan, the legendica that is Iva Tatic, a couple of interns and I serviced the community as best we could with the tools we had at the budget, tourist emails to official addresses were going unanswered. When I pointed this out politely, it caused quite a stir in the Croatian media. Five weeks before the General Election, an invitation from the then Minister of Tourism, Gari Cappelli. I am still not quite sure what the meeting was about, but during the meeting, Cappelli promised to dedicate some resources to help administer our community. He told us a few days later that this would not be possible, and also did not implement a suggestion to either take over our community or start his own. 

The questions kept on coming. 



In the ten years of writing about tourism in Croatia, I have focused solely on the English market. Running the TCTI Viber community was a great lesson that I was completely missing the majority of the markets. A lesson I will be learning from and rectifying when we launch our new TC project on May 1. In 10 languages.  


I came to love to hate that page, but it was the best online education of 2020. And it was highly effective. More than 600,000 visitors in total in its various forms since its inception in the Spring of 2020.  



And it wasn’t just Google that was loving it. CNN also linked to the CTU on a piece on European tourism. Where the article linked to other official tourism bodies, perhaps they could not find anything interesting in Croatia. The traffic was great. 


I don’t know much about Google Analytics, but Macan seemed to be finding corners of it I never would.  


And it was not just CNN. ABC News made contact via the TCTI Viber community. They wanted to do a feature on a Mediterranean destination and American travel during the pandemic, and they were thinking of Dubrovnik. Could we help?

Whatever your feelings on travel in the summer of 2020, the promotional opportunity for future years with people so longing to travel was too good to miss.  Who did I know who could pull off such a trip? A Dubrovnik boy called Macan pulled out all the stops, leading to six feature stories on ABC, including one on Good Morning America, which was watched by 12.5 million people. 

An impressive figure for some, but not one which merited a press release from the Croatian National Tourist Board. 


2,000 kuna and a lot of effort can bring great rewards. It IS possible to promote things on a budget. If you really want to work. 

And even though money was tight last year due to the pandemic, I would work for free again just the same. The lessons I learned with the TCTI Viber community have enabled me to completely reorientate my business. And the financial benefits and already pouring in. 


Thank you, Kreso, a fantastic education. It is great to reach the final, and of course it would be nice to win our category. But I am really not bothered. I got my benefit from the education. And now I also have Viber on my laptop… 

The guys I will be cheering loudest for on April 16 will be the tomato duo of Jerko Trogrlic of Vajt and Jan de Jong for their phenomenal efforts (and even bigger success) with the introduction of the digital nomad permit.  

Here is the full list of finalists for the HUOJ 1st International  Grand PRix for Public Relations

Satnica Smotre finalista

1. međunarodni Grand PRix Hrvatske udruge za odnose javnošću

Grand PRix for public relations in institutions, associations, and non-governmental organizations

  • Cancer Fighters – Croatia Against Cancer: Campaign for the Adoption of National Stategic Framework (NCSF) until 2030., Manjgura d.o.o. for patient associations EVERYTHING fo HER,, Coalition of Association in Healthcare (
  • Elements of AI project launch, 404 on behalf of CroAI
  • The road to Croatia’s introduction of its Digital Nomad visas program, VAJT d.o.o. and Jan de Jong

Grand PRix for public relations for large companies

  • “Good people” Ožujsko pivo campaign by Zagrebačka pivovara, 404 for Zagrebačka pivovara
  • Safely Connected /Povezani smo sigurni, Media Val for Croatian Employers´ Association (HUP)

Grand PRix for public relations for small and medium companies

  • Alliance for healthier future, Dialog komunikacije do.o.o for Nestlé Adriatic.
  • Communication and Organization of the Press centre for the Opening of the European Capital of Culture Rijeka 2020. , Madison Consulting and Media Val for Rijeka 2020 LLC
  • Nanobit becomes part of the world’s top gaming company, Stillfront Group, 404 on behalf of Nanobit

Grand PRix for corporate social responsibility

  • #prviput by Zaba, Zagrebačka banka and 404 agency
  • When you drive safely, you arrive safely – Marking the first National Road Traffic Safety Day, Abeceda komunikacije d.o.o. for the Ministry of the Interior of the Republic of Croatia

Grand PRix for crisis communication

  • Croatia – the best in the Mediterranean, 404 for the Croatian Tourism Association
  • – Official governmental website for accurate and verified information on Coronavirus,Media Val d.o.o. for the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Croatia
  • The vacation you deserve is closer than you think, but you have to cross the border first – Viber community Total Croatia Travel Info , Manjgura d.o.o., Mediacor d.o.o. for TOTAL CROATIA NEWS Bradbury d.o.o.


Subscribe to our newsletter

the fields marked with * are required
Email: *
First name:
Last name:
Gender: Male Female
Please don't insert text in the box below!

Leave a Comment