Little Luxury, Pricey Mass Tourism: TCN Interview with Tportal on Croatian Tourism

Total Croatia News

Tportal screenshot

August 3, 2019 – Total Croatia News featured in a big article in Tportal today, entitled ‘Crazy Englishman from Jelsa’ – Guys, snap out of it, Croatia does not have a luxury tourism product and is too expensive for mass tourism. Here is what I suggest’ by Damir Petranovic. An English translation.  

Seventeen years after he first set foot on the island, the ‘’crazy Englishman from Jelsa’’ – as the locals quickly took to calling him – has given this little Hvar town a real tourism strategy.

Some Simple Steps to Improve the 2 Star Tourism Strategy in Jelsa on Hvar” is the title of an extensive article published on Bradbury’s Total Croatia News (TCN) portal, which easily diagnosed the causes of stagnation and suggested a number of coherent and concrete proposals for a radical turnaround. In an interview with tportal, he explained what he wanted to achieve, but as now a great connoisseur of opportunities, he also addressed the possible implications at the national level.

This Brit has been known for many years as one of the best promoters of Croatian tourism, but at the same time one of the biggest critics of how it is being managed: among the most well-remembered are, let’s say, his devastating analysis of the ‘’Croatia 365’’ project or the recent announcement that ‘’there would be no less tourists coming tomorrow if we abolished the Croatian National Tourist Board’’, Still, the positives prevail, and so Bradbury’s biography boasts a series of remarkable ventures.

Firstly, upon his arrival to Hvar, he issued the first complete tourist guide on the island, then realised that there was enough news there to launch a local portal, then on the same principle as Total Hvar, he launched Total Split, Total Inland Dalmatia, Total Zagreb and Total Dubrovnik, and finally Total Croatia News, named the most influential Croatian medium in the English language, affiliated with Google News. This was followed by the launch of portals specialised in cycling, wine and sailing, followed by the unofficial title of the most influential Croatian blogger, various workshops and entrepreneurial ventures. A few years ago, he moved to Varazdin.


He is the only person to win the FIJET Marco Polo award at the National Society of Journalists twice – in 2014 for best international promotion of Croatia, and in 2017 for a feature on Advent in Zagreb – and he has been invited to submit his work on medical tourism to the inaugural Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council media awards in Kuala Lumpur later this month.

Bradbury, a man with a rich biography and over 90 travelled countries, ended up almost by accident in Croatia. He admits that he lived in a kind of bubble until he realised the meaning of the word ‘’uhljeb’‘, and from that period on, his observations were unavoidable reading for a better understanding of Croatian reality, while at the same time, his Facebook profile was both fun, sad, and educative. and instructive.

Just last month, he began posting short videos there from the July peak season in Jelsa. Snapshots of the half-empty town square were an overture to him in anticipation of the results of this year’s tourism statistics, but also the basis for the great article mentioned in the introduction. In it, he referred to the ‘’all-inclusive’’ practice that has little or no benefit to the local community, excursion boat tours that bring thousands of tourists to Jelsa just to get ice cream there and look back confused because they have no idea how to fill those few hours, as well as today’s unsuccessful branding of a place with exactly 108 years of organised tourism.

And then he suggested some concrete measures – from promoting Jelsa as the Dalmatian wine capital, organising sports events and optimising cooperation with neighbouring towns and islands, to, say, a concrete connection with a Norwegian town also called Jelsa. We will not retell Bradbury’s theory, because the article is really worth reading (English version link at the top of this article, Croatian version here), like his suggestion for branding Croatia and improving tourism at the national level and resetting Croatian tourism – Branding Croatia: 5 Trends and Gifts to Focus On.

We therefore asked Bradbury to look at some other, related topics in a quick, layman-like way for tportal.

What are the reactions in Jelsa to this article?

I am not in Jelsa at the moment, so I can’t really answer that question. Perhaps the most interesting response was a public one from the phenomenal Run Croatia project, who are very keen to work with Jelsa to initiate the first-ever Run Croatia Week. A great first step to restoring Jelsa’s sporting traditions. The way that Run Croatia is expanding, having Jelsa as a flagship first destination for a Run Croatia Week could be the start of something beautiful. As you see below, they are only waiting for Jelsa’s call to get started.


You mentioned a lawsuit from the Mayor – can you be more specific?

You will have to ask the Mayor. He chose to announce it in a public meeting in Vrboska a year ago. As I still haven’t received the lawsuit, I am not sure what it is about.

What was the motivation for doing this kind of story?

My main motivation was sadness. Sad that such a lovely destination which has been so good to me over so many years is offering such poor tourism, and friends in the tourism business are suffering for no reason. As you can see from my article, my suggestions are not rocket science. They are simple to implement, cost mostly nothing, and will have a very positive effect as soon as next year. See Run Croatia above.

Is this problem specific for Jelsa, or can some of this advice be applied to Croatian tourism in general?

Yes, I think almost all of it can be applied elsewhere. There is nothing complicated in what I suggested, but sometimes it takes a foreign eye to give a different viewpoint. The big question is what does Croatian tourism offer on the coast? And the answer, sadly, is very little apart from the sun and the sea. And as we have seen with the weather this season, we can’t even guarantee that now. Does Croatian tourism have a Plan B when climate change really kicks in?

What are your impressions of Croatian tourism in general – this season, and compared to 2002?

Everyone got really excited in the last few years as tourism was booming, as though it was due to some kind of strategic plan, and everyone was ‘doing tourism’ and making cash which meant to them handing over an apartment key and taking the cash. In reality, due to terror attacks and other circumstances, tourists to Egypt, Turkey, Tunisia, even Greece to a point, were looking for somewhere to go. Croatia couldn’t lose. And did they try and see if they could win these guests for the long term? No. The prices were high, the service poor, and there was nothing to do apart from the sun and the sea. So when Turkey etc were safe once more, where do you think they went?

So Croatia can’t compete in terms of price with these cheaper destinations in the mass tourism market which offer much better value. And it cannot compete at the luxury end, as there are no hotels (there are about 6 billion euro in blocked projects on the Adriatic). Check how many luxury hotel brands there are in tiny Montenegro (6 times less coastline, only 11 islands), for example, then check in Croatia.


Business Insider researched luxury tourism providers to find out where the top 15 countries billionaires were visiting in 2019. Montenegro was in there, so was Rwanda. Croatia? Not a chance.

So in 2019, after years of being Full of Life, what is Croatia as a destination? Hardly anything to offer the luxury market, too expensive for the mass market. I think Istria is an exception to this, and tourism is working much better there. But there really is no brand, and no real offer, and it is expensive.

I have been doing a series of interviews on tourism businesses having record years in recent days to find out what they were doing. Vanja from Adriatic Travel Collection is doing incredible things in top luxury tourism in Croatia and I recommend her interview to your readers.

And I couldn’t agree more with this sentence:

I am also tired of people who always complain. They have to start changing their offer, finding their niche. 80’s tourism is in the past and the majority are still offering just that, sun and sea. It is actually that simple.

I have never been one just to criticise without offering something constructive. I think Croatian tourism needs a complete reset, and here is how I would do it.

Jelsa in 2002? I obviously have a very romantic memory of that time, having just arrived and meeting my future wife in the Jelsa library, so it is hard to compare. But it seemed that locals tried harder with their tourists back then, that there were more relationships. Tourists were more loyal to destinations back then, these days it is all about the Instagram checklist.

Lately there was a lot of talk about the Croatian National Tourist Board, some people said it’s useless an no one would notice if it was shut down. What is your opinion on that?

Well I gave an interview in the Croatian media last week which was read over 100,000 times called Brit who lives in Croatia: If the Croatian National Tourist Board was abolished tomorrow, there would be no fewer tourists. Maybe the title answers the question.

Where do you see Croatian tourism in the next few years?

It could be incredible, really incredible. Or it could be a worsening version of what we have today. As in every other section of Croatian society. I think we all know what the main problem in Croatia is.

Many international experts agree, for example, that Croatia could be in the top 10 in the world within 10 years for this lucrative, 12-month, and rapidly expanding medical tourism industry. If Croatia could gets its act together and the stakeholders unite. Learn more in Can Croatian Officials Unite to Exploit Huge Medical Tourism Opportunity?

But that is the story of every part of Croatian society. The system has to change, but will people get on the streets and demand change? They only get on the streets to celebrate football and heroes like Oliver. I suggested recently that we name a National Keyboard Warrior Offline Day, and get all our keyboard warrior heroes who spit hate and dissatisfaction to go offline for one day and all assemble in Zagreb and demand change. Haha, right, as though that might happen.

Read the original Tportal article here


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