UNESCO’s Number 1 Island Finally Brands Itself: Hvar – Genuine Hedonism

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Photos by Vivian Grisogono

A momentous day on the island of Hvar on April 2, 2016, as five tourist boards finally unite to produce a joint brochure. That is the good news… 

I am really not sure where to start with this one.

Perhaps with the positives. After many years, the five tourist boards of the island of Hvar have finally come together and produced a brochure which represents the whole island. While that may seem like a logical thing to the outsider, it is something that has never happened before. A truly momentous moment.

Keeping with the good news, the brochure is really well designed, with great photos which showcase the best of the island. The designers are Carli and Sosa, the team behind the great branding of Bol, as previously reported.  

So lots of positives. And then…

After years of having no brand or slogan, Hvar now seems to have one. This remember is the island with the most UNESCO heritage of any island in the world, the home of organised tourism in Europe, home to the oldest public theatre in Europe etc. The island, the sunniest in Europe, has been attracting a party image in recent years, and so the announcement of a slogan would at least give some kind of definition of what Hvar is as a destination – culture or party. And here is the slogan:

Island of Hvar – Genuine Hedonism.

I must admit, I have never come across the term ‘genuine hedonism’ before. My first question to myself was “what is the definition of non-genuine hedonism?” but as I looked through the brochure, I saw how genuine hedonism is a purer kind to life on Ibiza. Is Hvar being branded as the new Ibiza? How many partygoers will be attracted by the promise of sun, sea and salt? 

I googled the term ‘genuine hedonism’. 

“Genuine “Hedonism” must embrace all love and all pleasure, including, the implication was unmistakable, homosexuality.” (John Stokes, citing an 1894 article by George Ives, in ‘Oscar Wilde, Myths, Miracles and Imitations’, Cambridge University Press, 1996, page 73.)

Curious now, and looking for a little international perspective, I posted on my international writers’ group in Canada:

“So my little island has just been officially branded. You are an international bunch. What is the first thing that comes into your head. Island of Hvar – Genuine Hedonism?

(How is the concept of hedonism perceived internationally? We asked Google Images. Welcome to the official new promotional direction of the UNESCO island)

1. Naked people and booze

2. I don’t know what images hedonism conjures elsewhere. On our side of the pond, there is a Caribbean hotel chain called Hedonism that is big on bodies and booze. Sun sea and salt could be anywhere warm where there is ocean.

3. I’m afraid I agree with Karen. Hedonism reminds me a bit of the fall of the Roman Empire. Of course, I may just be more of a Puritan than I thought!

4. How about, “Pure Pleasure”? Genuine Hedonism makes think of hippies and patchouli and orgies…not my thing.”

When I heard about the brochure a few weeks ago, I asked if I could see the English version before it went to print, and I offered to proof-read it for free. I was told that the project leader had all in hand, and my help was not necessary. Not a problem, less work for me. 

And then today, I saw the final version. 

I am sure the text in the original Croatian is more than fine, but what has appeared in the English version – Genuine Hedonism apart – is nothing short of embarrassing. So many stupid errors what could have been eradicated by a proof-reader checking the text. Why spend so much on a great brochure, with great designers, and then fall at the final hurdle? So many stupid mistakes, such as the one below. 

Achieves of Hula Hula?

One paragraph of translation will suffice to highlight the linguistic horrors contained inside:

“The time unstoppably alters life, yet the farm labourers’ hands in barren fields and the cry of the seagull over the wet fisherman’s net have been imprinted in the island life for centuries. Purple lavender fields under the hot June sky, grape harvesting at the end of the pulsing (sic) summer, olives groves where voices of family and friends still echo under the grey autumn skies, calamari fishing on short winter days – everything is still so alive and authentic. Despite all the noise and changes brought by tourism, the island still possesses a life that breaths (sic) in timeless rhythms of the nature and offers it generously to its visitors.” 

It is still not too late. As far as I know, the brochure has not been widely distributed yet. Yes, money has been wasted (not the first time), but it would not take too much effort to get a really excellent product from the existing material. Is Genuine Hedonism really what the concept is? If yes, fine, but as a foreigner, it sends out the same message to me as it does to my colleagues above. And then spend a little money on a copy editor – I have an excellent Irish professional in Zagreb who I can highly recommend. 

And then we can truly celebrate the island promoting itself as one, with a great product. 

I would like to think this can be turned into something positive, so that these mistakes can be avoided in future, but I am not hopeful. Never was the phrase of the Kings of Accidental Tourism more true than on this beautiful island. As reported earlier this morning (and before this brochure appeared), the Stari Grad Tourist Board seems to have forgotten the town is celebrating 2400 years of existence, the Sućuraj Tourist Board does not even have a page in English, the Hvar Town has a blank FAQ page as one of its many deficiencies, to mirror the Telepathy Tourism events page of the previous Jelsa Tourist Board director last summer. 

Is it perhaps time for change? 


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