We are Selling “Croatia Full of Life” in a Dull and Lifeless Manner

Total Croatia News

One of our great tourism issues is seasonality, and the solution is quality and diverse content which needs packaging into authentic, unique and credible stories

Authentic stories, which we have plenty of, must be used to present and sell what we are – Croats. Simple, isn’t it?

And yet, everything we do is wrong and opposite. Everyone talks of the pre and post season, but we fail right away. At the first impression – our presentation. If we look at world trends, they have changed a long time ago. Sun, sea, beach and accommodation are no longer enough. This position is confirmed by the latest trends from the ITB Berlin fair: specialisation, niches, authenticity and rounded tourism product – nothing new, right?

The motive of arrival is not accommodation, but authentic content of a tourism destination. Everyone has a story and a motive for tourists from around the world to travel thousands of kilometres to experience it in person.

And Croatia?

As I receive e-mails from tourism boards and Croatian Tourism Board from various fairs, including the recently ended one in Berlin, I cannot escape the impression we don’t know how to sell ourselves and keep telling a boring and bad story of Croatia. Without emotions and excitement and the ever so important story. Absolutely opposite of our slogan – Croatia, Full of Life.

How do we present ourselves at fairs? What are we selling? How are we communicating our brand? What do we offer? How are we different? What can they remember us by? The same pattern is at all stands – classic white boxes with brochures.

Is this decent promotion of Croatia? DO we even care about the story we are telling? Are promotional brochures our ultimate reach? Full of Life defines us quite well, but also with absurdity and wrongly, as in reality we are far from being full of life – we are boring as we don’t offer additional content and stories, but still sell sun and sea. Again.

This is why we have poor tourist spending and a seasonality issue as when the sun is gone, there is no tourism. And it is a fact that bringing back a disappointed guest is three times tougher and more expensive.

At the recently ended ITB fair there were over 10.000 presenters from 187 countries and five continents. In the world of marketing when you’re small you must be different, special, quick, creative and innovative, and we still brand ourselves as the brown cow, as Seth Godin would say. “The matter is simple: you must be special, different, specific. You must have what others don’t. You must know how to inspire, and you’ll be able to do this only if you are inspired yourself. Something special deserves to be talked about, to be noticed. It is something extraordinary. New. Interesting. It is a blue cow. Boring is invisible. Boring is a brown cow,” says Seth Godin.

We have all the cards to be the blue cow of tourism, and our aces are diversity and authenticity.

Why isn’t everyone wearing folk costumes? Why isn’t everyone selling experiences and destinations content, instead of accommodation? What is the effect of a simple stand of several square metres and promotion brochures? Why doesn’t anyone invite a key participant of a local tourism product, instead of just hoteliers?

Our greatest value is our incredible diversity throughout history, culture, tradition, nature, way of life etc. If any other country had only a segment of our richness, not to mention the neck tie, parachute, Tesla, fountain pen, they would make a miracle. And us?

In Croatia there isn’t an office, strategy nor synergy taking care of the Croatian brand in the world. Same in tourism, we don’t know what we want, what we sell or care about the brand. Falsely representing ourselves through the “Croatia, Full of Life” slogan we are making long-term damage.

What is the Croatian brand? What is the image of our tourism? What is our identity and image? As PR consultant Božo Skoko points out, having an image of a lovely country is not enough, we need to become a brand. And brands need strategy and planning.

Same in tourism. We have the Tourism Ministry, Croatian Tourism Board, Croatian Chamber of Economy, local and county tourism boards and instead of synergy we have chaos and dispersion. We must all together tell the same story of the Croatian tourism brand. The power of branding can best be seen in the fact that London branded and sold rain, and we don’t know how to sell the sun and sea.

Even the biggest supporter of the current system of tourism boards has no more arguments against changing the entire system. But this is a topic for another time.

It is interesting how the tourism entrepreneurs often complain to me that they often don’t even know the local or county tourism board is attending or attended a fair. Is it not the point of a tourism board to notify local entrepreneurs who are part of a tourism product of attending a fair, sending them feedback on how it went and what they can expect? What are tourism boards selling at fairs if not local stories and experiences made by local entrepreneurs? Tourism boards are support for people in the field who create these experiences and in the end make up tourism. What is the point of tourism boards? Are they meant to be their own purpose? We have our pots mixed up.

It’s always been about and always will be about the people. Naturally there are always positive examples, but this is more despite the system, than with the help of it.

Either we are or we aren’t. Either we play the game or we don’t. If we are going to a fair, especially in London or Berlin, the biggest and most important, then we must give our best to present ourselves. Why not use our diversity and authenticity to be different, create a motive for coming and presenting in the best light.

Of course, the HTZ budget is far smaller than other large tourism destinations, but this is why we should use our advantages, stories, creativity, innovation to stand out. We have creative and successful designers, agencies, innovator… we have it all. It seems one doesn’t need to be too creative when we know that we are the land of the neck tie, fountain pen, parachute… We just need to know how to use this fact.

The issue is not with money, but with people.

For the end, as a plastic example of the entire hypothesis, how to be different and attract attention, I will point out the stand of the Vir Tourism Board at the recently ended tourism fair in Zagreb, Place2Go. A stand that certainly left a mark in every visitor’s memory and attracted attention. And when we attract attention to our performance, it must be at a high level.


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