Remember the World Cup? Google Trends on How Croatia Took Advantage (Not)

Total Croatia News


July 7, 2019 – A year after Croatia’s incredible success at the World Cup in Russia, Google Trends reports on how the Kingdom of Accidental Tourism took advantage of this free gift. 

It was a unique moment in time, and arguably the most joyous in the history of Croatia. And even though this Englishman felt the pain of semi-final defeat, one could not but wish this plucky and tiny nation which dared to dream all the best.  


(Photo credit Slobodan Kadic)

As incredible as the heroics on the pitch were, it was also the warmth and passion of their travelling fans which injected so much enthusiasm for Croatia all over the globe, aided of course by THAT shirt. 

Although I have been to 95 countries and lived in ten, I have never experienced a euphoria quite like the one that swept through Croatia on those balmy days in July.

And despite the pain of defeat in the final, the very best was yet to come – an incredible 550,000 people on the streets of Zagreb waiting to welcome their heroes home. Even, Croatia’s most popular website and a big critic of many things happening in The Beautiful Croatia, announced that it would only write happy stories until the World Cup was over. Croatia was a different country, and it was an exhilirating time to be in the country. 



And the media coverage was unprecedented. More than 60 BILLION impressions on articles about Croatia in those days in mid-July, more online mentions of Croatia than the rest of the entire 27 years online, according to media monitoring company, Mediatoolkit. 

A tourism gift to beat all tourism gifts, and it didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that branding football with tourism was a total winner. Did it? 

Fate even played its hand. While nobody expected the Croatian team to do so well, a promotional video by the Croatian National Tourist Board several months before the finals was the perfect tool to take advantage. As BBDO director Luka Dubokovic, whose agency was behind the video, explained in a TCN interview how the video was adapted to local markets after the unexpected success, there was some short-term reinforcement of the message.

Director of the Croatian National Tourist Board, Kristijan Stancic, announced days after the final how he expected things to impact Croatian tourism:

“Although it’s difficult to speak about concrete figures and how much of this success will be translated into more arrivals and overnight stays in Croatia at the minute, a positive impact is expected, and almost all of our partners in key emitting markets, especially from France, the USA, Italy, Austria, Great Britain, Russia and others, have confirmed that such expectations are realistic.”

And then… nothing. 

And looking at the results of Google Trends, a useful tool which shows how much a keyword (in this case, Croatia) is searched over time (see lead photo), it was as though the World Cup – and the gift that came with it – never happened.

But not everyone was blind to the potential of tourism promotion and tourism.  Tiny Rwanda, a small Central African nation which had never been to the World Cup or had a player in the Premier League (indeed only 20 Rwandese players have every played professionally outside their home country, mostly in other African states) took the initiative by linking up with Premier League giants Arsenal in a successful partnership. You can learn more about it in the video above and Lessons from Rwanda: Promoting Tourism Through Football, African-Style

It remains to be seen if Director Stancic is correct in his optimistic predictions of a year ago, as many people report tourism traffic sharply down on a year ago. One thing is clear – the golden opportunity afforded by last year’s euphoria on the football pitches has not been cashed in. 

It is always easy to criticise, without coming up with solutions. So here is a blueprint, easily doable and playing to Croatia’s sustainable strengths to develop its tourism 12 months a year – Branding Croatia for the Future: 5 Gifts and Trends To Focus On.


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