August 30, 2018 — One of the most-maligned public positions in Zadar — Director of the Zadar Tourist Board — drew ten applicants from a wide range of backgrounds.
Can the most qualified candidate get the job if it’s half-controlled by local politics?
Zadar is seeking an energetic candidate to assume the helm of its flailing tourism board.
Candidates must: have some political connections. An ability to learn on the job is a plus, though not necessary.
The open call for applications to helm the Zadar Tourist Board drew ten applicants. A brave lot, considering the organization serves as the de facto whipping boy for the seaside town’s tourism woes.
The candidates will now undergo a still-unclear vetting process, according to Zadarski List. Locals often complain the cozy position is doled out as a political patronage job.
Which begs the question why ten candidates — ranging from the local director of sports to a hotel manager — would want the gig?
The Tourism Council’s president Dražen Grgurović did not hide the political lucre attached to the position.
“Everyone talks about whether politics will interfere. Of course it will, but only with 50 percent, just like everywhere in the world,” Grgurović told Zadarski List in an interview. “The ratio is always 50:50 because the profession in the selection of candidates is included with 50 percent and the politics with 50 and that is by me the most normal thing.
“My word will be the last word,” Grgurović added, later walking back the statement by claiming he meant he’d have minimal influence.
Early reports suggest his 50:50 split is a bit off, with signs suggesting a process beholden to politics more than qualifications.
The broad histories brought by the applicants suggest open season on an organization that plans to spend nearly 3 million kuna on employees this year alone — nearly a quarter of this year’s 12.8 million kuna-budget.
One candidate, for example, is reportedly due a political patronage promotion. Rank-and-file members of the Croatian Democratic Union’s (HDZ) local branch have reportedly eyed the Tourism Board Director’s chair as a reward for younger members such as Zadar’s Sports Director Mario Paleka. Zadarski List reported Paleka’s candidacy, citing sources within the party, mere days after the position became available.
Paleka, to be fair, told Zadarski List his tourism experience: the sporting director worked at hotels in local hotels for eight years as a manager for sports activities, and spent another year at a “firm which worked in tourism.”
Others, such as Hotel Pinja Director Hrvoje Anić, told local papers they’re applying to simply ensure someone with a background in the industry was among those considered.
“I do not even care if I’m chosen. I simply care that someone from within the profession takes over the Tourism Board,” the politically independent hotel director told Zadarski List. “It’s just important to me that it’s someone from this branch. A large number of people here live off of tourism. It’s their existence and that’s a fact which must be respected.”
Anić’s worries stem from experience — the Tourism Board has a long history of alleged nepotism hires. Even now, applicants do not need any professional certifications to get the job. Any under-qualified hire officially has one year to “pass a professional exam” after getting the job.
The position became available after former director Ante Rados gave in to a steady stream of criticism, ending his controversial tenure in the middle of the summer tourism season.
Restauranteurs, renters and nearly anyone with a stake in the seaside town’s summer season have spent the better part of two years lobbing complaints at the board. From the ephemeral (a lack of vision) to the practical (a lack of useful signage), Zadar Tourism Board has been the de facto bogeyman for a town seemingly unable to cash in on positive press and a steady stream of accolades.
This year’s early tourism figures and anecdotes attest to a wobbling system, with empty apartments and bizarre police protocols putting many feel tamp down Zadar’s tourism potential.
The Tourism Board’s new Director may have to radically change course. Some experience may help.