Ultra Europe Takes Control of the Branding of Hvar, Split and Bol

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YouTube screenshot Ultra Europe Aftermovie

The recently released Ultra Europe 2015 Aftermovie is a masterpiece. And a redefining of a destination it entered only three years ago.

Our most sincere congratulations to the team at Ultra Europe for one of the most impressive Croatian tourism videos I have ever seen. The release of the Ultra Europe 2015 Aftermovie on January 21, 2016 is already proving extremely popular and well on the way to emulating the 2 million plus views on YouTube achieved by previous Ultra Europe aftermovies. Indeed, compared to the promotional efforts of the local tourist boards, its reach is already dwarfing theirs, with last night’s release amassing more views in the 5 hours I slept overnight than the Split Tourist Board’s recent video offering, ‘It’s Joy, It’s Split’, which was released exactly a month ago. The new video is below, a truly excellent production.

The outstanding presentation, focused message and global reach has given Ultra tremendous influence over the definition of the destination where their festival is held, and there is no denying that the festival has brought increased tourism, increased revenues and increased promotion of the destination, all of which are of course welcome. And, if the official mission is to promote the city of Split and the islands of Hvar, Brac and Vis as party destinations for the under 30s, I doubt one could have commissioned a more engaging, focused or professional promotional film. The contrast with the limp ‘It’s Joy, It’s Split’ tourist board video a month ago could not be starker.

The release of the masterful video is the latest benchmark of a statement made by Ultra organiser Joe Basic at the first Ultra Europe press conference at the Poljud Stadium in Split in April 2013, in which he stated:

“We have single-handedly changed the profile of the destination. Some 80% of guests in Hvar Town for the week of the festival will be connected to the festival.”

One of the big discussions about Ultra Europe has been the decision to host its beach party in the largest family hotel in the middle of peak season on one of Croatia’s most exclusive resorts, Hvar Town. The only island in the world with four UNESCO heritages, the oldest public theatre in Europe and a host of other cultural attractions which appeal to an older non-party crowd. That discussion is perhaps no longer relavent, as the definition of the destination now belongs to others, and while the party versus culture debate may be a hot one in the island’s cafes, it is clear how Split and Hvar are going to be perceived globally. 

And, as I said above, if the official mission is to promote these destinations as a cool party place for the under 30s, mission accomplished. 

As a further sign of how Ultra Europe now controls the branding  of these popular Dalmatian destinations, look no further than the popular resort of Bol on Brac. As you can see from the lead photo (a screenshot from the aftermovie video), Ultra Europe has been branded as a festival covering Split, Brac, Hvar and Vis. What is not pointed out is the fact that two of these destinations actually refused to have Ultra Europe, as they did not want their destinations to be branded as party destinations.

Bol on Brac used to be the top party destination on the Croatian coast a decade ago. A conscious decision to change that image, coupled with some outstanding rebranding (the symBOL of the Adriatic) has changed that, and last year, some 40% of tourists were young families. Ultra approached Bol to host a beach party there in 2014, but the town council refused permission. And, as our discussion with the Bol Tourist Board director last year indicates, there was no Ultra beach party at Bol last year, despite the impression given by the video, more a boat party offshore, which took place without any permission being sought. 

It matters not. Bol is now branded as a beach party destination, with its iconic Zlatni Rat beach the poster child of Croatia’s Ultra party image. The island of Vis too said no to Ultra last year, as the idyllic Dalmatian island wanted to protect its image of a tranquil hidden Dalmatian treasure, but a way was found around that too, and Vis is now part of the Ultra party brand. 

A new generation of tourist is discovering Croatia, one whose perception of the country is a hip, party place with few rules, and where anything goes. One of the stand-out comments during the TCN interview with the drunken Australian who was arrested on the roof of Hvar Cathedral this summer was:

“And what is the reputation of Hvar as a destination among Australians?

“Priority number one it is a party place. The heritage and buildings like the cathedral are lost in the party culture.”

My mind works in funny ways these days, and I am reminded of one of the highlights of my short writing career, interviewing John Lydon, aka Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols in Zagreb a few years ago (a highlight for him too, I am sure…). I lost count of the number of people younger than me who asked me the same question when I talked about the interview:

“Who is Johnny Rotten?”

I wonder how many years of party tourism it will take to hear a similar question:

“What is Hvar heritage?”

An excellent piece of work, job done. The profile of the destination has been changed, its image redefined, and with the most professional presentation. All that remains is to join the bandwagon and, in the worlds of another global promotion production of party Hvar in recent years…

Party On!



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