Tuesday, October 07, 2014

365 In A Croatian Style

You are about to read a promotional feature for Croatia. I have, therefore, to apologise in advance for any offence that this might cause, but as, for the purposes of research and appreciation of what the competition does, I am one of 1,323,186 people who - as of 6 October - like the "Love Croatia" Facebook page, I feel it is only right to share with you the promotion for what is a key competitor to Mallorca.

Since the start of October, this Facebook page has added a video for the island of Hvar and eight other posts replete with spectacular photography that has been supplied officially and by visitors both direct to the page and through a linked Instagram page. What does one get from these nine posts alone? Well, for example, if you are looking for what to do in October, you can link to the official website which will tell you about Croatia 365, all-year round Croatia. This tells you that the country is "rich in natural beauty and well-preserved cultural heritage, specifically by its diversity". It goes on to inform you that you can "take a ride by bike where, long ago, Roman legions walked". You can check out destinations for culture, biking, outdoor, health and wellness, meetings and incentives and wine and gastronomy.

With a different post, you could have supplied your own words to complete the following: "Visiting Croatia was ...". I gave up checking the hundreds of comments after the first loads of "magical", "dream", "heaven on earth" and what have you, some of them with further photos.

The first post for October was another one to remind you about the possibilities which exist all year, a link to "Croatia 365, Experience Croatia all year round". This project, "Croatia 365", was launched in the summer by the country's tourism ministry. The purpose of the project is, naturally enough, to bring tourists in "once the summer sun has gone". The focus of the project is the six elements I list above - culture, biking, etc. - and in addition to improving facilities and activities in order to meet the project's objectives, there will be (and now is) an intensive marketing campaign, as might be noted through the "Love Croatia" Facebook page. As part of this project, twenty-two destinations within the country have guaranteed that at least 50% of all tourism and restaurant facilities will stay open.

One can't directly compare Croatia with Mallorca for one obvious reason - Croatia is a country - yet in terms of tourism, it wasn't at one time so dissimilar in that it was a part of a larger country. Yugoslavia, though it never created or really craved mass tourism, was in the 1950s far more open than Spain was to foreign tourists. So there was a long history of tourism development for Croatia to draw on once it became independent and once the wars that followed the break-up of Yugoslavia ceased.

At one stage in the late 1980s, total tourist arrivals to Croatia were over ten million per annum. At their lowest, in 1992, they were a little over two million. There was a hell of a lot of recovery and catch-up to be done, and it took until 2006 for the ten million barrier to be broken again. Between 2011 and 2013, the growth was significant; three million more tourists within the space of three years. The annual total is now over 14 million (roughly what the Balearics as a whole receive).

Croatia is a vastly bigger place than Mallorca, so again a direct comparison between the two is questionable. However, the Mallorcan tourism industry recognises Croatia for what it is: a direct competitor. And if you look at what the Croatia 365 project wants to achieve, you will find that it is remarkably similar to what Mallorca covets by way of all-year tourism; culture, cycling, meetings, they're the same.

There is a very meaningful comparison between the two when it comes to promotion. Mallorca's direct competitor on the Adriatic has its official Facebook page, churning out daily posts with recommendations, photos, videos and visitor comments and feedback. This is linked to the official website where there is of course a great deal more information. And Croatia now has a 365 campaign. Launched only three months ago, it is taking off thanks to social media in a way that a 365 campaign in Mallorca is not and has not. Palma's.

The foundation that oversees Palma 365 is to pay 48,000 euros apiece to a UK and a German PR company. The main purpose is for these PR companies to get press coverage. Which is all well and good, but has it gone unnoticed that there are different media out there? 1,323,186 people. Croatia, where 365 means 365 or where at least there is "an intensive marketing campaign". Who's playing catch-up now?

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