The Nation Branding of Croatia and the Importance of Tourism at the Berlin Economic Forum 2016
H. E. Ambassador Ranko Vilović, Ambassador of Croatia to Germany Presented Croatia at the Berlin Economic ForumMarch 22nd, 2016
Ambassador Ranko Vilović began his talk by explaining that cultural diplomacy is one of the tools of soft power that is often neglected, particularly during times of crisis such as the one currently being experienced in Europe. He went on to explain that cultural diplomacy as a tool “becomes more and more important and it indeed is more effective and important that we can imagine.”
With regards to the importance of tourism, His Excellency Mr Vilović explained that it has a central role to play for a number of reasons. Firstly, tourism can be used as a tool for improving the understanding between people and also as a way to connect people and bring them together. He aptly described tourism as “not only about traveling and not only about economy, although it is extremely important for some country’s economy’s, including Croatia’s, but it’s more about understanding people.” Mr Vilović used a map of Europe to point out where Croatia is situated geographically and to explain where the majority of tourists to Croatia come from. He explained that Croatia is a relatively small country, politically independent as of 1991 and a member of the European Union since 2013 with a current GDP growth of approximately 2%. Ambassador Vilović quoted the German Chancellor Angela Merkel: “Croatia has much bigger potential than we realize.” He explained this with the use of some figures, tourism brings about 17% to the national economy which is one of the highest rates in Europe, in 2015 the tourism industry contributed around €8 billion to the economy. Croatia rates as 26th in the world for receiving the most amount of tourists, which for a small country, the Ambassador explained “is a big deal”. The majority of tourists to the country are from Germany and then other countries in Europe due to the ease of access by road as the country is well connected with the rest of Europe.
The Ambassador mentioned also some other benefits of holidaying in Croatia, it has many islands to visit and a mild climate over at least six months of the year which he said stretched the season slightly. The other motive he explained was the high levels of safety in the country; “It’s a very safe country and it’s proven that is one of the safest country’s. When you come you live within the community, you meet people, you talk to them and about 70 – 75% of the people speak foreign languages, German, Italian, English etc. you can really feel comfortable” he said. This aspect of friendship is what he said defined holidays in Croatia as unique, unlike other holidays to resorts, people who holiday in Croatia with their families often build close friendships with the owners from which they rent apartments or villas and consequently find themselves returning year after year. The Ambassador explained that over the last 20 years a number of things have changed that have impacted the tourism industry. Firstly, technology has advanced which means people no longer go to travel agencies but can now book everything online. In this respect marketing activities have had to shift slightly so as not to lose guests. Secondly, he explained that “patterns have changed”, newer generations are looking for more that just somewhere where they can swim, sunbath and eat good food, they are looking for action and to be immersed in history. Croatia, he explained can provide all this, it also has many historical monuments from the Roman times and many other important historical times. Mr Vilović spoke also about Croatian gastronomy being at the highest level as well as their wine production. This he says if one of the ways tourism in Croatia has changed, in order to respond to these changing patterns, “not only does Croatia offer sun, sea and rocks, but much more, like sports, cultural events and music festivals.”
Mr Vilović closed his speech by summarising the uniqueness of Croatia, he explained “ it’s not only the coast, it’s culture, history, traveling around, meeting and connecting with people. It’s tourism, it’s cultural diplomacy which is being carried out not only by us, professional diplomats, but by everybody.” He then took some questions from the audience.
Kristina Žnidarić, Berlin Global