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article imageTourism in Croatia: Meet Josko Stella, Central Dalmatia Director Special

By Paul Bradbury     Apr 30, 2014 in Travel
Split - Tourism in Central Dalmatia is booming. A combination of sun, beach, heritage, adventure and gastronomy is attracting more tourists every year. Digital Journal meets Central Dalmatia Tourist Board director Josko Stella.
These are good times for tourism in Central Dalmatia, as more people discover the diverse treasures of the both the Adriatic coast and islands and the Dalmatian hinterland. Digital Journal met Director of the Central Dalmatia Tourist Board Josko Stella on April 27, 2014 to find out more about the reasons behind this trend.
Director Josko Stella  who is pushing to promote the destination on all fronts.
Director Josko Stella, who is pushing to promote the destination on all fronts.
1. There was a surge in tourism in Central Dalmatia in 2013, particularly from the UK. Why is that do you think?
I think it is very simple: tourists who come from the UK and elsewhere are very satisfied with the service. We are also engaging in very aggressive marketing via the Internet, agent presentations, media, and we are particularly targeting the UK, Scandinavia and Poland. These were all up 25% and are very responsive, particularly for the pre and post season. We will continue to push the destination with all means at our disposal - fairs, Internet, social media, agents, print magazines and so on.
2. Cruise tourism is on the rise in Croatia, which some see as a bad thing. One million visitors to Dubrovnik for example, and 300,000 and rising to Split last year. Is it a good thing?
With more than 1 million passengers to Dubrovnik and 300 000 to Split in 2013  cruise tourism in Cro...
With more than 1 million passengers to Dubrovnik and 300,000 to Split in 2013, cruise tourism in Croatia is on the rise.
Split Tourist Board
Cruise tourism is controversial but it can be a very interesting and distinctive type of tourism, but it is one that needs to be carefully managed, as it can affect the other types of tourist flow. It is especially important to address the needs of ecology and management, especially in Split, so that we can give the best experience to both cruise and non-cruise tourism, without collision. This can only be achieved by smart management and cooperation between the port authority, town and tourist boards together on the best way to manage cruise tourism.
The annual Alka festival  celebrating the defeat of the Turks in 1715  is the biggest event in Sinj.
The annual Alka festival, celebrating the defeat of the Turks in 1715, is the biggest event in Sinj.
Alan Mandic
3. Dalmatia has astonishing heritage, something you are passionate about. Tell us about the Roman Roads Project.
Central Dalmatia has no problem selling itself as a sun and sea destination in the summer, but we need to develop pre and post season tourism. We have great Roman heritage, something we are developing into the most extensive Roman heritage tourism in Croatia. We will have thematic Roman roads for tourists to visit. In the first phase, there will be 4-5, in the second phase, 8-9. These will be thematic routes connecting Split, Solin, Trilj, Dugopolje, and they will connect with other features, not just the Roman.
The new organic Plavac Mali vineyards of Andro Tomic on Hvar  voted the best in Central Dalmatia for...
The new organic Plavac Mali vineyards of Andro Tomic on Hvar, voted the best in Central Dalmatia for 2013.
Bastijana
4. Dalmatia has incredible wines, but no wine road of Dalmatia, despite the fact that wine roads exist in neighbouring regions such as Istria and Hercegovina. Why is this?
A project to build a wine road did start in 2005, but we are lacking unity among the winemakers themselves. They are all doing their own business without working together. We have a great opportunity to develop destination management in wine tourism, selling wining and dining as a product. There are some great agencies already doing this, and the tourist boards are supporting such an initiative. We are pushing agencies to produce a quality product.
5. Central Dalmatia has a strong social media presence - 2.5 million YouTube views for just 4 videos, 180,000 Facebook fans etc.
Social media is extremely important in the modern age, and we are aggressively promoting the destination by all means available. There will be more videos, thematic videos around topics such as wine and dine, cultural heritage etc. There videos are self-explanatory and tell their own story, and are a great way to promote the destination. We will be working on more of these in 2014 in preparation for the 2015 season.
The filming of Game of Thrones was obviously a great opportunity for the region, and at the recent fair in Barcelona, we brought the actual throne (ok, perhaps a copy...), as well as 10,000 maps of the county showing filming locations with descriptions, from which we received great feedback.
The 2013 Ultra Beach party on Hvar
The 2013 Ultra Beach party on Hvar
Suncani Hvar
6. Croatia is becoming Europe's number one festival destination, and Split hosted a successful Ultra Europe festival last year, which will be extended by a day in 2014. There was a little more controversy on the decision to host the beach party in the middle of one the top luxury destinations - Hvar Town in peak season. This will be repeated once again in 2014. What are your thoughts?
I am a great supporter of Ultra, and we are working well to coordinate this year's event. I told them I would have preferred something a month earlier, but this is something I could not change. There were certain infrastructure problems last year, but it was the beginning, and this year's event should be much better. We also had problems with expensive accommodation and if this happens again, I invite people to find places to stay in destinations such as Trogir and Omis which are close and less expensive.
Regarding the beach party, I was pushing for Bol and met with the local council. It was a great opportunity to present Bol as an extra quality beach, with the party only going on until midnight, but they said no. In Hvar the space is much more restricted. Bol is a better location for such an event. I offered them locations on the mainland, but they wanted an island.
Zlatni Rat on Brac is Croatia s most iconic beach
Zlatni Rat on Brac is Croatia's most iconic beach
Wikimedia
Such an event in Hvar Town in peak season? I understand the concerns, but it is an event for 2-5,000 people and limited by time. The thing to note is that each destination must decide what it wants to be, and Hvar is always floating between party and elite tourism. They can be what they want to be, but they have to decide, and they should not simply let tourism happen. In my opinion, Hvar does not exploit its rich cultural tourism enough (oldest public theatre in Europe etc.), and it is not presented in the right way. If it was, there would be more guests pre and post season. But it is for Hvar to decide.
The Roman roads of Dalmatia offer another angle in the region s rich tourism offer.
The Roman roads of Dalmatia offer another angle in the region's rich tourism offer.
7. Hydroplanes. An exciting project which could revolutionise tourism in the region, as well as life on the islands. They have been trying for 13 years. What is the latest, and what message does that send out to investors in tourism in Croatia?
The ECA island-hopping service will allow tourists to concentrate on the reason for their holiday - ...
The ECA island-hopping service will allow tourists to concentrate on the reason for their holiday - fun.
European Coastal Airlines
I am very sorry that they have had to wait so long. It is obviously not good, but finally they will be starting, and it will be a great boost to tourism on the islands, especially for Hvar and Vis, as Brac and Solta are much closer to Split. It opens up great new possibilities for tours and tourism, particularly for the luxury market.
It is hard to have elite tourism when you are dependent only on the ferries, so this is a great thing, and I believe it will have a very positive impact on our tourism.
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