We are witnessing the great discovery of Lika which is growing and can grow even more in terms of tourism, and development has to be sustainable.
The area of Plitvice and Lika, in general, are exceptionally important for Croatian tourism, and there is great potential in this region for developing a new offer based on authenticity and sustainability, which tourists find more and more appealing, and which is to a great extent the goal of sustainable development in tourism. Even though the offer is still lacking, particularly in the area of accommodation, we expect that the following years will bring about the great discovery of Lika as a destination of active and other types of vacationing, which will undoubtedly push new investments by the private sector, some of which are already being completed this year.
Additionally, everything will be even better promoted, both on the domestic and foreign markets, by the increasingly active Croatian National Tourist Board (CNTB) and the system of local tourist boards, including the Tourist Board of the Lika-Senj County. While Lika and the area of Plitvice have been promoted as ideal destinations for years, this year special emphasis will be placed on promoting the less known or visited parts of the county.
Kristjan Staničić, the director of the Main Office of the Croatian National Tourist Board, has weighed in on the situation with Lika and Plitvice for The Plitvice Times and has also described promotional plans and expectations for the upcoming year.
How does the Croatian National Tourist Board see Lika and the connected area of Plitvice as a destination? How important is this region for Croatian tourism?
As this is a region where the most prominent and most visited of our eight national parks is located, i.e. a natural treasure added to the World Heritage list, we do not have to talk about it only in terms of its importance for Croatian tourism, but of its immeasurable importance for Croatia as a whole. This year we are intensively working on developing continental tourism, continental areas and inland Croatia in general, so to that end the CNTB’s programme for 2019 includes a host of activities related to the promotion and development of tourism in continental Croatia, including Lika. We believe that this region, when considering its current touristic traffic, has the potential for much larger growth. Tourism has a multiplicative effect, and its development is an opportunity for many other economic activities and subjects in the area to grow and develop. Through all of that, our goal is to preserve the Plitvice Lakes National Park as a protected natural location, along with the rest of the exceptional and pristine nature, and to develop tourism only through a sustainable model.
What do the CNTB and the system of tourist boards, in cooperation with other stakeholders in the region, plan in terms of the region’s promotion this year?
We see this tourist year as another opportunity to promote the Lika-Senj County as an ideal destination, not just as a waystation on the road to the sea, but as a primary choice for a full vacation. So this year, in collaboration with the Lika-Senj County Tourist Board, we are strongly focusing on promoting the less known and visited locations in the county, which can and have to become recognisable to both foreign and domestic guests following the success of top destinations such as Novalja and Plitvice. The elements of the planned joint promotion range from active tourism, which is on the rise in the area in the last couple of years, over the increasingly recognisable gastronomy to the unique natural beauty.
In addition, we will continue to intensively include the region in all of the foreign markets where the CNTB is present. In the sense of branding and marketing and promotional activities, last year we supported a series of projects throught the Slavonia Cluster, our support is also well-known in the Dalmatian Hinterlands, where we set a good example with merging the tourist boards in Imotska Krajina. We have a similar project in mind for Gorski Kotar this year, as well as for Hrvatsko Zagorje and Međimurje. This is all being done because continental Croatia, including Lika, has great potential for developing various selective and sought after forms of tourism based on authenticity and autochthonous products, which is exactly what the region has to offer.
Are there perhaps some special promotional projects in store for the region?
Lika and the Plitvice region are a mandatory visual part in essentially all marketing campaigns conducted on foreign markets. For example, last year’s spring campaign conducted on 15 markets featured Plitvice as part of the special communication related to cyclotourism in the context of one of the most attractive cycling routes in Croatia. Similarly, a whole host of foreign journalists, global bloggers, influencers and agents are taken to the Lika-Senj County, i.e. Plitvice and the Plitvice region. Depending on the season and prepared programme, which is typically organised in collaboration with local tourist boards, the Plitvice Lakes National Park and the County Tourist Board, most people do not expect such a rich offer in the region, and their surprise and delight is always nice to see. What we are particularly careful about when designing itineraries is to present this destination which offers much more than a one-day tour of a national park. The results of creatively designed programmes include a proposal, if you remember when the blogger from Dubai Vivek Kukreti proposed to his girlfriend Nisha at the Plitvice Lakes National Park, a protected jewel of Croatian tourism.
What’s the statistical data on arrivals and overnight stays in the region? Is there a particular market where there is special interest for the area?
In 2018, the Lika-Senj County registered around 813 thousand arrivals and just over 3.3 million overnight stays. Around one fifth of the overnight stays and just over half of the arrivals were registered in the continental part of the county. This is still to a large extent the result of the traffic noted by the Plitvice Lakes National Park and surrounding area, but with the further development of the tourist offer this could significantly improve. Based on markets, the greatest interests comes from key markets in Germany, Italy and France, as well as distant locations such as the USA, China, South Korea and Japan. Those guests are particularly interesting because we know they travel during pre- and post-season in tours, and they especially value pristine nature, historical and cultural landmarks and gastronomy.
What is, in your opinion, necessary to increase the frequency of tourists in the region? More programmes, tours, better accommodation and other offers, more people who want to work in tourism, or something else?
I’m sure that a combination of all of the above would contribute to getting more tourists, especially during pre- and post-season. Attractions, sports events, festivals, high quality accommodation, organised tours – all of it constitutes motive for tourist arrivals at a destination. Lika and the Plitvice region has grown and is still growing in that sense, the capacities and offer are increasing, as is the quality, so I believe that this growth will continue. A lot has been invested in accommodation, but also in additional, even exclusive and luxury content which makes a destination more attractive, all of which resulted in the growth of tourism.
How does destination management work for the region and how important is it for the sustainable development of tourism?
The Lika-Senj County Tourist Board is conducting the activities in its purview well and they are promoting the tourist offer of the county both at home and abroad in collaboration with the CNTB. We’re working hard on enriching the total touristic offer, especially selective types of tourism. As an example, I could mention the project for branding family accommodation in the Lika-Senj County which the county tourist board has been running under the motto „Blue and green homestay“. This project specifically brands accommodation that is bike, hike and moto-bike friendly. In addition, they have recently created a new promotional film which promotes the touristic offer of the county – all of its touristic products, cultural and natural heritage, with special emphasis on the exceptionally rich and diverse gastronomy of the region.
Destination management can be clearly depicted on the example of last year’s first Festival of Walking in the Lika-Senj County. Within the scope of the project, the County Tourist Board as the organiser consolidated all subject and services required to realise the event, both on the horizontal and vertical levels, and used the realisation of this project to display the permanent focus on developing active tourism in the region.
Similarly, the Lika-Senj County Tourist Board is active in all projects executed by the Main Office of the Croatian National Tourist Board and participates in joint advertising, nominates projects for the CNTB’s support programmes, exhibits at fairs, etc. It actively participates in the EDEN European project which promotes less developed regions and searches for the best areas in Europe, as well as conducts numerous other activities for the improvement and promotion of the county’s tourist offer.
By Tatjana Miščančuk