South East Europe: Croatia Offers Value For Money
Interview with Daniel Marušuć, Director of Dubrovnik Travel Croatia.
Can you highlight for us out the positives and the negatives for the Croatian Congress industry?
Looking for now at our prime market, Europe, Croatia is the best-positioned and best-equipped destination for international meetings and events in Europe. Our infrastructure is visibly growing and improving in quality day by day. ‘Value for money’: that is Croatia today, and definitely many meeting and incentive planners say so. The feedback is always great, as the expectation is always lower from the end users, but the results are amazing, people are so happy and compare Croatia to the best in the world, some even saying that it’s a paradise and we should keep it as a secret and never change it – so for many it is as good as it is today! Let me also mention today’s four Croatian aces: Dubrovnik, as the regional flagship for conferences and incentives; Hvar, as the party island, funky getaway for mid-size groups; Split, over 1,700 years of history and today’s vibrant life meeting in one unique Mediterranean place; and Zagreb, a new European capital heartily welcoming delegates hungry for new and rocking destinations.
In Croatia I would love to improve:
a) the flight connections to destinations, mostly in winter months, as, for example, while it is zero degrees in most west and east and north European capitals, in south Croatia we talk about 10-15C in the air and in the sea!! And we talk about really low off-season deals and prices and so much space to choose from and so much better time for delegates to explore and have even better fun and work here.
b/ I would definitely also change the complete state administration around travel business - the state is still politically influencing major development issues in the country and it is so annoying to see these inexperienced political figures playing God in travel business, talking about and deciding on strategic issues for the travel business that this country desperately needs to be solved immediately.
c/ we need a professional, active and dedicated non-political convention bureau, and not one where, as today, they put the meetings and incentives office (the ex CVB) among with other things such as, with all due respect, campers, hikers, birdwatchers etc!
Does the Croatian Congress industry need change? If so, what kind of change?
All industries need a constant “change”, if we call it that, and if we bring down the political barriers it is going to happen in a dynamic way in Croatia. These days we are working in a customer-driven business world, so our mission is to be flexible and customers need to see that. In Croatia today many suppliers are very professional and up to date. Some, however, despite still wanting to be in this industry, are still living in the past with their minds, but the results show which destination in Croatia knows the business better and which one is still learning and which is a “wannabe” meeting destination. The same goes for the DMCs: DT Croatia, as the leading international DMC for meetings and events in Croatia, is constantly and with both our feet and our hands on every detail of what our customers need and what we can do to make them feel as satisfied as possible– and bear in mind also that we all do business by agreed terms and common business ethics.
Are you missing a Croatia Convention Bureau and what are your views on this issue?
Of course Croatia needs a professional office for the meetings and incentives industry. There is no doubt about it. Again, to see how political interests are more important in this country and in some parts of the industry is so annoying. That’s why today we don’t have the Convention Bureau any longer, we have a “department”. As a strong supporter of the Convention Bureau role for a country like Croatia, I believe very soon it will be obvious that a CVB is necessary to obtain serious strategic steps.
How was this year’s congress season and what are the trends for the coming year?
This year was great and we are already preparing for 2015. Trends are safety, for sure always number one, and then ‘price down, quality up’, and you get the business – and, as always… adding a hint of funky and sexy to it all doesn’t hurt. But, the troubles in Ukraine, the Middle East, Africa, they may all affect some decisions and change some movements, even overnight. We expect that. Nothing is normal today – apart from chaos, and we are aware of it!
In your experience and from your many years in business, how would you say world trends and improvements play a role in retaining congress customers?
Indeed, following trends is equal to growth in the amount of business, but also keeping one’s customers loyalty as well. It is the same with any other product or service - it is all being part of the game, or… ending up in the second league, if one is not prepared and ready.
How do you plan to attract new congress guests with your offer?
We already have an established network of very successful DT marketing and sales tools. Our representative network is the best combination and number one team for helping DT be globally one of the most respected DMCs, and I mean globally! Our customers recognize our quality and the safety of working with DT Croatia; our company is the most stable DMC in the region, and not only today, but from 1998 since it was established. Our business is pure B2B.
What innovations in event organisation are required to move our borders and meet the demand of clients?
Daily innovations in communication and technology solutions, and also being visibly active on the site management of events, as well as pre- and post-event needs.
Is there enough staff to meet the needs of a congress guest, and if not, which staff do you think is lacking?
Looking at the average European destination that is competing with Croatia I don’t see anything lacking; I even see a better ratio here, but I do always say that in our industry it is always better to be extra-staffed for all kinds of events, because here we are talking about important business events and thousands of individuals meeting each other with individual business needs. Also, the spending per delegate in a destination is usually four or five times higher than a normal traveller spends, so they deserve more attention. Definitely more staff are always needed at bars and restaurants – and I don’t understand property owners trying to save money by saving an employee or two instead of outsourcing extra staff for an event to make extra money that night or that day!
Current trends indicate continuing education and improvement of the employees as well business firms. Can you tell us in which way you develop your own employees?
Our team does not have time for that! Just joking. We do daily mentoring and also periodical group and individual education. Most time spent on education and improvements is during the winter months when there is less time spent on site.
What is your message to Kongres readers?
Keep on supporting all of the meeting and incentives media - our voices need to be heard all over the world. Every day I meet people and politicians who think working in our industry is easy and a quick profit, but they are so wrong! It is a tough world, but it is fun as well. We all need to share information and experience to live in a better world. Kongres helps a lot. Keep sharing!