February 21, 2021 – Last year may have been a disaster for global tourism, but it was a spectacular disaster for Croatian tourism promotion in the US market, albeit entirely by accident.

Sometimes (actually quite often when it comes to Croatian tourism) things happen completely by accident.

Sometimes something good comes out of a terrible situation, literally every cloud has a silver lining.

And during the disastrous tourism year of 2020, I noticed a recurring theme of hope for Croatian tourism – the most well-known penetration of Croatian tourism advertising into the important US market.

When ABC News contacted TCN in July to investigate how Americans were traveling to Croatia during the pandemic, I was a little hesitant at first. The promotion of travel in July 2020, particularly from the US when COVID-19 was raging, had to upset some people. My position on Corona was consistently that my opinion does not matter and the more transparent the facts are, the more people can make better decisions.

And while ABC News may have people getting on a plane to Dubrovnik, the bigger impact has likely been of the longer term. A welcome message to Americans that there is a beautiful country in Europe waiting to welcome you as soon as you are ready and able to travel.

I decided to get involved and connect ABC News with the best Dubrovnik fixer I know. Kreso Macan went beyond duty again. The ABC News crew was skillfully assisted by Mayor Mato Frankovic and the director of the Dubrovnik Tourist Board Ana Hrnic and had some unforgettable days.

And the Americans saw and wondered. An estimated 12.5 million viewers watched the Good Morning America feature, one of six stories ABC News released as a result of their visit.

Mayor Frankovic posted on social media to thank ABC for its “priceless” promotion. Croatian tourism promotion was one thing, but the bigger psychological impact was the message of a welcoming country with pristine beaches and historic towns waiting with open arms. At a time when the world was closed to American travelers, there was a beautiful ray of European sun here.

Croatia. Bucket List 2021.

News spread in the Washington Post, not only because of Croatia’s open interaction with Americans, but also because of a new lifestyle tourism in Croatia. After an open letter from Split-based Dutch entrepreneur Jan de Jong to Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic, the Croatian Prime Minister gave the Dutchman an application just 44 days later – a digital nomad visa for Croatia.

At the time of the announcement, there were only four other countries offering such a visa, only Estonia in Europe. The legislation was passed in parliament and the new law came into force on January 1, 2021. The first digital nomad approved with the new permit, an American woman in Istria, gave TCN her first interview – Meet Melissa Paul, holder of Croatia’s first Digital Nomad Visa.

Here was a country that not only welcomed Americans, but opened up to long-term options for remote workers.

A country with a lifestyle.

A country popular with American celebrities reported Forbes.

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And definitely a rising star in the luxury world of superyachts, reported Bloomberg.

All of this during a team where no money was spent on tourism promotion, and at a time when a captive audience eager to travel was getting glorious Croatian promotional material for tourism, mostly by accident.

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When tourism collapsed elsewhere, Croatia seemed to be pushing its luxury tourism Forbes, one of many international publications covering the opening of the Maslina Resort on Hvar.

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5 star island luxury hotel openings on Hvar or Lopud – make your choice as Robb Report.reports about the outstanding transformation of the luxury legacy in Lopud in 1483.

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Forbes wasn’t the only one to notice Maslina on Hvar – here is Luxe rating.

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And that message of 5-star luxury American welcome made it to Forbes again, this time from Dubrovnik.

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And the latest fabulous free Croatian tourism promo for US market, as CNN combined all of that into one great piece that focused on the new opportunity for digital nomads including chats with Melissa Paul as well as Mexican and Singaporean nomads currently in Croatia.

All of this in a year when people dreamed of traveling rather than traveling. And dreams of future trips have grown as a result.

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And there were other pandemic benefits for Croatian tourism promotion. With a subdued inauguration of the president on January 20, smaller stories took on greater significance. This included a fantastic advertisement for Croatian wine, a Story that first appeared online in English on TCN on January 9th.

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The New York Times I was there and this time looked at the options for luxury real estate in Croatia. There seemed to be two clear messages emanating from all of this advertising – luxury and lifestyle.

Perfect for the American market.

I spoke to Ina Rodin, director of the Croatian National Tourism Association in New York, and asked her about her thoughts:

Last year has been a challenge for the travel and tourism industry. Croatia, no stranger in distress, has seen a series of devastating earthquakes alongside an unprecedented global pandemic. Despite these challenges, the country has mastered these crises skillfully. The government made bold decisions to keep the borders open, a powerful and strategic move that kept the country on US travelers’ radar. A move that US media such as Forbes, Afar and ABC News, to name a few, reported positively.

As a result, despite travel restrictions and limited air access, Croatia had a significant number of visitors from the States. In addition, the recent introduction of the nomad digital visa program was timely and contributed to the positive perception of the country by people abroad. Efforts to ease the demands of work and travel are a fail-safe plan for long-term tourism growth and should create a more progressive and inspiring environment for both locals and visitors. We hope that these new programs will give our tourism strategy a new perspective.

While most of the above actions took place organically, one of the bigger challenges of the 2020 season lay with the Zagreb Tourist Board – what to do with the globally popular December event Advent in Zagreb? With fluctuating restrictions and many postponed trips, any event would be very different from its predecessors, but keeping the story and brand going was also important. He succeeded when he was again named one of the best Christmas markets in Europe Conde Nast Traveler.

I asked Martina Bienenfeld, Director of the Zagreb Tourist Board, how it went:

Last year was the biggest challenge for everyone and especially for us in the travel industry. The Zagreb Tourist Board turned challenges into opportunities resulting from new projects. By adapting to the situation, we created new virtual and hybrid content.

With this in mind, we created an interactive augmented reality exhibition with the title Virtual Christmas Windows in preparation for Advent in Zagreb 2020, which conveys a touch of holiday mood with the animated Advent motifs. The other novelty was a project and campaign called The Light of Advent in which we initiated the festive decoration of windows of 10 public institutions in the Upper Town. We have also invited our citizens to send us their Christmas photos. As a result of the campaign, we had a reach of more than 230,000 people, 240,000 impressions and we received over 300 photos, which can be seen in the # ZagrebLoop video on www.adventzagreb .hr.

The other innovation was the Zagreb Nativity Scene, a virtual exhibition with photographs of nativity scenes in churches that was taken from 2007 to 2019. In addition, in December we organized hybrid activities with live streaming of Advent concerts on our online channels. Implementing digital innovations has helped us create unique virtual and interactive content throughout 2020. The pandemic has shown us that today more than ever we need cooperative efforts, support and mutual trust from all those involved in the tourism industry. Tourism brings people together and despite the difficulties we have encountered, I am sure that we will build new memories again

2020 was a year tourism in general should forget, but a memorable year for Croatian tourism promotion in the US.

Let’s hope 2021 can be the year when Croatian tourism and Croatian tourism promotion shine together. To remind our American readers, luxury tour operators Secret Dalmatia I have just released the first in a series of great videos promoting the magic of Croatia that awaits you when the trip returns to normal.

For more information on traveling in Croatia, see Follow the appropriate TCN section.