I have already mentioned Mali Lošinj as an example of how a tourist destination is strategically developed, regardless of whether it is an island, a region or a national strategic development. Cities should be available to the local population as a support for development and public service to entrepreneurs and citizens. First and foremost, the most important thing is communication, synergy and joint cooperation with the local population because without it there is no long-term and self-sustainable success. The purpose of tourism is to use the maximum of local resources and to develop the destination so that the local population has a higher quality of life.
I found out how Mali Lošinj, the largest inhabited town on the Croatian islands, does in a conversation with the mayor Anom Kučić. I was interested in the specifics of Lošinj because obviously there is a much higher quality of life, which usually tourist destinations do not have. What is the magic formula of how to keep people and what exactly are all the contents during the year that keep people together?
"I believe that this is the result of many factors, from a secure job, housing we have been working on for many years, providing a quality educational program, health and social services, quality cultural and entertainment facilities, support to the economy. The key is to keep the focus on people and on their needs which has been our goal all this time.
It is up to the cities to listen to the needs of the people, which has become our standard that we have achieved, and we have tried to maintain it even in these challenging times. Although we, like all other local self-government units, felt this crisis, even though a certain number of people moved us somewhere else for bread, we are happy with the fact that a certain number of people also moved to Lošinj, because they found peace there, a quality of life that he may not have been able to find in some other urban centers. Exactly that, keeping our islanders, but also attracting people from the mainland, is our challenge and motivation to invest even more in all segments ", concludes the mayor.
That is the biggest problem. We are talking about this in the last 20-30 years in tourism, all maritime cities are facing this problem, namely tourism is the primary activity, but after the season the destination seems to stop. Although investments are made in infrastructure, the quality of life of the people living in these places is forgotten. You have invested a lot there in recent years and that was crucial. On the island, this is especially important because it is dislocated and not connected to the mainland. On the other hand, there is the island of Cres, with which you signed a cooperation on joint promotion and tourist connections. How do you see that collaboration, where did it go and how do you see the long-term vision, where is the branding of the island and how is it conceived?
"I would say it's a sequence of things we've done so far. In our address, both officially and unofficially, we see ourselves as the Cres-Lošinj archipelago. We are also geographically connected, because a part of the administrative area of the City of Mali Lošinj Lošinj is located on Cres. Although we are different, we are complementary at the same time. For many years there was cooperation between us, so formalizing our cooperation was a really logical sequence that will connect us even more, not only in capital investments that will take place in our area in the future but also in common ideas and reflections. I am sure that only better ideas can come out of that ", points out the mayor of Mali Lošinj.
I keep saying that we have to brand the regions, especially since this is an island. That is our strength and I think that as a whole destination, that is, as the Cres-Lošinj archipelago, we have a different position on the market than when we are separate. If large investments such as a golf course and an airport are realized for some time, it will be a new impetus not only for tourism but also for the economy in general. The season will lengthen and attract new clientele and create new jobs. These jobs will create some new occupations and maybe bring in some new residents. It is a potentially great tourist and economic story. At what stage is it?
"We support all similar investments that generate job creation, but it is necessary that they are in the function of sustainable development. It could be said that we nurture what we have inherited. The golf course is being developed in parallel with the airport, which now has a building permit and is working on closing the financial structure. These two large investments will position Lošinj even stronger on the market, but also create jobs as a precondition for attracting people, entire families from the mainland, ”emphasizes the first woman of Mali Lošinj.
You have had a capital investment situation in hotels. A positive shift in employment is likely to be seen. This large capital investment should encourage employment, the rest of the people, the economy, because if there are 100 or 200 employees they will probably buy an apartment, and those 100 people will be present all year round in the city.
"We will use the example of golf that is planned to be built on the island of Cres, near Punta Križa, which administratively belongs to Lošinj. There are about 30 inhabitants there today. There used to be a lot more people there, as in most of our rural areas. The local committee of Punta Križa gave its support to the golf course construction project, because they are aware that with this project they will revive their village, because all those people who will work on the golf course will be located in the surrounding villages. Therefore, the village is being revitalized, numerous accompanying investments are being realized, and a 12-kilometer-long road will be reconstructed. These are all situations that help us keep rural areas from dying out. Through these projects, we try to look half full, that is, optimistically, in the function of environmental protection and preservation of the environment as well as all our values, without allowing the contamination of areas that are important to us, "explains Kučić.
Here are the key infrastructure projects in the coming years on Lošinj that will contribute to development?
There are a lot of projects, a living room for pensioners, a new health center, a fishing port, the construction of a fire station, and one of the biggest is the agglomeration project, ie the construction of a water utility system. The city took the opportunity and in parallel with the construction of this system and the arrangement of all routes that the system will pass, it designed bicycle paths along its entire length. So, when the agglomeration project starts, we will also deal with public lighting, precipitation drainage, bicycle paths and promenades. As for other projects, we can highlight those that are implemented with the help of the County, the Ministry of the Sea, Transport and Infrastructure, and these are the waterfront in the Union and the construction of the road and port Mrtvaška that will connect us with neighboring islands and Dalmatia. In addition, there is housing through various models for which we have ready project documentation.
I must also mention the energy transition we started last year in cooperation with the City of Cres, because we and Cres were selected as a pilot project of the Secretariat for Islands at the European Commission, which helped us start the construction of solar power plants in Unije and Ustrine. We also started with the development of a smart island development strategy and in a way started to look differently at all the projects we are working on. The younger generations started with the idea of a solar ferry, and that would be a great way to connect with our five inhabited islands. There are a lot of ideas and projects in front of us, we have the will and knowledge, so I have no doubt in their realization ", concludes the mayor of Mali Lošinj Ana Kučić.
Tourism is the people and it is the locals and the indigenous way of life that make the destination unique. Also, the local population must know what their tourism product is as well as their long-term development strategy, because they are the key factor in realizing the strategy. We cannot have four-star hotels in a two- or three-star destination - it makes no sense nor is it self-sustaining because the motive for coming is not a hotel, but a tourist destination. Therefore, the local population, ie the entire destination must be at the same level of performance and quality of content and must be involved in the development of the destination.
Photo: Sandro Tariba, Lošinj Tourist Board / Illustration HrTurizam.hr