Ivana Alilović: The goal is to position the Zagreb Green Ring towards Zagreb as an ideal weekend destination

Last year and this year, the focus is on continental and rural destinations, which must be highlighted and positioned. The Zagreb County Tourist Board jumped out positively, which in a short time ...

Last year and this year, the focus is on continental and rural destinations, which must be highlighted and positioned. The Zagreb County Tourist Board jumped out positively, presenting several new tourist products in a short time and imposing itself with its offer.

It is certainly necessary to emphasize the cooperation between the Zagreb Tourist Board and the Zagreb County Tourist Board, which together created a special promotional campaign dedicated to Zagreb and its surroundings under the slogan "Near the city, close to the heart" / "Around Zagreb". This is the first time that these two tourist boards are cooperating in partnership, promoting the capital and the Zagreb Green Ring together through a unique destination campaign.

As well as the platform "Holiday never closer" and the positioning of holiday homes and branding truffles.

How satisfied are you with the cooperation and the Around Zagreb platform?

The promotion of Zagreb and its surroundings is a project that was planned more than 10 months before the release, and we successfully conducted the campaign. This is the first time that our two tourist boards are cooperating in partnership and we are happy that we have created a real destination campaign and that we are working together to promote our capital and surroundings.

I would like to emphasize that I am especially proud and happy with the mutual cooperation that emerged as a result of mutual trust and partnership, and above all I emphasize that this is the first such cooperation where we show complementarity that even in these extraordinary conditions there is always the possibility of creating great and long-term projects. tourism knows no boundaries.

The friendship between Zagreb and Zagreb County is expressed in these extraordinary circumstances, mutually confirming mutual trust and partnership, which resulted in the destination campaign "Near the city, close to the heart". In preparation, we followed the trends in the tourism market, and then we launched a joint campaign in three foreign languages: English, German, Slovenian and of course Croatian.

At a time when the health situation is under the magnifying glass everywhere in the world, when it is important to adhere to new rules of social behavior, when we want to return to basics - family, friends, nature and closest business partners, business and tourist travel trends are changing. This is exactly how the new offer of Zagreb and its surroundings began, which focuses on staying in nature, green city oases and staying outdoors in general, with an emphasis on health, safety and sustainability.

"Around Zagreb" brings many ideas for inspiring travel, creative examples of how to spend, for example, three days in Zagreb and its surroundings, the most interesting gastronomic recommendations and a list of cultural and entertainment events to truly get to know the Croatian capital and the beautiful green ring that surrounds it. The platform is constantly updated with new materials and suggestions, and for now the feedback is excellent, as is our cooperation through the past and, of course, the future.
 
This year you also made a new rounded tourist product - Truffle Hunting near Zagreb. Although Istria is a synonym for truffles, now Zagreb County has imposed itself and positioned itself, which is an excellent tourist product, especially due to the proximity of Zagreb as the primary market.
 
That this is true, we have begun to actively work on promoting gastro branding 'Turopolje and Zagreb County', although Istria is synonymous with truffles, black truffles can be found in Turopolje and in the area of ​​Žumberak. It is important to point out that in May 2020 we started for the first time in our destination, the promotion of the new attraction 'black truffle hunting' in 'Turopoljski lug' and offered visitors a new and innovative tourist product, for which there is growing interest and tourists .

In a short time, we have established a value chain of the catering offer, we started with the promotion and innovative approach to the development of the gastronomic offer with truffles in combination with the indigenous cuisine of the Zagreb County. The fact that there are black truffles in Turopolje is a great potential for our destination. We made a promo video about truffle hunting, and you can also taste them in local restaurants. It is necessary to connect value chains, create new tourist products in the destination, only in these new times can we be an attractive destination for all of us.

Photo: Josip Škof

In the meantime, has a cooperation agreement been signed with Hrvatske šume, as the first precondition for the tourist product to function in the field?  

In order for our promotional activities to be well prepared, of course the role of our partners was crucial. Therefore, we signed an Agreement with Croatian Forests on business cooperation for the purpose of promoting truffles and truffle-related tourism. The agreement was signed with the aim of joint cooperation in promoting the cultivation of truffles, research and development of the Center for Mushroom Research, as well as the issuance of truffles in the forest area of ​​Zagreb County.

The key element is that it is necessary to develop the awareness of the local population, and cooperation with 'Croatian Forests' gives us the impetus because it is necessary to define the market and have support in using the forest area of ​​Zagreb County. I believe that we are well on our way to making truffles a brand and a motive for coming to Zagreb County.
 
The emphasis is on sustainable, green and above all safe tourism in the green ring of Zagreb. First of all, discover the undiscovered from today, take home an unforgettable memory of truffle hunting.

Zagreb is your main emitting market. How hard is it to attract tourists to the city to come and discover the county and what are your main strategies to entice them?
 
Since the beginning of the crisis, I emphasize that special focus and demand will be on continental and rural tourism. But just as continental destinations, despite all the challenges, need to be imposed and set up. We did just that with the platform and the “Vacation Never Closer” campaign.

The goal, of course, is to place the entire Zagreb green ring towards Zagreb as much as possible as an ideal weekend destination near the city bustle. Judging by all the market research and data from the eVisitor system, it can be seen that we have hit the niche well with our campaign. We wanted to set up and send a message that guests in our county can stay in a green, rural and protected environment. And all this only half an hour from Zagreb. The moment everything stopped, it was necessary to react and set up, so we decided to start the campaign and did not hesitate in that segment, it proved to be a complete success.

We need to keep pace with innovative trends such as the digital revolution, rising environmental standards and the sustainable development of local communities. It is necessary to develop eno-gastronomy, cultural tourism that is promoted as one of the motives for coming to the destination. I emphasize that authenticity, security and nature are key trends in tourism.

Although it is difficult to single out, what are the five recommendations that tourists should see and make in Zagreb County?
 
The whole county is attractive as a tourist destination, each part of it has its own peculiarities and similarities. I would definitely first suggest a visit to our web platform "Vacation never closer" which aims to inform readers about tourist products of Zagreb County such as wine roads, holiday homes, gastronomic offers and micro destinations located in the county and tell the reader that vacation is never was closer.
 
I always recommend going to Samobor, with its preserved old town and numerous cultural attractions, a lure for tourists not only because of its charm, but also because of the beautiful green surroundings. Mountains and hills, vineyards, forests, streams, picturesque villages, old forts, caves, irresistible local food and a fine drop - all this awaits you in a geographically small but crowded area near Zagreb, which is our tourist flagship.
 
Between Samobor and Zagreb is Sveta Nedelja, which is deservedly on the list of most visited destinations. We suggest a tour of lakes Rakitje, Orešje, Kerestinec and Strmec. It is your choice whether to indulge in fishing, recreation or just enjoying the preserved nature, in the company of many birds that like to gather here. Along Lake Kerestinec, the view is sure to draw you to the neglected medieval castle of Erdödy, the scene of a turbulent history. A return to the 21st century offers a tourist tour of the world-famous electric car factory Rimac Automobili, which sends its innovations to the world from the Sveta Nedelja plant.

Among the most visited destinations in Zagreb County is Ivanić-Grad, known for the gastronomic festival Bučijada or wine festival Škrletovo, a delight for taste buds, and not far from the center is the unique Naftalan, a spa built on the only European source of medicinal oil, which also offers excellent wellness services.

Traditionally, the most visited destination is located in Turopolje, a quiet, mostly lowland rural area with an abundance of untouched nature, rich cultural heritage and interesting past. Its center is Velika Gorica, the largest city in Zagreb County, and the best starting point for research. At the foot of Plešivica is the town of Jastrebarsko, and on the Plešivica hills you will often see hawks in the air that were bred for hunting in the Middle Ages and the town was named after them. A place with hundreds of years of ancient history, it is the natural center of this area and the starting point for excursions in the area and one of our most visited destinations.

Since we are located in the wine-growing area of ​​'Bregovita Hrvatska', it is certainly a great pleasure for me to visit our valuable winemakers. Check-out of the collection of collaborators of the Golub family, which was conceived as a permanent exhibition on the ground floor of the old house.

Feel the spirit of old times and visit Mlinareva Iža, the original mill house where the mill family once lived. The sacral heritage consists of numerous churches and chapels of the Jaska region that attract the attention of every passer-by. Jastrebarsko is an ideal destination for lovers of active tourism and nature. Explore every corner by bike, on foot or by air because there are many possibilities: bike trails and routes (Jaska Bike), hiking, horseback riding, orienteering, motocross, and for those who want adrenaline - paragliding from Japetić or Plešivica.

I would definitely recommend tasting local products in Zagreb County.

When it comes to local products, Samoborska kremšnita and češnofka and Rudarska greblica are now legally protected, both in Croatia and in Europe.

Before that, I would like to highlight the recent campaign called "Christmas magic in your home" with which we wanted to raise awareness of the importance of buying local products at this time of pandemic.

Each destination has its own authentic story and its own local products and souvenirs. Zagreb County is rich in craftsmen. It is full of diligent people who turn the natural resources of their homeland into unique, local products. One of the goals of the Zagreb County Tourist Board is to raise the world about the importance of buying from local producers and helping producers in branding and promoting products that we can be proud of.

Special emphasis should be placed on the dedicated work of small craftsmen, artists and manufactories from our area, because these products deserve all the attention. Combining traditional and modern, their creativity refreshes the heritage and enriches the entire offer of their region. I think this year's hit was the amazing 'truffle strudels' and Zagreb County truffle pralines.

We are proud of the intangible cultural heritage of Zagreb County. The most popular dessert 'Samoborska kremšnita' is now legally protected as an autochthonous Samobor - Croatian brand. Also, the autochthonous gastronomic product of the Zagreb County 'Rudarska greblica' has been approved with a protected designation of geographical origin at the European level. With this label 'Rudarska greblica' it becomes the 29th Croatian product with a protected name in the European Union and the first protected gastronomic product in Zagreb County.

This is a great compliment to the originality and preservation of our tradition, especially when today we have the first recognition for the ‘Mining Scraper’ on which the European Union has established intellectual property rights. The Zagreb area has contributed to the Croatian and, as of today, European list of protected geographical indications, which emphasizes the relationship between a particular geographical region and product name, where special quality, reputation or other product characteristics can be attributed to its geographical origin.

Protection at national level is an important first step towards gaining the status it deserves on the European gastronomic map. The diligent hands of the people of this area write the history of taste, and it is up to us to taste them and experience this original story with all our senses.

Although it is difficult to overlook, but what season do you expect? What are your thoughts?
 
In these difficult, uncertain and challenging times, it is difficult to predict results and expectations, but what we know for sure is that the main criterion will be the epidemiological situation. Thus, the success of the tourist season and the tourist results are subordinated to the epidemiological situation.

The trend of staying in nature and turning to rural areas will continue this year as well. People's habits have changed and staying in nature, excursions and escape from mass tourism will surely mark this year as well. We can say that the results of research conducted by some sales platforms in tourism are now the most relevant for assessing and planning activities in the tourism sector. According to indicators, this year 60 to almost 80% of guests are ready for vacation, as soon as the epidemiological situation with Covid-19 allows. So there is still an insatiable hunger for travel. A stronger opening is expected only in the 2nd quarter of 2021, which reinforces our assessment of the reorientation of our activities to domestic tourism.

The trend is to stay in nature, excursions and escape from the big crowds will surely mark this year as well. Zagreb County will remain the most attractive weekend destination and I am sure that this year we will record increased interest in our destinations in the 'Zagreb Green Ring'. The emphasis will be on safety and hygiene, new markets and dedicated travel and departures close to the destination. Zagreb County will remain the most attractive weekend destination and we will certainly record increased interest in all destinations of the 'Zagreb Green Ring' this year as well.

In March 2021, Zagreb County announced a million-dollar tender to support entrepreneurs in tourism. Grants are awarded for the renovation and equipping of accommodation units and the development and improvement of additional facilities such as swimming pools, wellness and other recreational, sports and entertainment facilities. The pandemic will pass, tourists will come again and that is why we support entrepreneurs to add value to their accommodation capacities.

As we know the crisis is also an opportunity, Mr.Where do you see the potential for tourism growth for Zagreb County?

This ‘new time’ requires a personalized, honest and thorough approach to the guest, who wants to experience the local community in an authentic way based on experience. The focus is on the new meaning of sustainable coexistence with local communities, nature, culture and the history of these areas. Because our destinations abound in many additional facilities from wine roads, cultural routes, untouched nature of Žumberak which offers you detoxification from the city bustle, intangible cultural heritage with the stamp of Europe that you can taste, truffle hunting, castles, promenades, educational trails… 

Ivana Alilović, director of the Zagreb County Tourist Board

We are still a year-round and attractive destination. The trend of interest in holiday homes on the continent is constantly growing. We definitely need to raise the quality of accommodation because there is a great demand for holiday homes in rural accommodation and that is why this tender is a complete success because we will raise the quality and strengthen the content and very soon we will have concrete progress.

We are aware of the potential that our destination has. For example, we have a strong scene with domestic distilleries engaged in artisanal gin production, which is in a big positive trend with craft breweries. Also, special attention is needed to health tourism as one of the fastest growing tourist products, given that in Ivanić-Grad there is a "Special Hospital Naftalan" in which work was done on the reconstruction and extension. With bike and bike paths, a green story and all of the above, we can conclude that we have great potential that we need to turn into quality resources.

It is of great importance for us to unite Zagreb County tourist boards for the purpose of networking, intensive cooperation and joint action of Zagreb County tourist boards and relevant stakeholders with the aim of intensive promotion of the 'Zagreb Green Ring' region and existing tourism products and programs. 

Our goal is certainly integrated product quality management of the Zagreb County tourist destination, which will reduce the gap between the level of quality that tourists expect and the level of quality that the destination can provide and deliver, improving the quality and content of tourist products, increasing tourist satisfaction and tourist consumption in Zagreb County. used for entrepreneurship in tourism.

Also, the Zagreb County Tourist Board is the organizer of the photo competition for the selection of the most beautiful photographs of the Zagreb County, called "Photo Zagreb County". The purpose of the competition is to show the cultural and historical sights and traditions of Zagreb County, a story or experience from one of the events, an active vacation in nature or rural areas, which will further promote the visit and research of Zagreb County.

Our vision is to create a destination identity, and in order to realize that vision, the process must be alive for all visitors and tourists coming to the destination. With our photo competition we want to see a unique experience, based on the feeling and experience of the destination, and through the lens of each of us to highlight the unique attributes of a particular destination with what makes it different from others, authentic. In this way, we want to influence the preservation and promotion of identity and tradition and the image of the destination in general.

In your opinion, will the trend of domestic weekend trips continue this year as well?

The trend of staying in nature and turning to rural areas will continue this year as well. People's habits have changed and staying in nature, excursions and escape from mass tourism will surely mark this year as well. We can say that the results of surveys conducted by some sales platforms in tourism are now the most relevant for assessing and planning activities in the tourism sector. 

According to indicators, from 60 to almost 80% of guests are ready to go on vacation this year as soon as the epidemiological situation with Covid-19 allows. So there is still an unquenchable hunger for travel. A stronger opening is to be expected only in the 2nd quarter of 2021, which strengthens our assessment of the reorientation of our activities to domestic tourism. The trend is to stay in nature, excursions and escapes will surely mark this year as well. Zagreb County will remain the most attractive weekend destination and I am sure that this year we will record increased interest in our destinations in the green Zagreb ring. 

The emphasis will be on safety and hygiene, new market niches, and travel with a purpose and going to car destinations. Zagreb County will remain the most attractive weekend destination and we will certainly record increased interest in all destinations of the Zagreb Green Ring this year as well.

What should the hosts who provide accommodation on the continent in their services need to put special emphasis on?  

New Time requires a personalized, honest and thorough approach to the guest, who wants to experience the local community in an authentic way based on experience. The focus is on a new meaning in sustainable coexistence with local communities, nature, culture and history of these areas. 

Since our destinations abound in many additional facilities from wine roads, cultural routes, untouched nature of Žumberak which offers you detoxification from the hustle and bustle of the capital, intangible cultural heritage with the stamp of Europe you can taste, truffle hunting, castles, promenades, educational trails… We are yet a year-round and attractive destination. The trend of interest in holiday homes on the continent is constantly growing. We definitely need to raise the quality of accommodation because there is a great demand for holiday homes in rural accommodation and that is why this tender is a complete success because we will raise the quality and increase the content and very soon we will have concrete progress.

Finally, it is interesting how you have an office in the center of Zagreb, which is also your main emitting market? I’m sure it was hard to explain why this is important in your case?

Yes, I agree, for those who are not involved in tourism it is illogical, but in fact it is just the opposite. Zagreb as the capital of Croatia is the economically strongest market in which the largest number of citizens gravitate, and as our entire county is green, the Zagreb ring is actually imperative to be the city center and our main emitting market. It is certainly a challenge to stand out and position yourself in Zagreb, which takes time because, unfortunately, the habit of leaving Zagreb for its green ring has not been created so far.

With the platforms "Vacation never closer" and "Around Zagreb", promotions of winemakers and many other promotional activities, surely we have made a big step forward, and this is also reflected in the pages of media articles about our better offer. Being in the city center, being present in our main market is certainly an advantage that opens many doors for us as well as access to national media which is crucial.

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