Ivana Vladović: Dugopolje is becoming a reception point for guests who go on excursions around Dalmatinska Zagora

Dalmatian brunch as a new gastronomic product of Dalmatia

Author  Goran Rihelj

January 12, 2024

"Today, we leave the keys under a code, the host does not get to know the guests - that's how we stop being hosts and open up a whole series of questions", Ivana Vladović, director of the Split-Dalmatia County TZ, pointed out in a conversation on the topic of sustainability in tourism and emphasized: 

"Dalmatia is by its very nature self-sustaining. Every honest Dalmatian house has long had a black water heater in which you shower outside, there is a draft instead of air conditioning, a homemade stove... We have forgotten who we are."

The topic of sustainable tourism is much more than a mere definition and has many more dimensions. But it is precisely in the Split-Dalmatia County that we can single out positive examples. 

There is one Green lineand the other Dalmatian brunch which we will talk about a little later. During the conversation, Vladović did an excellent job of pointing out the fact that it happens that guests come for something that we don't and that they have to correct the offer.

We create the narrative and the story of the destination - we are the narrators of the story.

Some of the guests come for a room and entertainment, they don't come for housekeeping and brunch, emphasizes Vladović and adds: 

"It's a big job. In cooperation with SDŽ and their project Ambassadors of Tourism, we started branding family tourism, wanting to restore that intimacy and direct contact with the host, to show the Dalmatian way of life. Unfortunately, the rentierism that happened in the meantime is a big brake on that path, but let's not forget that the guests' habits have changed. Guests come to us for something that we don't have, because we offered it to them. We have adapted to the market as much as possible and we are slowly losing our authenticity - and that is our fault. We have to correct the quality of our offer. "

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Presented digital port of tourism in central Dalmatia - dalmatia.hr. The new website of the TZ Split-Dalmatia County was created under the auspices of "Heart of the Adriatic".

The new Tourism Act puts decision-making down to the destinations. Which is great news, because it is the destinations themselves that develop tourism. And until now, they did not have the tools to deal with development in the right way. 

"The new Law on Tourism obliges us to see what the tourist flows are like, to come up with real and realistic plans and then, based on them, decide which activities lead us to sustainability. Without cooperation with the local community, the ministry and everyone in the chain, there is no success. We all need to pull in the same direction, from tourist boards, cities, counties, entrepreneurs. We must all have the same goal. 

We are lucky that the county strategy focuses on a green and sustainable future. And that's why there are a number of such activities that we do, both in TZ and the County. If there is no local population, there is no story about sustainability. Then we are no longer ourselves. If we do not have interested and motivated entrepreneurs in tourism, we are gone again. If there is no sustainability in terms of energy, we are gone again. Education is extremely important and the beginning of everything. We have to change our own mindset. 

If we want to have a future, we must be green. Let's start with ourselves. Lifelong education of every resident for the future, from kindergartens, owners of family accommodation, public sector... to the local population. It is the future of the world, it is not only the future of tourism." states Vladović.

Numbers are constantly counted as KPIs of our success, which in itself is not sustainable. When asked how to move away from just counting tourists, Vladović points out that there is no equality between sustainability and counting tourists.

"We have to count experiences and beauty. As much as 'let's not look at the numbers' is constantly mentioned, the question is always how many tourists there were. As soon as the number drops a little or is 1-2% less, it is immediately said that the season has failed. Sustainability and counting are not univocal. We have to work on the quality of the guests, turn to the guests we want and give them what they want. We have to direct our campaigns in the pre- and post-season, to high-quality guests who expect a high-quality offer in our destination. In fact, we underestimate ourselves. The whole of Croatia is so fantastic, our product is phenomenal, but we are afraid to show what we really are. We are special in every way, from historical heritage, lifestyle, to gastronomy. I believe that with the right campaigns and targeting of the message, we will make a breakthrough, says Vladović.

I mentioned two examples of sustainable tourism development at the beginning. The first project is a tourist bus line "Green line" which departs every day at 12 noon (from 01.04. to 31.10.) from the Split waterfront towards Dalmatinska zagora. Redistribution of tourists towards the interior, i.e. the rural area, which is full of tourist stories and experiences.

From this year, the Green Line runs twice a day (morning and afternoon), the Morning Line brings guests to the Dugopolje Visitor Center, where they are picked up by agencies that organize trips around Zagora (outdoor activities – rafting, kayaking, walking, bicycles, quads; gastro tours , religious, historical, etc.), and the afternoon one returns them to Split via Klis and Stella Croatica via Salona.

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It's another project Dalmatian brunch which refers to the connection of restaurants and OPGs and above all to the promotion of an authentic offer. The way it should have always been, but in our tourism development we have lost ourselves. It is about the Dalmatian identity, the way and culture of living that we should not be ashamed of. On the contrary, it should be at the heart of our tourist product. 

You can read more about the projects below on the links: 

/ / / Dalmatian brunch as a tourist product? Absolutely, that is the tourism we must strive for

/ / / Green line: from the Split waterfront towards Dalmatinska zagora

Dugopolje becomes a reception point for guests who go on excursions around Dalmatian Zagora

Dugopolje is becoming a reception point for guests who go on further excursions around Dalmatinska Zagora, announced Vladović, whether it is water sports such as kayaking and rafting, through quad tours, to gastro tours.  

An excellent example of adding a new dimension to the "Skrivena Dalmacija" visitor center as well as targeting tourists, i.e. building a whole system around Dugopolje as an event center. The key thing is that the Green Line brings guests specifically to the Visitor Center in Dugopolje, the agencies make an offer of active tourism in Dalmatian Zagora and accept them there, and everything is again connected by the Green Line, which arrives in the afternoon, and guests return via Klis and Stella Croatica in Spit.

"So now we have the possibility of a multi-day stay in the Split hinterland" emphasizes Vladović and adds that the goal of the Green Line was to decongest the center of Split and show the added value of the destination.

"From the center of Split, we take guests on panoramic buses to the "Gate of Dalmatian Zagora", i.e. the "Hidden Dalmatia" visitor center in Dugopolje, which is attractive, modern and interactive, and precisely shows hidden Dalmatia primarily in the story of nature and history. Then we go to Klis and the Klis Fortress, then to Stella Croatica, where guests can experience olive oil processing and an olive museum, with a botanical garden, a story about the Dalmatian flora and, of course, tastings of authentic Dalmatian dishes. activities, i.e. programs in rural areas - those activities that we want to promote and develop in a targeted manner."

An excellent example of how a destination is strategically developed. The county and the Tourist Board in cooperation with the private sector (agencies, bus operators, restaurants, guides) are developing a tourism product in a targeted manner with the aim of reducing the burden on Split, but more importantly, we are focusing on rural areas and a different offer. 

The entire project proved to be sustainable already after the first summer season, although it is realistic to count on a period of at least three years in such projects - which is great news as well as another example of how, through the cooperation of the public and private sectors, a new tourist product can be launched and tourist traffic redirected. flows, which may not have been in commercial focus until now. Let's be honest, it's always easier to sell the coast. 

"The whole project proved to be financially viable already this year, the partner who has the buses, the agency, the Visitor Center, Klis Fortress and Stella Croatia is satisfied. Everyone in the entire chain, and most of all us. Also, at the end of July, we added a new line - Klis Sunset - a unique sunset, and the results were fantastic. So we decided to introduce two lines permanently, from April to November, every dayVladović says.

Dalmatian brunch as a new gastronomic product of Dalmatia

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Photo: Tom Dubravec/ Cropix/Cropix / Source: TZ SDŽ

Let's be who we are - is the sentence with which I started my first blog and which has followed me ever since. The Dalmatian brunch project is exactly that.

On the other hand, it is a very challenging project to realize from today's perspective, because again it is easiest to sell "pizzas, kebabs, squid Patagonica, bolognese " or have a simple purchase in any retail chain. 

It will certainly take a long time for the project to come to life on the market, i.e. to be self-sustaining. But again, the role of TZ Split-Dalmatinska is crucial here, which is also the primary task of tourist boards - the development of new tourist products. Especially since TZs do not have an imperative to make money and can develop the project for a long period of time with various resources until it becomes self-sustaining.

The main question is how make catering establishments aware of their involvement in this project? Communication, communication and the main motive - financial interest, i.e. earnings. 

When asked how the project went in the first year, i.e. the season, Vladović pointed out that she was very satisfied, mostly because the agencies were delighted with the new product. 

"We decided on a strategy of not pulling anyone by the sleeve - whoever recognizes the project is with us. But we are very proud that this year, when we presented the new destination website, we also awarded the first chefs who joined the Marenda project. So we have about 15 chefs, from Dalmatian Zagora, the islands and on the coast, who immediately got involved in the project when they first heard about the whole story. Dalmatian brunch is also offered in catering facilities in Split, Sinj, Makarska, Marina, Hvar and Brač - we have great examples in practice that have already come to life. We will work intensively to strongly promote all the facilities that are part of the project, because our goal is to show what we are, as you emphasized. What we always say - authenticity, and Dalmatian brunch is our reality and our authenticity. As much as people don't go to brunch as much as before, the brunch mentality still exists here", points out Vladović and emphasizes that their desire is to show the best of what they have and what they keep for themselves to the market.

The project is conceived in two segments - the catering offer and the connection of supply chains, and everything is rounded off by the tourism product "Gastro tour Dalamcije".

"One segment is catering that offers brunch, and the other is the inclusion of local producers and products, so with a special certificate we will brand catering establishments, as well as products. Catering, small producers, winemakers and oil producers, as well as gastro tour agencies are invited to this project Dalmatia. In this sense, we made a series of documentaries, which tell the story of brunch, but not only as a gastronomic experience but as an experience of Dalmatian life. We combine culture, art and food.” concludes Vladović. 

Let's be who we are, not copies. This is our greatest value and comparative advantage. Who wants to see and experience a copy? On the other hand, in my opinion, this is one of the main pillars of sustainability. Because without people, preserved space and an authentic way and culture of life, there is no future. 

Finally, watch the video about Dalmatian Marenda. Enjoy! 

Author  Goran Rihelj

January 12, 2024