Joško Stella: Split-Dalmatia County is a leader in strategic tourism planning

29. June 2022.

In the last 10 years, the Split-Dalmatia County has grown into a leader in Croatia.

Apart from the fact that the Split-Dalmatia County has become the second most visited county in the number of overnight stays and tourist arrivals in the past decade, just behind the lstra, it is more important how they stood out in some other things. These are trainings, especially for private renters as well as cooperation with agencies. Interestingly, they also made the biggest step forward in strategic development planning. Although at first many would certainly not classify the Split-Dalmatia County under the domain of strategic development, the facts are still there. But let's go in order. 

In a conversation with the director of the Split-Dalmatia County Tourist Board, Joško Stella, I was interested in what is behind the various strategic documents on the development of tourism, which SDŽ was the first to start drafting in Croatia. 

"First of all, I would like to refer to a couple of segments in which we are the leader in Croatia. The first is certainly work on developing the quality of private accommodation. We have educated over 8.000 private renters in the last ten years, we have launched a complete education industry and other companies are now successfully dealing with it. In addition to trainings, we do conferences for renters, we have a special website for renters, I work with various educators… we do all this because we are the county with the most private renters in Croatia, " points out Joško Stella, director of the Split-Dalmatia County Tourist Board.

More precisely, it is about 180.000 beds in private accommodation and about 25.000 renters or even 75% of accommodation capacity in the Split-Dalmatia County. When we talk about private renters, it is said that they must raise the quality, invest in promotion, use professional photos… what is the "follow up" of all previous trainings and all activities. Do you have any information about raising the quality of private accommodation? 


"In the last few years, private renters have had more overnight stays than hoteliers in the county. We are not talking about how only hoteliers extend the season. We have so much quality private accommodation that it really works more nights and the market feels better,Stella points out.

Another segment in which the Split-Dalmatia County stands out as a leader is cooperation with travel agencies. As Stella points out, ten years ago the Split-Dalmatia County Tourist Board was the first to start tenders for the company's destination management company - DMK. Even before the Croatian National Tourist Board.

"For the last ten years, we have been cooperating with the Association of Croatian Travel Agencies (UHPA) on various projects. From fairs, education, joint b2b programs and going to fairs, all with the aim of educating agencies to do real destination projects. Because no foreign agency can make a destination program like a domestic agency can. That is why we were the first in Croatia to make a brochure with 101 destination programs for the Split-Dalmatia County. We now have over 120 programs, which are divided into three programs: from enogastronomy, culture and active recreation. "

The third part where they are strongest in Croatia is social media marketing. We have 690.000 fans on Facebook, says Stella and adds. “And those aren’t bought fans. Each of our posts in the heart of the season is shared a couple of thousand times. So we’re not just talking about the number of followers, but about reach. We have a reach of over 12 million users on Facebook in a year, and 2.7 million on Instagram. These are figures that are impressive. And that’s without a YouTube channel that has over 36 million views. It is one of the segments where we are leaders and we will certainly improve it even more because there is a lot of room for growth. ” 

Let us remind you that the first International Meeting of Influencers was recently organized by the Split-Dalmatia County Tourist Board, which brought together influencers from Croatia, Italy, Poland, Great Britain, Brazil and South Korea who spent five days in Split-Dalmatia County.

New product development - focus on cycling and cultural routes 

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One of the most important elements when talking about a destination is the content. Because as we know, the motive for coming is not the bed, but the destination. If the destination offers as much quality and variety of content as possible, then we will directly influence the raising of the overall level of guest satisfaction and increase tourist spending. 

When asked about the development of new products, Stella especially emphasizes the focus on the development of cycling tourism and themed trails.

"Cycling is one of the products we have developed at a high level. From making trails, brochures and promotional materials, but cycling is not just about making trails and a map. One should go to specialized fairs in Europe, from Verona to Milan and organize races. We did all that and now in the next period our focus is to make specialized paths for cyclists. Especially for Downhill racing, a fast-growing segment in Europe. We also have a special subpage for cycling tourism. Also, I would like to put an emphasis on thematic trails. Although they are nothing new and special, there are them all over Europe, including Croatia. But we are the first tourist board in Europe to have Google Street View on each of our 52 trails. So we went through all the trails and covered them with Google Street View, a total of 327 kilometers of trails, which are divided into two brochures, the coast and the island”, Explains Stella and adds that the brochures are in digital edition and that they target.

/ / / Split-Dalmatia County first in Europe to introduce Google "sea view"

But let us return to strategic and sustainable development. 

"Only sustainable tourism development can ensure the long-term competitiveness of tourism”, Emphasizes Stella. 

Behind the statement are concrete projects such as the strategy for sustainable tourism development, study of the carrying capacity of tourism, as well as the economic effects of tourism in 2021 - Methodological framework of the satellite account of tourism, which Split-Dalmatia County was the first to make. 

Those are the facts. These are the first strategic documents that all serious tourist destinations in Croatia should have. Especially those on the Adriatic, who are fighting against mass tourism and extending the season.

"With every tourist board and every project, you must have a quality development of strategic planning. We started from the beginning. And this is the main plan for tourism development, which aims at sustainable tourism development while maximizing the quality of life of the local community. It is not our goal to increase tourist numbers indefinitely. This is not and should not be the goal, sustainable tourism development has no alternative. Of course, we additionally want to increase the income from tourism, improve the conditions for the development and management of tourism, but the main thing is to increase the quality of life of the local community. I don’t point this out twice by accident. Because what is happening now in Split tells us how much the quality of life of the local community is related to tourism. Let us not develop tourism that will endanger the life of the local community and the quality of life. We do not need such tourism! Only sustainable tourism development can ensure the long-term competitiveness of tourism, " says Stella.

New project 150

/ / / Split-Dalmatia County presented the Study of Acceptance Capacities of Tourism

/ / / The study of the bearing capacities of the Split-Dalmatia County has begun

/ / / The Tourist Board of the Split-Dalmatia County is launching the project "Economic effects of tourism in 2021".

/ / / The Split-Dalmatia County Tourist Board presented a draft strategy for the circular economy in tourism

Of course, it must not happen that we have various strategies that stand in drawers, which is often the case in Croatia. When asked about the action behind the studio, Stella emphasizes that they are already working on the implementation of projects that arise from all analyzes. 

“Based on the study of sustainable tourism development, we were the first in Croatia to start the study of carrying capacities at the county level. We came to the result that we still have between 5% to 10% of the space in July and August from the maximum accommodation capacity. So we can have a maximum of 6 million overnight stays in each month in the peak season, and we are now somewhere around 5.5 million overnight stays. In practice, this means that we have a lot of space in June and July as well as in September and October for the growth of overnight stays. The study showed us that we must concentrate on product development in the pre- and post-season and on the transfer or reallocation of tourists and tourist flows from the centers to the Dalmatian hinterland, which has 70% of the county and only 2% of tourism. Another indicator that the study showed us is that the biggest problem is communal infrastructure, mostly parking and roads, then beaches as well as other communal problems such as electricity, water… Interestingly, the biggest problem on the islands is labor ”

It is important to emphasize that the project "Economic effects of tourism in 2021" will include three interrelated groups of activities: Assessment of economic effects of tourism in 2021 in the Split-Dalmatia County according to the methodological framework of the satellite account of tourism, then updating the assessment of economic effects of tourism in 2021 based on data from the survey TOMAS Croatia 2022 in Split-Dalmatia County and implementation of strategic workshops the topic of the methodological framework of the tourism satellite account and its establishment at the regional level.


"We don't need tourism 365 - we need sustainable tourism", emphasizes Stella.

"Whether he will be 365, 265 or 287, it doesn't matter, it's important that he survives. That we have a workforce, that we have satisfied people and the local population, that we have enough income, without destroying the resources that bring us all that." All this was shown to us by the study of carrying capacities and based on that study we have now launched an analysis of the economic effects of tourism.What we have not communicated is how we launched the Action Plan for Sustainable Tourism Development of SDŽ, which is based on all previous analyzes.

We are already moving with an action plan and going with the economic effects of tourism to really see what the effects of tourism are, from nautical to enogastronomy. We are also doing research on the current development of private accommodation in the county. As I said before, private accommodation makes up 75% of the total accommodation in Split-Dalmatia County. We need to see where the future development of private accommodation is going, whether it should be increased or decreased, how to manage them, in which direction to go because it is not just a question of quality, but also raising apartment prices for locals, etc. for the development of tourism for the next 10 years and who are looking for quality answers, ” says Stella and emphasizes how they worked on all the strategic documents in order to be ready for all future changes and to be able to strategically develop tourism.

And the action? 

"Based on all the documents, it is clear that we need to develop the" shoulders of the season ", ie products for the pre- and post-season. Although we knew this before, we now have a scientific basis with all the real data. We can’t push the peak of the season anymore because we just don’t have the space. This gives us a workforce, because it is not the same whether a worker works for three or eight months. We have already started with the implementation of some projects, and the action plan should bring concrete projects and steps as long-term solutions. "

One such project is both entering the world of the metaverse and issuing NTFs.

Screenshot 2022 04 22 at 12 2

/ / / The Split-Dalmatia County Tourist Board presented the Tourism 3.0 project

Namely, the Split-Dalmatia County Tourist Board has launched the Tourism 3.0 project, whose name symbolically represents the integration of the tourism sector into the third phase of the evolution of technologies on which the platforms of the futuristic virtual world called Metaverse rest. The central focus of the project is implementation of NFTs as a means in the further development of digitalization of tourism in the Split-Dalmatia County. NFT (Non-fungible Token) is a digital record of data stored on data blocks called Blockchain.

“By our entry into metaverses and publishing  NFTs as a means for the current development of digitalization of tourism again ranks us as leaders in Croatia. We plan to use NFT so that tourists who come to our county and our main centers, get NFT which allows them discounts to come to the Alka Museum in Sinj or visit the Blue Lake in Imotski or the museum in the Dalmatian hinterland - all with the aim of dispensing them from the main centers towards the interior and less developed centers, which certainly have something to offer. We will not wait for someone to do the same thing first in Spain or Italy, and then we will take it over. I think we have to be leaders. Split-Dalmatia County and Croatia can be and are leaders in Europe and others can learn from us, ” Stella concludes. 

The Tourism 3.0 project certainly represents a significant step forward in branding the Split-Dalmatia County as one of the most important tourist regions in Croatia, and when we look at the bigger picture, strategic documents and the direction of development will be, and is outlined. 

The most important thing in the whole story is the action, for which the entire Split-Dalmatia County is in charge, not only the Tourist Board, but also the cities and municipalities that must implement it. For that, we need the synergy of all, because tourism, as we know, is not one industry, but connects all other industries vertically and horizontally. 

Strategic development and sustainable tourism has no imperative, and as we can see, the Split-Dalmatia County Tourist Board has completed the first step and the foundations - strategic documents for the future development of tourism. We need to know where we are, where we are going and how it aims to get there. That is the first step. 



29. June 2022.