Martina Bienenfeld, TZG Zagreb: Digital platforms will play an important role in presenting the destination

According to all announcements and indicators, this year should have been the best for the tourism industry in Croatia. But the unthinkable happened, tourism literally stopped on a global level due to the pandemic ...

According to all announcements and indicators, this year should have been the best for the tourism industry in Croatia. But the unthinkable happened, tourism literally stopped globally due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Although tourism activity is currently weak or non-existent, it is important to continue to communicate and remain in the focus of tourists. Especially in the context of positioning for the spring of 2021, when the activation of the tourism market is expected. In crisis situations, such as currently in the tourism sector, the worst choice is - not to communicate. Of course, just posting old pictures from the destination on social networks will not have much effect. Now is a great opportunity for storytelling and longer formats as we all spend more time online and digital platforms play a key role.

Everyone "scrolls" via mobile phone and you have literally a second or two to stand out in the crowd and noise in communication through one post and attract attention, just like with YouTube advertising, where in 5 seconds we have to draw attention to the user to see the message. The basis of communication must be a story, an authentic story (as always) in order to attract and retain the attention of the audience. Today, thanks to social networks, it is never easier to communicate, but on the other hand, it has never been harder to reach the attention of the audience, and even harder to keep it.

But the question arises how to communicate in the current time without attracting attention. The Zagreb Tourist Board certainly attracted attention with various campaigns, as well as Advent in Zagreb, which changed its focus this year, in accordance with epidemiological measures. Namely, the Tourist Board of the City of Zagreb focused on the cultural program and new technologies through hybrids of activities and new technologies, and interesting video formats and digital platforms certainly attracted attention.

In a conversation with Director of the Zagreb Tourist Board, Martin Bienenfeld, we opened the topics of new technologies, how they currently communicate to the markets, we talked about the importance of digital platforms, but also the current tourist development of Zagreb and the future of travel.

Martina Bienenfeld, Zagreb Tourist Board: Digital platforms will play an exceptional role in presenting the destination to visitors

In the introduction, I mentioned the importance of communication and how to attract attention, and when asked how the Zagreb Tourist Board currently communicates to foreign markets and what the focus of the campaign is, Bienenfeld points out that due to significantly changed circumstances, the Tourist Board .

"We have developed five promotional campaigns from March until today, on which communication was mostly based, both on the foreign and domestic markets. The first was the campaign "From Zagreb's windows" during the complete lock down, then the "Zagreb Loves You" campaign at a time when, in addition to the pandemic, we were dealing with the consequences of the earthquake. We also activated our "Zagreb Summer Tour" campaign after the gradual easing of measures, and I am especially proud of our first, concrete destination campaign "Near the city, close to the heart" which we developed in cooperation with the Zagreb County Tourist Board. The end of the year always brings us an Advent campaign that we have adapted to the specific situation of 2020."

All the while, the Zagreb Tourist Board organized hybrid activities with live broadcasts on their online channels. The first was the Easter concert of the Zagreb Soloists, followed by a series of concerts for the people of Zagreb from the roof of a double-decker, and then in cooperation with the Croatian National Theater in Zagreb they supported and broadcast performances of the most popular open-air opera arias. Also, a LADO Electro concert was organized for the World Tourism Day, and as part of Advent Zagreb, they organized an online broadcast of the concert by the groups Detour and Pavel.

"In addition, we create attractive online presentations and marketing projects for further positioning in the international market, and we also conducted a re-evaluation of projects in which Zagreb has grown in the past and become recognized in the international tourism market. We have thus discovered some new potentials that we have already begun to activate, and whose full value will only come to the fore in the future. Here I would like to emphasize the currently active native campaign promoting the cultural offer of Zagreb and its surroundings on the renowned American portal - and Lonely Planet through which we conduct a comprehensive online destination campaign through advertorials, banners, destination page and profiles. on the social networks of this world-famous tourist guide. ”

This year, Advent in Zagreb showed a new direction through virtual content and the use of new technologies. Also, I was personally attracted by the video format through storytelling (Zagreb Shortcuts, Truffle Hunt…), how do you see the current development of digital platforms in tourism?

"Through its work, the tourist board has always followed the trends in new technologies and gladly implemented them in its projects. Let's remember the application "Zagreb Be There" developed back in 2014, which was a multi-award winning "treasure hunt" application for sightseeing or QR code tour of the city implemented in 2013. And in this challenging year, 2020, we have continued to communicate with potential visitors through digital platforms in order to maintain a presence in the tourism market, which we believe will be extremely important in the coming year and even in the coming years. "

Bienenfeld especially emphasizes the cooperation with the Croatian startup company Equinox Vision, with which they realized the interactive AR project Virtual Christmas Windows this year. These are the motifs of Zagreb's Advent windows that have been turned into three-dimensional animations, which everyone can use with their smartphones via the free Equinox XR application, and take photos and share on social networks. “With the beginning of Advent, we set up animated windows at 20 locations in Zagreb and in Osijek, Pula, Rijeka and Split, and now they can be found in 12 more Croatian cities: Dubrovnik, Gospić, Karlovac, Knin, Koprivnica, Krapina, Rovinj, Šibenik , Slavonski Brod, Varaždin, Vukovar, Zadar. For all those who are unable to travel due to the current situation, Advent Zagreb crosses the borders of Croatia, bringing at least a part of the holiday atmosphere to Belgrade, Ljubljana, Maribor, Mostar, Munich, Novi Sad and Sarajevo, ” pointed out Bienenfeld.

Digitalization in tourism is imperative today, and new technologies are just new tools and media for storytelling and destination promotion. In the Zagreb Tourist Board, the focus on the development of new digital platforms has proven to be successful, how do you view the importance of digitalization in tourism? 

"2021 will certainly require a further presence on digital platforms, and the augmented reality technology that we were the first in Croatia to use this year in the Advent awareness campaign in Zagreb, Croatia and Europe will certainly become part of our future projects and campaigns., “Announces Bienenfeld and adds that some more innovations in the field of new technologies are being developed and will be presented soon.

Regardless of the current and new situation, I am sure that digital platforms will play an exceptional role in presenting the destination to visitors, he emphasizes. Bienenfeld, and adds that the pandemic and the devastating earthquake taught them how important it is to react in a very short period of time, quickly and well to new situations, to follow trends using digital tools and platforms.

"We will certainly be able to apply the knowledge and experience we have gained in this turbulent year in future projects. We have to adapt the tourist offer to the newly created conditions, and such innovations enable us to create additional value, attractiveness, but also the appearance of our tourist offer. Tourism and technology are closely linked, travel is unthinkable without technology, so we look forward to creating new virtual, interactive content for our potential visitors, ”She added Bienenfeld.

For more details about the interactive AR project - Virtual Christmas Windows, you just need to install the application from Google and Apple stores and go to one of the locations where they are placed, and a map of all locations is available here:

Project “Around Zagreb” and the cooperation between the Tourist Boards of Zagreb and Zagreb County is, in my opinion, one of the first major steps in the strategic development of destinations in Croatia, because the focus is on quality content, which is a win-win for everyone. Mostly for tourists because it promotes quality tourist content in the vicinity of Zagreb or only half an hour from the city center. Tourism is the first to know no borders, and tourists are primarily interested in quality content.

"We have wanted to start this project for a long time and I am glad that, with the arrival of Ivana Alilović, director of the Zagreb County Tourist Board, we started its realization. The campaign "Close to the city, close to the heart" was created with the aim of creating a unique platform to promote the rich offer of Zagreb and its surroundings. In this sense, as a destination campaign, it will address emitting markets throughout the next year, reminding travel enthusiasts how diverse, high-quality and attractive the tourist offer of Zagreb and the Zagreb surroundings is. Staying outdoors, in greenery and nature with a focus on health, safety, sustainability and compatibility of the offer of Zagreb and its surroundings, are the main features of our partnership campaign and I am especially happy to, for the first time, jointly promote the capital and Zagreb green ring through a unique destination campaign”Points out Bienenfeld.

Currently, the focus is on continental and rural destinations, although Zagreb cannot be compared to them, how do you see the potential for development and in which direction should continental and rural tourism be developed? Sure, the continent has great potential, but how to impose and accelerate development? 

"I would not completely agree with this statement because positive shifts in the development of continental and rural tourism are seen. Croatia is a country that attracts its visitors with its immense natural beauty, rich heritage and extremely pleasant climate. The sea has always been our flagship, but the continent is our "trump card". Continental tourism offers a handful of attractions such as untouched nature, indigenous delicacies, rich cultural and historical heritage and is ideal for an escape from hectic everyday life. This has been recognized by guests who are increasingly dividing their vacation into two parts, spending, for now, most of the time on the beautiful Adriatic coast and, nevertheless, one part in the interior of Croatia, " said Bienenfeld, adding that she believes that, in the foreseeable future, the continent will shine in its full glory through even better interconnection in terms of promotion and development of the offer. “Especially because the interior of Croatia is becoming interesting, as people have begun to appreciate more the health, safety of the destination, staying outdoors and in nature, and discovering local attractions and picnic areas.He emphasizes.

How do you view global trends and changes in tourist behavior? Although it is difficult to plan anything today, what will tourism look like in 2021 onwards, in a global picture, and again with a look at Croatia? 

“Despite all the challenges facing the global tourism industry and the tourism sector globally, I am optimistic when it comes to the future. Namely, through participation in numerous virtual workshops with organizers of trips, conferences and various events, it is noticeable that there is a strong desire to return to normal business as soon as possible and start activities. The speed of recovery will be significantly affected by the time of consolidation of the aviation industry, which is extremely important for the return of guests, especially congresses and those from distant markets who have a large share in Zagreb's tourism. "

As far as Croatia is concerned, Bienenfeld believes that the Government of the Republic of Croatia is making maximum efforts to effectively balance different social needs in this crisis situation and hopes that the consequences of the pandemic will be overcome as soon as possible.

"In this regard, I hope that, with measures to preserve the economy, the consequences of the pandemic will be overcome as soon as possible. These difficult and demanding times show that more than ever we need cooperation, support and mutual trust of all tourism stakeholders. The new tourist reality has brought almost unprecedented innovation and creativity in developing the tourist offer and projects and has shown the real importance of tourism at the level of Europe and the world, which, as a horizontal activity, directly affects the entire economy. Tourism accounts for 10 percent of the European Union's GDP and employs a total of 12 percent of EU employees, so it is crucial to encourage the creation of joint solutions by all levels of government in order to find a way out of this crisis., ”Said Bienenfeld.

When asked what is the vision of today's long-term tourism development in Zagreb, Bienenfeld said that the focus should be on quality networking and connecting all stakeholders who contribute to tourism.

"Given that tourism is a complex system, structured from parts of various industries and activities of other sectors, such as business, health and cultural sectors, the connection and coordination of all stakeholders is of paramount importance for its improvement. I believe that the focus should be on quality networking and connecting all stakeholders who contribute to tourism, not just primary ones such as caterers, hoteliers and travel agencies. Only through coordinated action, we can expect a better and more competitive tourist product and its greater financial and positive social effects.

It is necessary to better engage different sectors, as well as people who represent the greatest potential for the development of tourism and the attractiveness of Zagreb as a destination for various forms of visits, from tourism to business. Therefore, it is necessary to maximally activate and use the resources arising from the academic and scientific community and to timely valorize and encourage entrepreneurial innovation at all levels, which is crucial for the development of the congress and business segment. In addition, the development of programs that will include our visitors and tourists in the community so that they can satisfy their desires to contribute to mutual satisfaction and benefit should certainly be encouraged. Finally, I think it is important to continue to use the position of the youngest EU city and to be the initiator of positive trends in the environment at all levels.”Concluded Bienenfeld.

Author: Goran Rihelj / Photo: Zagreb Tourist Board

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