The opening of the Swiss market in the winter period began with the synergy of stakeholders

Eternal question: How to extend the tourist season?

Author  Goran Rihelj

November 16, 2022

A little over two weeks ago, Croatia Airlines, the Tourist Board of Istria, the Tourist Board of Split-Dalmatia County and the Tourist Board of the City of Split held a joint presentation in Zurich to Swiss business (B2B) journalists and travel agents. 

Everything is motivated by the winter flight schedule of Croatia Airlines 2022/2023. as part of which the national airline is introducing two new international routes, Split - Zurich and Pula - Zurich, with which, in addition to the existing daily flights Zurich - Zagreb, they will connect even more strongly Croatian and Swiss markets during the winter period. 

We know that the lack of air lines, i.e. disconnection outside the summer season, is a big problem for extending the tourist season. Precisely in order to reduce this problem, a significant step forward was made by the initiative of Croatia Arilines.

We are extremely glad that in synergy with local tourist boards and other stakeholders in tourism, we have created a recognizable tourist product, which is adapted to current market needs, he stated. Slaven Zabo, director of commercial affairs of Croatia Airlines.

"With two new winter lines from Zurich, we have enabled travelers from Switzerland to better access Croatian regions during the winter period, and at the same time we are contributing to joint efforts to extend the tourist season in Croatia as much as possible. In this context, Croatia Airlines, as a national airline, once again confirms its strategic importance and the role it plays in the development of Croatian tourism and the economy as a whole.", He said Famous Frog.

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Photos: Slaven Zabo, director of commercial affairs of Croatia Airlines.Caption

The planes of the Croatian national airline will fly on both new lines from the end of October 2022 until the middle of January 2023, twice a week - on Wednesdays and Saturdays - and return air tickets are available to passengers at a price of 149 Swiss francs.

Ivana Vladović, director of TZ Split-Dalmatia County: The reactions of agencies from Switzerland are extremely positive

"The opening of the winter line gives Dalmatia the opportunity to show its best. Dalmatia is most beautiful in the pre- and post-season when you can enjoy the tradition, authentic gastronomy and the peace and way of life that Dalmatia offers, which is almost impossible to get to know during the summer. The Swiss market is extremely interesting to us, because the Swiss are known as hedonists and tourists who appreciate the historical heritage that Dalmatia has in abundance. We certainly welcome this initiative and cooperation with Croatia Airlines. This is just the beginning of the entire collaboration, which we are certainly looking forward to.", he points out Ivana Vladović, director of TZ Split-Dalmatin County, and adds that the Tourist Board of Split-Dalmatin County will work intensively on the promotion of Dalmatia in the new markets reached by the opening of the Split-Zurich line, both through digital channels and through cooperation with specialized tourist agencies from Switzerland. 

The reactions of the agencies from Switzerland are extremely positive, Vladović points out, and states that the Swiss market has yet to discover Dalmatia, and TZ and its partners will do their best to give Swiss tourists a reason not to stop at just one visit with their offer. 

Dario Guljelmović, sales director of Uniline: Guests from Switzerland are most interested in the cultural and eno-gastro offer

"The initiative comes from all sides and that's great, with the desire to extend the season. Definitely a good initiative, which was also understood by the audience in Switzerland. The Swiss market reacts much earlier than last minute offers, and this is the reaction of the Swiss agents to give them information about all winter packages in advance. Everyone welcomes this idea and it suits everyone that they can send people to Croatia", he pointed out Dario Guljelmović, sales director of Uniline.

Although it is difficult to generalize, when asked about the profiles of tourists from Switzerland, Guljelmović points out that according to the input of partners from Switzerland, most of them state that they are most interested in cultural and food-gastro offerings, and that by age they are middle-aged and older tourists. 

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"I hope that this kind of meeting with the Swiss agents will be repeated in the second year, so that they can prepare as well as possible and sell as many packages as possible. It is necessary to do continuous promotion and maintain communication towards the Swiss market, not one-off actions, because then we will not do anything. This is understood by all the partners who were involved, and I am glad that in this case it is a serious approach. We support any such initiative where we can achieve better results in the off-season", said Guljelmović.

How to extend the tourist season?

This is the formula: the basic starting point is the synergy of everyone in the destination, the definition of the tourist product and the motive of arrival, and promotion in the target markets. 

Several elements in this story are key. First is the synergy of the destination and key partners in the entire chain. Because no one could open the channel in this way on their own.

Second: this shows seriousness towards partners.

Thirdly, we have already solved the first challenge, which is open air lines or direct air connections between Split and Pula to Zurich.

Fourth: everyone is aware that this is only the first step and they are looking at the long term.

Fifth, it is clear to everyone that everyone must invest in targeted promotion towards the Swiss market, in order to create demand and win-win for everything. Mainly for Croatia Airlines - that the planes are full, and then consequently also for all partners in the entire chain, because the sale has been made. And so I have a sustainable and rounded story or guests in the winter period in Split and Pula. 

Denis Ivošević, director of TZ Istria County: The goal is to continue the line after the winter season and to start in the pre-season

"The joint performance of airlines, tourist boards, agencies - and hoteliers have also joined in - it is definitely a serious performance on the market, especially when we are talking about the winter period", quotes Denis Ivošević, director of the TZ of Istrian County, and adds: "It is clear that with the first year, that is, these first two months of the rotation, we do not expect great results. However, we definitely expect agents working in Switzerland to start selling Istria and Croatia. It is even more important that they recognize us, that they see that we are ready to invest marketing resources and that we are serious. The goal is for the line to continue even after the winter season, and to start the pre/postseason." 

You should certainly be aware that realistically it will take two to three years, with constant targeted investments in Croatia's positioning, line promotion and cooperation with Swiss agents, for the story to be sustainable, the lines constantly full, and for it to expand in the pre-season.

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It's great that Ivošević mentioned the segment of the seriousness of investment in the promotion of lines, because this is extremely important for the Swiss partners, so that they also start seriously selling packages.

Croatia is well positioned as a summer destination, but not outside of the summer season. And that's why it takes time to reposition ourselves and define new motives for coming to the market. This takes time, especially in an extremely competitive environment, where all of us in Europe are fighting for the same guests. 

"What delighted me is that we have one agent who works cruising, and exclusively for Istria. And that is very important, because that is exactly what we are working on. However, I have to admit that I did not know that there is a partner who has been selling arjamans for two years cruising around Istria, so this was an opportunity to get to know each other and to see how we can achieve cooperation. The pre-season is in their interest, because otherwise they will have to fly to Trieste, Venice or somewhere else. Package deal cruising in Istria is quite interesting, especially because it sails along the entire eastern coast of Istria, all the way to Opatija. "

Finally, Ivošević points out that Istria has a very good road connection with Switzerland, and they have a lot of guests from that country, but that air transport is extremely important to them and they hope that the Pula - Zurich line will continue. 

In conclusion: it is certain that this story will spread later, with more partners and with a wider program. The first step has been taken, everyone's reactions are positive, the line is active and now it is necessary to direct the marketing budgets smartly and in a targeted manner so that the line becomes sustainable for everyone in the chain.

And that should be done by everyone, not just one partner. Because, without a serious involvement with the budgets in the promotion of lines or the motive of arrival, there will not be the desired effect.

Thus, the tourist season is extended. Strategically, targeted and through business processes. Either we play the game or we don't!? There are no shortcuts, the season will not be extended by itself.

Big thumbs up to all partners, as well as to Croatia Airlines, for their proactivity and initiative. 

Photo: Croatia Airlines

Author  Goran Rihelj

November 16, 2022