Tourist eno-gastronomic event Vivodina Wine and Walk Weekend for the first time was held last week in Karlovac County ie in the Žumberak - Samoborsko gorje Nature Park.
It is an already well-known Wine & Walk concept that has proven to be a top tourist product and content, especially in continental and rural Croatia. Also, it is an excellent tourist content which is certainly the motive for coming, and that is exactly how it expands before and after the season.
In conversation with Željko Fanjko, director of the Regional Tourist Board of Karlovac County, I talked about how the first Vivodina Wine and Walk Weekend went, what are the impressions of the guests and what are the future plans for tourism development of Karlovac County.
When asked how satisfied they are with the first edition Vivodina Wine & Walk Weekend-a, Fanjak immediately points out that the fact that the registration fees are the best speaks sold out within an hour from release into circulation. It also adds how it has been recorded and increased demand for accommodation facilities in the wider Ozalj area during the event, which is another proof of how the event creates the motive of arrival and most importantly generates an overnight stay.
"This tells us that we have succeeded in our intention to present our wine region Vivodina, that uncut pearl that is located in the heart of Croatia, close to urban centers. The above-average demand for this type of tourist product resulted in increased consumption at the event itself, as a result of which we record almost 1.000 bottles of wine sold that weekend on the doorstep. What is especially gratifying is the fact that many guests from the rest of Croatia showed interest in the event and we had almost 50% of registered participants outside Karlovac County, primarily Primorje-Gorski Kotar, Istria and Zagreb County and of course the city of Zagreb as our largest domestic emitting market. I would like to emphasize that this is a generic demand and that people have enthusiastically experienced the neglected Vivodina region, our beautiful vineyards and wine cellars. There were many comments from the participants who say that it was an unforgettable time for them, that they enjoyed nature, walks and tastings… all in all we have extremely positive feedback from the participants of the event”Says Fanjak.
That is the meaning of all events, to create a motive for coming and for guests to spend at least one night in the destination. And the direct sale of wine on the doorstep is imperative for every winemaker.
Given that the registration fees went up in record time, as the event approached, in Karlovac County they recorded an increased demand for accommodation capacity. According to Fanjko, statistics show that compared to last year in the same period they had 248% more domestic tourists which is a fantastic fact. “It is obviously a short-term salvation for our tourism in domestic guests and we will continue to work on that. We have something to show and with well-designed content we can reveal a lot to domestic tourists and amortize the unfavorable situation in foreign emitting markets."Points out Fanjak.
We are talking about organizing the event for the first time and back in the Covid era. The growth of overnight stays, domestic guests, direct sales of wine on the doorstep - we will all agree, I believe - this is a great result and concept.
Of course, every start is always difficult and it takes time for the tourist event to develop and position itself. When asked if they plan to expand the event on a daily basis, Fanjak said that in addition to all the positive impressions of the participants, in a way the obligation to continue with such a concept in the tourist offer of Karlovac County.
"What is good about events is the possibility of upgrading, adapting and merging so that the opportunities in this regard are important to us. Numerous inquiries from the participants of this year's event are reduced to one common denominator ˝When will you organize something like this again? ˝ Therefore, we are thinking that the event, depending on the epidemiological situation, will be held in the fall when the vineyards will be green and rich in the fruits of nature. In the wider Ozalj area, in the slightly picturesque town of Jaškovo, we have a great event Strudelfest which is also held outside the summer season so we can already, along with other summer events and beautiful rural facilities in this part of our destination, offer tourists several quality motives for coming throughout the year", Says Fanjak.
But in Karlovac County they are thinking a step further, through various extensions of the project, such as: wine & ride, wine & kayak… The concept of bringing more tourists and presenting the specifics of each area can be upgraded in many ways. It is important to have a good base, and to add various other thematic stories to it.
"In addition to wine & walk walks through vineyards and wine cellars, we can talk about wine & kayak rides on the Kupa, wine & ride carriages with a presentation and tasting of local rural households and various other iterations on the theme of staying outdoors with a unique indigenous experience. This is the backbone of the development of rural tourism and we will certainly do our best to ensure that all stakeholders in tourism contribute to the vision and mission of tourism in Karlovac County to become the leading destination for active holidays in the continental part of Croatia.”Points out Fanjak and adds that it is worth pointing out that during the organization of the event Vivodina Wine & Walk Weekend there was the desired synergy between the tourist boards, in this case TZP Kupa and RTZ Karlovac County, but also cooperation with the Public Institution Nature Park Žumberak - Samoborsko gorje and Karlovac County itself, which is definitely a scenario to be desired.
Events of this type create a motive for coming, and have proven to be a complete hit for continental tourism. As the mentioned example says, that is why they got it in Karlovac County proof of concept, on which he will later build some new stories and motives for coming.
Manifestations imbued with indigenous experiences and other benefits of the rural area, which Karlovac County abounds as a destination, represent a winning combination in terms of further development of tourism on the continent, says Fanjak and says that quality predispositions for further development in Karlovac County certainly have. within the Tourism Development Strategy of Karlovac County until 2025.
"We now have a long way to go to adequately valorize them. The man who works and makes mistakes, and also the one who works, creates more work for himself, so when talking to other stakeholders in the preparation of this event, we agreed that we should approach dispersively throughout the destination and that this rural area, which makes over 65% of Karlovac County should be initiated through events based on the specifics of each microlocation. In this way, they would be able to activate the unfairly neglected parts of Karlovac County as outdoor destinations and encourage tourist flows in the coming times. The road is long and thorny and I believe that not everything will be easy and simple, but it is the least sacrifice we can make for the development of our entire destination. Opportunities appear day by day, and it is up to us as the bearers of tourism development in the destination to direct them in an appropriate way and to get the most out of the current circumstances prevailing in the market ", said Fanjak and stressed that it will not be easy, but that it will certainly not give up.
I was also interested in how they cope with the new circumstances that imply new standards in terms of security for the arrival of tourists, how the domestic stakeholders reacted. According to Fanjko, the reactions are more than excellent, as they are the first continental destination in terms of the number of facilities that apply the Safe Stay standard.
"From the very beginning, we have been involved in all activities carried out by the Ministry of Tourism and the CNTB in cooperation with the system of tourist boards. This primarily refers to the Safe Stay in Croatia project and the Digital Nomads project, which are very well designed at the national level, and their implementation at the regional and local level is also going well. Our goal is to have the best possible epidemiological situation before the summer months, when we can expect more tourists to come to our region. We are currently the first exclusively continental destination in terms of the number of facilities that apply the Safe Stay standard and we are especially pleased that our tourism stakeholders have shown great interest in this project.", Says Fanjak and adds that Karlovac County is perfect for all outdoor activities, which proved to be extremely important last year when they had the closure of certain groups of facilities and the ban on public gatherings. “The demand for such locations has increased, so we are looking forward to all tourists who will spend their vacation in Karlovac County this year. Numerous rivers, lakes and beautiful promenades are definitely a strong lure for domestic and foreign tourists who want to relax in nature.", Said Fanjak.
By the way, Željko Fanjak only recently came to the position of the leading person of the Karlovac County Tourist Board. He holds the position of Director of the Regional Tourist Board of Karlovac County from the position of Senior Advisor for Development and EU Funds of Karlovac County, where he previously held the position of Head of the Department of Economy. So far, he has been involved in numerous tourism projects, including the Tour of Croatia, Encounter with the River, Štrudlafest, Advent in Karlovac and Touch of Civilization, and as head of the Department of Economy he worked on several strategies and programs and was head of the Working Group for drafting the Tourism Development Strategy of Karlovac County for the period from 2018 to 2025.
In the end, I was interested in some of the first and short-term concrete steps that are in the plan and vision of tourism development in Karlovac County.
"The resource base in terms of tourism development in the entire area of Karlovac County is extremely large. We have developed a Tourism Development Strategy until 2025 for the entire destination and it represents the starting point for all our activities that we carry out and will carry out. One of the main tasks is to use all the potentials available to us, and I mentioned that the opportunities are almost endless. We will certainly work on further branding of Karlovac County as an outdoor destination and we will invest great efforts in the digitalization of the entire marketing communication. There is also a mobile app In the media really which is conceived as a central platform for designing tourist itineraries in a destination", Said Fanjak.
We are also working on several capital development projects that have already been launched and we will also work on them. These are primarily a project A touch of civilization from the field of cultural tourism, as well as the popularization of characters and works Nikola Tesla who graduated from Karlovac High School. “Cycling tourism is extremely important to us as a specific form of tourism for which our destination has excellent predispositions and we will continue to work on the certification of cycling tourism accommodation facilities through the quality standard Cyclist Welcome. There are a handful of other tourist products that can be valorized in the new normal, and relate to equestrian tourism, mountaineering tourism, activities on our beautiful rivers and last but not least, enogastronomic tourism that will spice up all other activities that tourists can try with us”Concludes Fanjak.
Some new tourist winds began to blow in Karlovac County. Well done and I can only say that it is finally time for them to wake up in Karlovac County, because they certainly have a lot to offer.
Photo: Karlovac County Tourist Board