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Croatian Cultural Tourism Development Strategy

Daniela Angelina Jelinčić


In Spring 2000, the Croatian Government expressed the need for a Croatian Development Strategy in the 21st century and, therefore assigned the independent teams of experts with the task of writing the drafts for this project divided into various sections. Thus, the Institute for International Relations was assigned the task of creating the Croatian Development Strategy for the cultural sector. The independent experts team developed the draft to be discussed with professionals in the related fields of theatre, museums, film, visual arts, etc.

This project relied on the former project Cultural Policy in Croatia: National Report which was carried out in 1999, also by the team of independent experts, within the Council of Europe's National Cultural Policy Reviews programme. Cultural policy did not include 'cultural tourism' as an independent part of the policy, it only mentioned it, while the report of a European group of experts, led by Charles Landry, recognized culture as the key selling point for tourism development. Usually, culture is the primary reason a visitor comes to an area, especially if culture is broadly defined. This was the starting point for the creation of the Croatian Cultural Tourism Development Strategy, the text written by myself and used as a draft for discussion and creation of a greater and more detailed cultural tourism development strategy.

The presentation of the whole project was done in March this year and great interest for the subject of cultural tourism has been shown. It was concluded that cultural tourism has been presented in too timid a way and should be approached more aggressively. It has been a European cultural-tourist prime subject for the last decade and a half and Croatia has just come to be recognized as an excellent tourism niche market. Although many tourist programmes included culture as part of the tourist package, it has not been enough, especially as most of these cultural programmes have been imported, not using Croatian cultural distinctiveness as a tourist resource.

Therefore, the proposed cultural tourism development strategy proposed seeks to use the cultural resources of Croatia as its key selling point. Going beyond merely visiting heritage sites, churches and museums, although these are important, it seeks to celebrate every aspect of Croatian culture - food, wine, the landscape, activities and even the language. It seeks to involve the tourist with locals and make every tourist a cultural explorer and discoverer (Landry 1999 : 37).

The local community should be ready for the decision on the possibility of the development of tourism in its surroundings. Also, it should be left to decide if it wants to develop tourism at all, although in Croatia, this kind of decision is not likely to be made because Croatia already has the tradition of tourism. A community does not live if its population cannot be identified with it. The local community should be proud of its village/town/city because successful tourism cannot be developed against the will of the local community. This principle should be the basis for every tourism planning.

Main Aims of the Cultural Tourism Development Strategy

As mentioned before, the principles underlying the development policy should be to use local resources wherever possible and to be distinctively Croatian. The objectives apart from increasing visitors are to:

  • extend the season;
  • extend the geographical base beyond the beach and into the hinterlands;
  • guarantee sustainability;
  • encourage micro-business development and economic prosperity (Landry 1998 : 37).

Extending the Season and Extending the Geographical Base

So far, Croatia has been selling only sea and sun, basing tourism on one sphere such as coastal tourism. It is the particular cultural offer that may stimulate the development of tourism in other seasons than summer. This is how we would like to stimulate the other forms of tourism development, especially urban tourism aimed at continental cities or cities in the hinterlands. Cities located along the coast have normally developed greater tourism but due to the fact that they use their coastal position as the primary benefit in tourism and only use culture and other facilities as a secondary tourist resource. Of course, in this case too, culture may be a means of extending the season, but we would also like inland cities to develop their own cultural tourism programmes.

To this end, one of the proposals may be the creation of the currently popular cultural routes, considering that Croatia historically belongs to the Austro-Hungarian cultural background, which may be used as a common resource.

Also, other tourist resources may be used such as sports, religion or places of natural beauty to form coordinated tourist programmes. Therefore, mountains and hiking, speleology, flora and fauna may be used as a resource all in cooperation with the local lifestyle including architecture, gastronomy and entertainment.

The low season offer could be related to various religious events in which the Catholic calendar is so rich. What is interesting and partly wrong in Croatia is the inversion of calendar events: carnival, instead of being offered to tourists in winter where it normally belongs, has been moved instead to summer as part of the mass tourism offer.

Croatian ethnography and ethno-destinations may also be used in any part of the year, especially if relating to educational tourism. It can also be applied to castles, which areextremely numerous in continental Croatia as well as to archeological sites, churches, monuments, museums and galleries for which a season is not necessarily specified.

Guarantee of Sustainability and Encouraging Micro-Business Development

A guarantee of sustainable tourism development is closely connected to the stimulation of micro-business development. If a local community is able to integrate their everyday businesses and professions into the tourist activity and thus present their local lifestyle, it is likely that the quality of tourist visit, as well as the quality of local population life will be ensured. Today, fisheries and agriculture, for example, have already been used for the tourism sector, which is partly the guarantee of sustainability for the local community. Additionally, the development of traditional crafts, art galleries, restaurants offering local food and beverages should be stimulated. It is very important that the owners of such businesses should come from the local population.

With such an approach, a number of criteria for development become apparent: small scale initiatives rather than grand scale gestures and mega-projects; the establishment of comprehensive programmes such as a bed and breakfast strategy, where the role of agencies is to create something like a marketing consortia; joint signage or other branding devices or the training of locals in local distinctiveness issues (Landry 1999: 38).

Decentralization and Coordination of Cultural and Tourist Sectors

Another important issue in the Croatian Cultural Tourism Development Strategy is the issue of decentralization of Croatian culture and tourism. The European cultural decentralization tendency should be present in Croatian culture, too. If so, cultural tourism would enable local government as well as the local cultural institutions and organizations to develop their self-management, because of income increased by cultural tourism. If the Croatian development strategy includes the development of cultural tourism, we can expect an increase in cultural demand within the culturally directed tourist visit. In this way, local government would be given greater power and a chance to create local strategies since they are familiar with the locality itself. As a consequence, there would be a richer, more inventive and more diverse cultural production and supply (Dragojević 1999 : 79).

The issue of sectoral coordination seems obvious and a conditione sine qua non but so far it has not been present in Croatia almost at all. A successful strategy cannot be created within the framework of one sector, for example tourism or culture, separately. In addition, it is very difficult to plan taking just these two sectors into account. The key word here is multidisciplinarity. Tourist planning should be executed within the framework of coordinated sectors such as the economy, finance, education, health, science, technology, micro-business, sport, religion, ecology, urban planning, industry, transportation, agriculture, fisheries, culture.

Also an intersectoral approach within the framework of culture itself should be considered. If tourist programmes are coordinated between various cultural institutions and events at the destination, such as between museums, galleries, libraries, theatres, cinemas, etc. it will not be difficult to create a common package to be supplied for the tourist to get to know the cultural life of a community.

Cultural and tourist employees should be more aware of the need for coordination and be stimulated to create common projects. This development strategy draft could be a starting point for the discussion and an introduction to the debate with the aim of making the practitioners' work easier and clearer.


Dragojević, Sanjin (1999). Cultural Policy in Croatia. National Report. Zagreb, Council for Cultural Co-operation, Council of Europe/Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Croatia/Institute for International Relations, 275 pp.

Landry, Charles (1999). From Barriers to Bridges: Reimagining Croatian Cultural Policy. Report of a European Group of Experts. Zagreb, Council for Cultural Co-operation, Council of Europe/Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Croatia/Institute for International Relations, 60 pp.


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