Just a few weeks ago I attended MATTER, a two-day festival, or un-conference as they call it, which is part of the five-day festival called Pure which brings together the world’s best suppliers, buyers and press in high-end experiential travel. Festival took place in Marrakech, Morocco.
Among the many interesting speakers, one managed to attract greatest attention. His name is Andy Lark, comes from New Zealand, and is well known marketing specialist who is currently CMO of Foxtel, an Australian pay television company.
Andy delivered two great riveting presentations, one scheduled and one organized ad hoc due to the great demand. Andy offered great many insights, many of which go against the traditional credos of marketing, but one question he posed really stuck with me. He asked a simplest possible question: “What is your famous”. He didn’t ask what our cutting edge is, what our competitive advantage is, or any of those marketing syntagma that have been touted around for decades now. No, just simply, what is our famous. What are we famous for?
Since then I have started asking people that work in the travel and tourism industry that very same question. What is Dalmatia, and Croatia famous for? And almost consensually everybody falls back to the same first answer – nature. Sunny islands, pristine national parks, secluded bays, pebbled beaches or hidden coves. Some mention history, some football, but almost everybody thinks that we are famous for the one thing that we are not responsible for creating, just perhaps destroying, nature! Certainly, that is telling of something. If nothing else it is telling of the fragility of our tourism, not to say lack of structure and strategy and well built and layered complex structure that would be somewhat immune to the outside changes, trends and disruptions.
Today, I received the latest issues of Condé Nast Traveller, a luxury travel magazine that has been shaping the world of high-end travel and tourism for over two decades now. This issue is Europe Special Issue and among many other highly regarded European destinations they also cover Istria. A beautiful ten-page piece on Istria starts with the following sentence: “Croatia’s long been a destination for bay-hugging, forest-snuffling, island-grazing adventure. But until recently it’s never had the hotels nor the food to match”. It would seem that the journalists and writers of Condé Nast agree with the hypothesis that we are famous for the natural splendors, and while things are starting to change slowly, we have neither hotels nor food to match. This is certainly telling of the image we project to the world and that is prevalent among high end travelers.
This is not a negative article, and is not intended to prove or disprove anything, it is just what it is, an observation supported by discussion, introspection and good intentions, recognizing the factual truths and overriding narratives. And one with the conclusion that we need to start building our new famous because the one that we have right now is both very finite and not really that famous in the larger contexts.