Mark Thomas - The editor and big chief of The Dubrovnik Times. Born in the UK he has been living and working in Dubrovnik since 1998, yes he is one of the rare “old hands.” A unique insight into both British and Croatian life and culture, Mark is often known as just “Englez” or Englishman. He is a traveller, a current affairs freak and a huge AFC Wimbledon fan.
The Dubrovnik Times caught up with the director of Time Out Croatia, David Plant, as this renowned publication celebrates its tenth anniversary in Croatia. Time Out is known throughout the world, it is London’s most popular weekly magazine, and the publication has made great steps on the Croatian market over the past ten years. We found out how the beginnings of the magazine started in Dubrovnik, whether there is a future for printed media and how Time Out is helping to promote Dubrovnik to its millions of readers.
Time Out Croatia is celebrating its 10th anniversary, congratulations, how pleased are you with this first decade and what can readers expect in the next decade?
Thank you. We’re delighted with our first ten years in Croatia - it all started in Dubrovnik as we shot the first ever cover there with Croatian model Mateja Penava. However, it’s important to place what we do in Croatia in context, Time Out didn’t start ten years ago, we began in London in 1968 as a weekly magazine bringing readers the best of London’s gastronomy and culture; the world’s first ever ‘What’s on’ magazine. Now, 47 years later Time Out London magazine is still thriving; it’s London’s most popular weekly, but we’re also a global media brand in online, mobile, print, email and events loved by more than 40 million people in over 200 nations; with 1000s of dedicated, expert staff. We work with the world’s biggest brands, such as Apple and Google, we’re an Official Olympic Partners, the Official brand partner for the Barcelona Tourist Board globally, and we have offices in established and emerging economies, such as London, New York, Sydney, Seoul, Paris, Barcelona, Lisbon, Shangahi, Delhi, Dubai, Moscow, Rio, Mexico City, Cape Town, Tokyo, Tel Aviv, Istanbul, Hong Kong to name just a few. It is from this audience of 40 million wealthy, urban people that the millions of people who use our Time Out Croatia products come. In the last decade we’ve introduced Dubrovnik (and Croatia as a whole) to this huge, influential audience and inspired millions to visit, people who have spent a huge amount of money. During this time we’ve formed strong relationships with commercial partners many of whom have been working with us since year one. They know the power of Time Out - no-one else can place their business in front of people who are definitely coming to Croatia before they arrive: when they have their credit card in hand and are searching for a destination, a place to stay, a flight to book, a restaurant to pick. Of course it hasn’t always been easy - the recession has been long and deep - but there are positive signs and the future seems bright for Croatia and Time Out in Croatia. In the next decade things will accelerate for us - we’re investing significantly into Croatia right now - a new, fully responsive national Croatia website that works perfectly on desktop, laptop, Smartphone and tablet has just launched and will grow and grow; as have specific Facebook and twitter accounts just for Croatia, a new Croatia iOS and Android mobile applications, special offers for small businesses to get themselves listed editorially and visible to millions of foreigners from as little as 100 EUR per year, a blogging platform - all driven by proven technology that has worked for us globally and new staff. As we concentrate on promotion on our global audience and our editorial experts and researchers visit venues and review anonymously I’d say we’re Croatia’s most important and best kept tourism secret. This will change very soon as Croatians will become much more aware of Time Out, we’re already seeing in our digital users a big increase in locals.
Am I right in believing that Time Out started as a country-wide publication and that you have recently started with Time Out Zagreb? Why Zagreb and is this an indicator that in the future you will start to publish Time Out for other Croatian cities.
Yes, you’re right; we focused initially on national products. However we’ve collaborated very successfully with many Tourist Boards in Croatia to produce specific products and/or increase coverage of their destinations in national products including Dubrovnik. Other partners include Korcula, Istria and Zagreb. We agree editorial topics but maintain control - we do not do paid-for editorial - this would make us a lot of money in the short-term but we would lose the trust of our readers and destroy the brand. The annual magazine guide Time Out Zagreb you mention is distributed globally and a result of a collaboration with the Zagreb Tourist Board- we all knew the time was right, tourist numbers were increasing rapidly, it’s the EU’s newest capital, it manages to maintain a strong sense of identity and authenticity in an increasingly globalised world, it’s gastronomic scene has exploded, it has an impressive cultural program, is the centre of a local design scene. We knew we could inspire our readers to visit, whether they’re Londoners, Parisians, or South Koreans. We will also collaborate with the Zagreb Tourist Board on mobile, digital and social media - it’s a successful partnership that has huge potential to develop further. We’d love to expand our relationship with the Dubrovnik Tourist Board to do something similar but whether this includes a print edition is to be seen, it works brilliantly in some cases, in others digital alone can be sufficient. I want to say that although print is going through a difficult time in general we are seeing annual products sales increase; people love to browse and have the ‘coffee table experience’ as they plan their holidays with friends and family.
What feedback do you receive from your readership and what would they like you to feature in future publications?
We get lots of feedback and it’s positive, they use Time Out daily in their home cities to find out the best places to eat and drink, the latest concerts, films, theatre and art etc. So they feel part of a big family, a kind of global collaboration. They know nowhere is perfect but they love Croatia. You mention future features - we get less feedback about this, instead they want us to maintain the Time Out tone of voice, to review anonymously as secret shoppers, to do the hard work for them to say where to go and what to do. They do want the authentic, to peel behind the mask, that’s why we always include opinion pieces e.g. ‘Croatia Today’, why we interview artists, designers, architects, writers and film-makers as well as wine-makers, restaurants, hoteliers, event organisers etc. Our readers want to find the best and they trust us to combine local knowledge of Croatia with the distance we have to place Croatia in a global context.
Dubrovnik is recognised as the leading destination in Croatia, why do you believe that Dubrovnik is such a strong brand?
Dubrovnik ‘owns’ the visual identity of the ancient walls on the Adriatic - many well-travelled, intelligent foreigners shown images of other destinations - be it Rovinj, Primosten or Korcula Town would say it’s Dubrovnik. The imagery, colour and tone of the city walls against the crystal clear Adriatic have become iconic, Dubrovnik owns that and the value of this is huge. However, there are other elements too of course: the beauty, the history, the sense of romance, luxury and indulgence. Dubrovnik is infused by a warm glow, plus there are no signs of industry to remind people they need to get back to work soon. Even the name Dubrovnik is pleasant to say and easy to pronounce. However things change and Dubrovnik cannot take it for granted this will continue forever, such positive elements are less well known in our younger readers in comparison to those in their 40s and 50s. There’s serious work to be done to ensure Dubrovnik maintains its success over the decades to come when destinations within Croatia are working so hard to increase their visits, nights and revenue. We’re working with the Dubrovnik Tourist Board, for example by promoting the city’s improving events schedule and we’d like to expand our existing relationship further to match of the success we’ve seen with Barcelona, Zagreb etc, to ensure Dubrovnik benefits fully from Time Out’s audience of over 200 nations.
In these digital times what, in your opinion, is the future, if at all, for these printed publications?
The death of print has been greatly exaggerated. When print works to its strengths it’s an invaluable tool - if you’re a business wanting to raise awareness, if you’re a reader wanting to browse over coffee or look at something with friends it’s still the best. And this is the key for people’s holiday decisions. We print millions of magazines every week and they’re much loved. Beautifully designed, well-written magazines with great photos that have a valued opinion and are low frequency are doing very well indeed, daily papers less so as this audience uses online for free news. Print is still very much in our plans alongside all things digital as it works for readers and the businesses we work with, e.g. Time Out Zagreb magazine will see the city placed on news-stands, bookshops, kiosks, airports etc globally, this tangible presence has a real value alongside digital.
Working in the front line of tourism how would you compare Croatian tourism with our competitors?
Comparisons tend to use generalisations and can mislead, how you define a competitor is interesting question. Is it other tourist destinations in Europe? Globally? Within Croatia? Can local competitors become allies via joint promotion? But it is also something much broader i.e. anything people can spend their free time and money on? Many places are thinking of the later. Disruptive products and/or single events can change things rapidly. Look at airbnb and accommodation, Uber and taxis, the impact of an individual in Tunisia, the economic chaos in Greece, striking workers in France, if the Croatian football team is thrown out of competition the impact could impact tourism in the whole country, it may not but it could. It’s crucial to be as good as you can be so you’re as prepared as you can be. As many of these factors are beyond our control I would say that the key area to concentrate is making Dubrovnik as great a tourist destination and exploring what works for others rather than becoming too obsessed with them. Collaboration and proactive improvement are the key. However to answer your question Croatia is doing well and attracting people from new nations and a wide age range. A big challenge is Croatia is no longer a ‘new’ destination that people want to try, the job is now repeat visits - and younger generations are less loyal than older people. There’s work to get people to come back again and again when they like to visit new places all the time. Events are the key in this and it’s good to see this is being worked on in Dubrovnik and Croatia.
The Croatian Armed Forces Chief-of-Staff, General Drago Lovric, has been awarded the Order of the Legion of Honour, the highest French decoration awarded to senior office-holders, friends of the French Republic, for his outstanding contribution to peace and stability in Europe and his active participation in strengthening the security of the two countries, within NATO and the European Union.
The decision to award Lovric the title of Commander of the Order of the Legion of Honour was made by French President Francois Hollande on 5 January 2016 and the date when it will be presented to Lovric will be announced in due course, the Croatian Defence Ministry said in a statement.
The Order of the Legion of Honour was established by Napoleon Bonaparte on 19 May 1802 to acknowledge military or civilian merits regardless of the recipient's origin, religion or place of birth, which at the time was a revolutionary idea entirely in line with the ideas of the French Revolution. A recipient had to meet one condition - to be committed to the basic ideas of the French Revolution - freedom, equality and brotherhood.
With the slogan of “A City for All Seasons,” Dubrovnik has published a double-page advert in the winter issue of the Croatia Airlines magazine. The advert, which seems to be financed by the Dubrovnik-Neretva Tourist Board and the Dubrovnik Tourist Board, shows the Old City of Dubrovnik and the beauty of the region.
In fact the Dubrovnik advert isn’t the only Dubrovnik page in the new brochure. There are another three pages of adverts from Dubrovnik hotels in the new Croatia Airlines magazine.
Ten percent more Spanish tourists could visit Croatia this year given the visible signs of recovery in Spain after the crisis, but this depends on air routes, which are still not satisfactory, Croatian travel agencies attending Fitur, the biggest international tourism fair in Spain, said on Wednesday.
"This year we expect the same growth as last year," said Ivana Rodin Miljas of the Dubrovnik-based Elite Travel agency, one of ten exhibitors at the fair which was opened today.
Last year 214,000 Spaniards visited Croatia, 13% more than in 2014, reaching the numbers from 2011, when the economic crisis gripped Spain. A growth of 8-10% is expected this year if the economic or security situation in Spain and globally does not escalate.
Spaniards prefer southern Croatia and began arriving in Dubrovnik in greater numbers a decade ago. Last year they accounted for 463,000 bed/nights, 16% more than in 2014, according to Croatia's National Tourism Board.
After smart phones, smart cars and smart watches comes a much more stable smart object - smart benches. The first smart benches arrived in Dubrovnik today. Whilst enjoying a seat in the park you can now charge your mobile phones, tablets and laptops for free. The first benches were installed on the new park that has been constructed near the Port of Dubrovnik on a former road intersection.
The smart benches are made in Croatia and cost up to 20,000 Kuna. They are even an eco-friendly design as the recharge system works on solar power. These are the first of the smart benches to be installed in Dubrovnik, with more planned for other public parks around the city.
Last year was an extremely successful one for Croatia’s airports with seven million passengers passing through the countries airports. The top three airports, in terms of passenger numbers, were the capital Zagreb, Split and Dubrovnik. According to information from the specialised website EX-YU Aviation Zagreb Airport had it best year on record with 2.58 million passengers travelling through the capitals airport. This figure is a massive increase of 6.5 percent over last year. This growth was largely due to an increase in the growing number of international airlines operating through Zagreb. When the passenger numbers through Zagreb over the past five years are compared a steady growth can be seen. In 2013 a total of 2.3 million passengers used the airport, in 2014 that figure had risen to 2.4 million and last year the figure of 2.58 million was a record.
And it wasn’t only Zagreb that had a record year; Split also had its best year on record with 1.95 million passengers travelling through in 2015. After Zagreb’s 6.5 percent increase Split had a whooping increase of 11.6 percent. The managing director of Split Airport, Luksa Novak, told EX-YU Aviation that he expected 2 million passengers to travel through this year. He announced that with the arrival new flights from such airlines as Niki, Volotea, Air Berlin and Thomson Airways. The airport is also undergoing an investment project with the construction of a new terminal planned to start this spring.
And the last of the “big three” airports in Croatia, Dubrovnik airport, continued the positive news with another record breaking year welcoming 1.69 million passengers in 2015. The increase in passenger numbers at Dubrovnik Airport grew by 6.9 percent last year compared to 2014. The most popular route to Dubrovnik in 2015 was London and Croatia Airlines was the most frequent airline, mainly thanks to their daily operations to Zagreb. The airport expects that passenger figures will grow by between 5 and 6 percent this year.
The Old City of Dubrovnik was awoken early this morning to the sirens of fire-engines responding to a fire in a fast food restaurant. The fire started in Vetranićeva Street in the heart of the ancient Old City early this morning and was first noticed when neighbours smelt smoke, they called the fire-brigade at 7.27am.
The Dubrovnik fire-brigade was on the scene very quickly and at 8.10am the fire was already under control. Three fire-engines arrived carrying ten fire-fighters and tackled the blaze. The fire-fighters broke through the ceiling and checked the wooden beams and the floor structure in order to check if the fire was still smouldering.
The cause of the fire seems to be an electrical fault, however the official fire investigation has yet to release their findings.
The Facebook page of the Croatian government had the third biggest community of visitors compared to Facebook pages of other governments in Europe, and ranked third according to the number of comments it had attracted from citizens in 2015, shows a study conducted by Burson-Marsteller, a leading global strategic communications and public relations firm.
The study called "World Leaders on Facebook" covered over 500 Facebook accounts of executive authorities. It is Burson-Marsteller's latest research into how world leaders, governments and international organizations communicate via social media.
The Croatian government's public relations office on Monday published results for the Zoran Milanovic cabinet. Thus, over 1450,000 Facebook users follow the activities of the cabinet, and this number keeps growing, with 280,000 likes last year.
"Based on data collected in January 2016, the World Leaders on Facebook study – the first installment of the 2016 edition of Burson-Marsteller's annual Twiplomacy study – found that 169 of the 193 UN member states maintain an official Facebook page," Burson-Marsteller stated. BM analyzed 512 official Facebook pages for 169 governments, pages which together have amassed a total of 230.5 million ‘likes’.
The Croatian government's public relations office recalls that its Twitter account was also proclaimed "the third most prolific Twitter account among all governments" according to findings of an international study, "Twiplomacy", conducted by Burson-Marsteller in 2015.