Ilirija is one of the largest tourist companies in Dalmatia, which in its portfolio has a whole set of travel products from hotels, camping, nautical offer, to the special products in the segment of congress tourism.
In recent years the company has undergone significant investments in the market and introduced several new products for business guests – a multifunctional event ship “Hope”, agro-tourism of Ražnjević courts as the first Croatian diffused hotel, Arsenal is a symbol of cultural and event offer of Zadar, while the DMC agency integrates and sells all products. About it all we ware talking with the President of the Ilirija Board Goran Ražnjević.
Q: Ilirija has in the last few years, with significant investments complemented and rounded off its tourist offer. Can you specify what was the most important?
Guided by the principles of continuous, sustainable and responsible investments, in recent years we have invested more than 65 million Euros in construction of new, renovation and expansion of existing facilities in all our sectors (hotels, camping and sailing), as well as in the development of new services and content. The most important ones are two separate products – event ship “Hope”, a multifunctional yacht of the size 35m and capacity of 140 persons which is making possible the holding of floating meetings and special events and the first Croatian diffused Hotel – Ražnjević court, located in the town of Polača in the immediate hinterland of Biograd. Then, by increasing the convention capacity and the repositioning of the travel agency Ilirija Travel into a strong DMC and PCO agent, we are creating an integrated and complementary tourism product that is recognized in both the domestic and international markets.
Q: What is the vision of the company, considering the rest of the destination’s offer of Zadar and Biograd?
Ilirija ltd is one of three leading and largest tourism companies in northern Dalmatia and among the 15 leading travel companies in Croatia, and our aim is to be and remain the carrier of the tourist development of our region and the destination. By building our own products-brands we want to be recognized as a company of high quality, not only in Croatian, but also in the European market, by providing quality and superior service and tourism of experiences. Therefore, we will with the development of our own services and offers at the same time contribute to the high quality, competitive and sustainable development of tourism of the destination and our region, always emphasizing its advantages and special features. In co-operation with other tourism entities, we will continue to work on further recognition and competitiveness of our environment because it is only a joint collaboration of all the creators and holders of tourist offer in the specific area of tourism, which is not only in the long-term viable product, but also a powerful generator of economic development of the region.
[pullquote]In Ilirija, we have always strived for innovation and specials[/pullquote]
We have always strived for innovation and for being special because being different from others and being a pioneer in the development of tourism offer are the fundamental principles of our business philosophy, which can permeate through all three of our sectors – hospitality, marine and camping, which are our “core business”. It is therefore our great honour and also a great responsibility, to participate in the development and creation of Croatian tourism offer for the benefit of all its citizens, tourist and commercial workers and communities. Like 40 years ago we were pioneers in the development of nautical tourism on the Adriatic and from Biograd made the leading nautical destination, by opening the first diffused hotel we have presented the fourth power of Croatian tourism. This demonstrates our commitment to developing innovative and complementary tourism product that offers to the market the tourism of experiences, special interests and tailor-made products.
Q: You have received several awards in the field of corporate social responsibility. What, as a medium-sized company, are you doing in terms of sustainability?
Ilirija is so far the only tourism company in Croatia that has won awards for Corporate Social Responsibility – the CSR Index for 2011 and 2012 in the category of medium-sized companies, awarded by the Croatian Chamber of Commerce in co-operation with the Croatian Business Council for Sustainable Development.
The principles of corporate social responsibility are based on the balancing of rights, obligations and interests of all stakeholders of the business process – owners, government, banks, employees, local communities, suppliers, customers, and the immediate environment. Being a socially responsible company for Ilirija means to systematically and continuously reflect and act on all aspects of its business, operations, decision-making and communication, and thereby at the same time taking into account their long-term economic, social and sustainability, while respecting all the positive regulations, codes of ethics and corporate Governance Code. The stated in our company is specifically reflected in the following areas: environmental protection, treatment of employees and the relationship with the community (corporate philanthropy).
We are systematically and continuously investing significant efforts and activities in customization and implementation of standards, procedures and regulations of the European Union in all aspects of environmental protection (protection of the sea, coast, water, air, soil) and waste management. In 2013, we continued to invest in improving the quality and improve our own business processes and establishing a certification of quality management system according to DIN EN ISO 9001: 2008, which was implemented company-wide.
In July 2014, we completed the process of implementation and certification of an environmental management system according to DIN EN ISO 14001 Also, our travel agency Travel Ilirija reached the first of three phases of Travelifea – management systems and certification that the travel agencies and tour operators establish sustainable socially responsible practices.
Ražnjević court – the first Croatian diffused hotel
Q: Ražnjević courts near Biograd are bearing the title of the first Croatian diffused hotel. Can you tell us how does this type of tourism product work and what are its advantages?
The hotel is a multipurpose functional facility designed and equipped as a place for holding meetings, incentives, seminars, team building, gala dinners, banquets and other events seeking exclusivity of service and ambience. For the full experience of traditional and authentic way of life on the farm, with the use of a registered farmer, produced in traditional and environmentally friendly way of indigenous products – their own wine and olive oil, which you can taste in the winery and oil-tasting contained within the property.
In Ražnjević courts they are providing accommodation and breakfast, but the hotel is able to provide all other hospitality services in accordance with the wishes and needs of the guests. Such a tourism product that provides numerous opportunities for the organization of events or just the service with a personal approach to every client is very hard to find on the Croatian market, hence it is as a special product recognized by individual and business clients.
Q: You have developed Ražnjević courts as a special product developed on the basis of family heritage in flat-districts (Ravni kotari), which is in terms of tourism quite undeveloped and unused. But you have decided to tell an authentic story of Dalmatia and its people right there. Could this be a possible direction of the development and the rest of our tourism offer in Dalmatia, and also in other regions – to develop what is indigenous, what we are and what we can offer to our guests?
With the opening of diffuse hotels and investment in agro-tourism we want to contribute to the development of the tourist offer of our immediate hinterland Flat-districts (Ravni kotari), rural development and agricultural tourism in Zadar County, solely basing it on the cultural heritage, historical heritage, natural and cultural values, preserved traditions and customs of the area. That is one of the best ways to revitalize indigenous objects for the rest of our offer to provide added value, visibility and communicate an entirely new image of the offer of the destination and the country. Ražnjević courts and similarly revitalized indigenous structures in the economic function of tourism are certainly one of the best ways of development of quality of the offer, not only in Istria and Dalmatia, but also on our continent.
Congress tourism – extremely important
Q: In addition to agro-tourism, for the development of business tourism you have invested in purchasing and renovation of a special event ship “Hope”. How much does business and convention tourism contribute to arrivals and what place does it take in the future development of the company?
Congress tourism is one of the best ways of quality prolonging the tourist season, to have a successful and profitable year-round business, with particular emphasis on the pre-season and post-season and is of great importance to strengthening the competitiveness of the Croatian tourism in general.
We are aware that tourism companies that base their products on the offer of “sun and sea” in the long term cannot be competitive. Therefore, with the investment and furnishing and decorating of the event ship we enabled market positioning of our overall services to the lucrative tourist market, boosting the offer in the off season and the positioning among the leading Croatian convention destinations.
Along with investing in a multifunctional boat, significant resources have been invested in technological equipment, landscaping and overall increase in the existing convention facilities and the overall improvement of the offer and raising service standards, thus the overall convention capacity of Ilirija is 900 seats. For us the importance of this segment is unquestionable for long-term business development, which is best seen from the development of our additional offer which was being adjusted precisely to this market segment. We are aware that the local congress market is only beginning its recovery, and we are only left with market competition with the leading European congress destinations to which Croatia is, due to inadequate congress infrastructure and other supporting facilities, is not competitive. Therefore, a significant share of this market segment in terms of business revenue is still awaited.
Q: Arsenal in Zadar, the old heritage monument, is a beautiful so-called special venue for organizing all kinds of events. How is it used as a a space and how does it fit into the rest of the offer of Ilirija?
Arsenal is one of only seven surviving buildings of its kind which was renovated in 2005 in the concept of “indoor city square.” With the revitalization of Arsenal the perfect blend of business and cultural tourism was created, which has brought added value not only to the tourist offer of Ilirija, but to the whole destination. In the wider region it is the only revitalized historic building that is functioning as a cultural and congress centre and a place with unique conditions for concerts, presentations, receptions, conferences, private parties, exhibitions and commercial events, recognized by domestic and foreign tour operators, MICE and event management companies.
As a representative and multi-purpose building of 1.800m2, situated in the old town of Zadar, it is equipped with modern technology for the organization of conferences for up to 500 persons, public appearances and concerts for up to 1.200 people, then the kitchen to service up to 1.000 people, as well as sections within the gallery space for smaller, more intimate groups of 20 people.
Today, Arsenal is one of the symbols of Zadar, as a separate and distinctive historical and cultural space for holding events with the standard of services at level 4 and 5 stars. Aimed at users who require more than just event space and are looking for an authentic ambience that while maintaining the history, culture and tradition of the place, destinations and regions, is also offering full organisation service (organizational, technical, catering, etc..), While an authentic Croatian tourist product that combines the care of monuments with their use. At Arsenal in recent years were held over 895 events with 153.167 participants, therefore, for us, its utilization was never questioned.