Famous Instagram influencers recently visited Zagreb and Dubrovnik – for more about this trend, their social networks profiles and their visit to Croatia, read on…

Famous bloggers brought together in Croatia

HUP Zagreb, one of the leading hotel companies in Croatia, has for the first time ever recently brought together the world’s influential bloggers who otherwise primarily communicate through their own profiles on social networks, mostly Instagram. This was not a classic press trip, as there was not a single word that journalists from traditional media would utter. “Influencers”, as they call themselves, all have a significant number of followers on the Internet and are publishing their works, photos, videos and writing their thoughts. Their online influence has been noticed by many of the world’s brands and destination organisations, which is why they engage them as promoters of their products, services and destinations. The new age traveler is primarily interested in experiencing various adventures and witnessing authentic local lifestyles rather than exploring already well worn tourist attractions, then at the end sharing all the experiences on their social networks with their friends and followers.

On a five-day trip the influencers visited two leading Croatian destinations – Zagreb and Dubrovnik. Beside the city views, rich gastronomy and Croatian tradition, they were introduced to three hotels from the HUP Zagreb and Dubrovnik Riviera Hotel groups, being the Westin and Sheraton in Zagreb and the Sheraton Dubrovnik Riviera Hotel in Mlini near Dubrovnik. They were already during the journey actively reporting about their experiences on many social networks, as well as after it, on Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter etc.… For example, Saul Aguilar (@saaggo), who at this moment has 325,000 followers on Instagram, posted a series of photos from Zagreb and Dubrovnik. The picture of the Sheraton Dubrovnik Riviera hotel was captioned with this description: “Breakfast with a view!”, followed by hashtags @sheratondubrovnik @croatiafulloflife #sheratondubrovnik #croatiafulloflife #experiencedubrovnik. This photo received 3,603 likes and 43 enthusiastic comments from his followers.

Sean Byrne (@byrnephotography), an English photographer posted on his Instagram profile a picture of Dubrovnik’s city walls with the caption: “I spent five beautiful days in Croatia, thanks to a call from the great team of the Sheraton Hotel! One of the hotels I was staying at was @sheratondubrovnik, just outside the town and a 10-min drive to the famous Dubrovnik Fort. This place was stunning and I can totally understand why “Game of Thrones” is filmed here.” The post got 4,022 likes and 125 comments.

This new type of marketing for tourist companies is targeting the new generation of young travelers – Millennials and Generation-Y – who are not being reached through the traditional marketing activities and PR.

Who are the influencers?


The majority of participating influencers have never been in Croatia before, with the exception of Larissa Olenicoff, who has visited Croatia several times. Writing a blog called Blonde Gipsy, focused exclusively on the itineraries and experiences from her travels in Eastern Europe and the Balkan countries, Larisa spent her entire life traveling and with no permanent address – hence the name of the blog. She is currently living in Pristina, Kosovo, where she works for an international organisation dedicated to the development of tourism.

On her specialized blog she publishes stories about places she visits and, as she says, it’s all about locations outside the classic tourist routes, as she loves the thrill of discovering new places and experiences without much planning. Most often she travels alone, but she rarely feels as safe as she does when traveling in the Balkans in her own organisation. Being skilled in writing, she is often hired by tourist organisations to write articles about destinations she was sent to. The texts are of the type that cannot be found in brochures, as they are written by a girl who simply likes traveling and loves the people she meets along the way.

Saul Aguilar and Lesia Odobreska (@thebestdestinations)

Saul Aguilar and Lesia Odobreska (@thebestdestinations) are a French couple whose Instagram profiles together number more than half a million followers. They have turned their hobbies – traveling and photography – into a professional career. When they started, they did not think about an income and free traveling around the world, but they first wanted to build a network of friends around the world with whom they would spend time while traveling. As a self-taught photographer they had to invest in equipment, but later they began to receive equipment from sponsors – photo equipment manufacturers. They enjoyed sharing pictures from trips on social networks, but the pictures quickly found their way to the right audience. Thus came the first income, when advertising agencies and brands were interested in their work. They have already worked for Coca Cola, HP, L’Oréal, Canon and BMW, taking photos and recording videos, or creating interesting on-line content for various brands. Besides that, companies are hiring them for the promotion of products on their Instagram profiles, which have a large number of potential product users. “If you become an ‘Instagramer’ only to earn something, you will not succeed”, Saul is convinced. We were curious, how much are they getting paid for this kind of promotion, and received an answer: “Everything depends on the brand and how you are able to negotiate. There is no official fee for a certain number of followers, it is all about the agreement. A photo which I make by brand order can be sold for 300€. On the other hand, if I post it on my profile, it can reach an amount of 600 to 800€, depending on how long it takes to make a post.”

Other influencers also pointed out the friendliness of the people they met during their short stay in Zagreb, as well as the very interesting character of the capital, which is certainly very attractive for photography. Photography is one of the main communication tools of these influencers on their social networks and Instagram is the primary channel that numbers thousands of followers who regularly comment on their works.

Sean Byrne

London-based Sean Byrne has an interesting story. Besides his primal employment as a truck driver he has been a photographer for quite a long time and began to post on social networks in 2011, other than on Instagram, where he only began posting half a year ago on two different profiles – Byrne photography (136,000 followers) and Bowlerman (31,000 followers).

“There is no ‘real way’ how to make a professional career on Instagram. You must be passionate about photography. Photos must be the best, to be liked by people. So, over time, your audience will grow and you will then be recognized by different brands. Beautiful images can inspire people and encourage them to travel. Three years ago it was impossible to deal with this as a profession, I did this just for fun, but now I hope that this will soon become my professional career. The market increasingly recognizes the importance of investing in social network marketing.”

He has already been on press trips to Canada, Switzerland and elsewhere, but in Croatia for the first time. His main form of communicating with his followers is through Instagram, although he is active also on Facebook, Twitter and his own website and blog. It was just four years ago that he began to photograph with iPhone, studied and followed what others were doing, watching video courses on YouTube and now he is even holding the courses! He said that “Instagram is only a tool, but my goal is to become a professional photographer and get paid for it. In the UK this is not easy at all, since the market is already saturated. My advantage is that I already have a significant number of followers.”

Marc Bächtold (@marcbaechtold), a young German professional photographer who works a part-time job and is studying and building a career on Instagram, is focused on adventure travel. Most of the audience attracted to his profile is young people looking for adventures and mainly from Europe and the United States. “Sometimes the brands are only offering me their products in exchange for photos, while larger companies pay. It all depends on what am I doing for them.” Thanks to his activities on social networks, he has been on a lot of trips organised by tourist boards, such as Turkey, Switzerland, Australia, Finland, Germany and, after Croatia, he is going to Greece and Indonesia.