Congress geography of the former Yugoslavia recognized city locations of Ljubljana, Zagreb, Sarajevo and Belgrade, and Adriatic locations Portorož, Opatija and Dubrovnik. These cities are still by some accounts still seen as locations from the olden days.
I was first turned to Dubrovnik by legendary professor Ignacij Voje, one of the experts on SE Europe and the Dubrovnik republic, which used to dictate the faith of the entire region. With each visit I remember his comparison of Dubrovnik to some sort of renaissance Hong Kong. The republic peaked in the 15th century. For twelve centuries it defied the pressures and threats of superpowers with trade skills and diplomacy. The character of the people of Dubrovnik can be summarized by the inscription above the entrance to the Lovrijenac fortress: “Freedom is not for sale for all the gold in the world”. I was fascinated by progressiveness of Dubrovnik, especially in hygiene standards and care for nutrition and health. An interesting practise was a form of early capitalism with credits, forms of insurance and double book-keeping. To me the Republic of Dubrovnik is a wonderful example of an economically and politically successful small state, which uses all of its potentials.
I’ve been visiting Dubrovnik on a regular basis since 1996, when the city was wounded by a brutal Chetnik attack. In 1998 I was one of the few guests of a conference on Project Management in Cavtat. At that time Hotel Croatia was the only serious convention hotel and it didn’t look too bright. Hotels at Babin kuk still looked pretty grim and were mostly abandoned. Where the Radisson Blu stands today, the former Dubrovački vrtovi sunca were full of refugees. The Dubrovnik of that time was replaced by new convention hotels, the insufferable summer crowds and a feeling your at the centre of the world. On a random visit to Stradun you can run into John McEnroe, preparing for a tennis match against veteran Goran Ivanišević in front of the Duke’s Palace. Many celebrities visit the city. As a sign of complete tourist renovation the Srđ funicular was finished this year, finally putting an unpleasant era of the city behind it.
Dubrovnik is a city growing and developing due to the meetings industry. It will be a big part of the future of this industry for the entire region. First, as the most successful Croatian and regional brand on the global meetings market. With little exaggeration we can claim the destination brand of the entire region will hang on Dubrovnik.
It will lead the region as the first destination where international and local hotel chains are opening convention centres and performing intensive co-branding. The results are numerous incentives of international corporations to book up the season and convention centre openings one after the other. Last year saw the opening of Valmar Lacroma and Radisson Blu convention centres, and the renovation of many others.
In a very short time Dubrovnik developed all kinds of convention agencies and other service providers. Business innovations and ideas have no limit, except with the deal to build a new convention centre, which has been put off for many years and would enable Dubrovnik to compete for large international conventions. Considering the number of available rooms and other infrastructure, we can be certain meetings industry is important for Dubrovnik.
The people of Dubrovnik will tell you themselves that everything is not ideal. Accessibility is still not as good as it should be (to few air connections). High season is not suitable for organizing meetings, since overbooking can happen and the tourist priorities are aimed elsewhere. Terrible crowds can cause less friendly tourist workers. Additional culinary services are not always the best and are mostly overpriced. The traffic jams can get out of control – travelling from Babin kuk to the centre can become quite a feat. Everybody is eagerly awaiting the highway form Ploče to Dubrovnik, which is coming at an unknown time in the future, since no one can yet predict what will happen with the bridge to Pelješac.
I personally believe the meetings industry can change the image of Dubrovnik. It is possible new investments in meetings industry will change the sociological structure of tourists. I have to add, the key question is always the vision of the destination and the knowledge the infrastructure will be successfully marketed.
The wonderful setting of Dubrovnik is only a part of the story; the meetings industry is largely the logical industry for Dubrovnik. It is only missing some important investments into infrastructure and meetings infrastructure.
The meetings organizers can learn much from Dubrovnik, the inscription on the door to the Duke’s Palace: “Obliti privatorum publica curate” or “Forget your own gains and take care of the common ones”.
Destination mark: 4 QUALITY MEETING DESTINATION
5 excellent meeting destination
4 quality meeting destination
3 recommendable meeting destination
2 average meeting destination
Comparison with the Region
Dubrovnik is the flagship of regional tourism and is the first association of meetings organizers we meet daily. It has still not reached its full potential. It is the closest in the region to renowned Mediterranean convention destinations Cannes and Monte Carlo. It has the biggest potential in the area of corporate and other incentives; after the completion of the convention centre also in the area of international associations conventions.