1. We would like to ask you how, when and where you started working in the meetings industry.
From 1975 to 1977 I owned a private restaurant, 1978 – 1982 I was Advisor to the Tourism Association in Zagreb, 1982 – 1990 General Secretary of the Yugoslavian Convention Bureau – Jugokongres. From 1990 to 1992 I worked as Advisor to the Ministry of Tourism in the first government of the Republic of Croatia where I was in charge of the promotion and marketing of Croatian tourism. I then participated in the formation of the Croatian National Tourist Board. From 1992 to 2001 I was appointed as the deputy Director of the Croatian National Tourist Board and managed the Croatian Convention and Incentive Bureau. Since 2001 I work as Director of the Croatian Convention and Incentive Bureau.
2. Which qualities do you believe someone needs to have as a successful employee in the meetings industry?
One has to love people and love working with people. Also – loving your job, accepting that work hours are also during weekends and holidays, never to promising anything you cannot fulfil, being creative in business, having the determination to solve problems, rather than putting them in a drawer. Being optimistic and having belief in what you are doing.
3. This year you received awards at IMEX and Conventa. These accolades are a confirmation that Croatian Convention and Incentive Bureau is working successfully. Could you share your secret? What are the main reasons for your successful work?
The Croatian Convention and Incentive Bureau has for years built on its position on the international market with systematic work on the development and improvement of the Croatian convention and incentive offer connecting public and private sectors in planned long-term, mid-term and short-term marketing activities, including all entities of the Croatian convention and incentive offer.
Everything I answered in your first question is from my own experience which I am applying daily. It is important that the atmosphere in a company which you lead, as I do at the Croatian Convention and Incentive Bureau, is positive because a positive atmosphere in which people work is an important key to success. The company itself, the name, the number of people in it doesn’t mean anything. I can compare this with the examples of restaurants I go to where there is a good chef and atmosphere. Many times I would stop going to a restaurant because the chef or a mai`tre’d have left the restaurant and start going to the place go where they work now because the building itself doesn’t mean anything.
I am sure that the high quality and position of the Croatian Convention and Incentive Bureau on the world congress and incentive market works positively for the recognition I have received from my peers: 1999 at the IBTM congress and incentive show in Geneva I was declared European Manager of the year for congresses and incentives. In 2005 I became director of Skål International, with special responsibility for the development of business activities within Skål International, after that I became vice president of Skål International. In 2009 at the 70th Skål World Congress in Budapest I was chosen the president of the world’s most important organisation of tourism managers.
Skål International was established in Paris and today works through 500 clubs in 90 countries with more than 20,000 members – tourist managers. Skål International is a unique worldwide organisation which brings together managers from all sectors of the tourism industry (DMCs, hoteliers, carriers, tourist agencies, tour operators etc.) The basic principles of Skål International work are the development of business relationships and friendship amongst members, promoting and supporting sustainable and responsible tourism development and the promotion of quality tourism.
In 2010 at the IMEX Convention and Incentive Trade Fair, I was declared the best European manager. I am especially pleased with the acknowledgment which I received at the Conventa in 2011 for my contribution to the promotion of the Croatian convention and incentive offer.
4. SE Europe is still developing as a congress destination. Convention bureaus are opening. How important do you believe a convention bureau is for a destination, city? Which are the most important roles of a convention bureau for a destination, city?
A convention bureau is typically a non-profit institution and a coordinator of all activities in the destination relating to the development of congress infrastructure, the promotion of congress and incentive possibilities of a destination and the logistical support to congress and incentive organisers.
5. How do you create a successful congress destination? Are there any formulas?
A destination must meet certain requirements to be known as a congress destination, that is to have good transport connections, an existing congress infrastructure (conference halls, convention centres, conference hotels), an existing PCO and DMC, the existence of convention bureau and cultural and historical attractions, gastronomy and sports.
6. Important/international hotel chains have come to Croatia in the last few years. What do you believe is the reason for that?
International hotels and brands come and will come primarily in case of positive tourism trends, which represent a steady increase in tourist numbers and overnight stays. This is the result of quality hotel tourist offers and the general infrastructure in tourist destinations. The quality of the new road network in Croatia, the steady growth in guests’ arrivals with new airlines at all of Croatia’s airports, tourist safety, the quality promotion of Croatian congress and incentive offers and tourist offers abroad through the activities of the national tourist organisations, the Croatian National Tourist Board and the Croatian Convention and Incentive Bureau which also works in 20 overseas representative offices. Also responsible for the success of tourism activities is the system of tourist associations which operate from the head office over county tourist associations to tourist association in the towns, municipalities, districts and places.
7. How important do you believe are these new hotels of international chains for the Croatian meetings industry?
Primarily, their arrival has increased the level of service and sales and since they have a steady business quality and trusted tourist clientele they represent a good image for congress destinations.
8. Conventa is trying to present SE Europe as one congress destination. What do you think about that?
I think that Conventa has found its place on the map of trade-shows as an important convention and incentive trade show in South East Europe.
9. How do you see Croatia in the marketing concept of SE Europe as one congress destination?
Since its independence Croatia has primarily promoted itself as a Mediterranean and Central European country, but also at the same it’s a country on the Danube, and we might as well say a Southeast European country, so this completes the basic strategy of promotion.
10. What are the advantages and disadvantages of presenting Croatia as a country in SE Europe?
There are no special advantages or minuses, it is only important to highlight that Croatia’s principle marketing its promotion as a Mediterranean and Central European country.
11. What do you think about the future of Croatian and SE European meetings industry?
Croatia as a convention and incentive destination is well positioned in the international congress and incentive market. Its excellent geographic location in the centre of Europe and the Mediterranean plays an important role, as do the quality of congress infrastructure, good transport connections through existing quality road infrastructure and international airports, protected natural surroundings, national parks and nature parks, quality drinking water, cultural history, heritage and gastronomy and what is most important – the quality of human resources, which can satisfy the most demanding of global standards.