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Photo Credit: Sanjin Strukić/PIXSELL

Interview with Martina Bienenfeld, the Director of Zagreb Tourist Board, which recently co-organised Croatia’s debut WRC rally. In her role as the director of the Zagreb Tourist Board, Mrs Bienenfeld advocates destination management carried out in cooperation with the tourist industry and the public and private sectors to further promote Zagreb. She endeavours to develop Zagreb and Croatia’s tourism sustainably.

Q: What is the main reason the Zagreb Tourist Board decided to get involved in WRC?

Sports events are one of the most important ambassadors of any country and the city that holds such an event. At Zagreb Tourist Board, we are proud that during these uncertain times, for the first time, Zagreb has been chosen as the host of two huge international sporting spectacles – The World Rally Championship and the World Rowing Cup. Hosting the previously mentioned events shows Zagreb’s character as a modern sports centre and tourist destination. In the future, the city will further solidify its position in sports tourism, contributing to its quality and competitive position in the tourist market. Hence, we support both events and, of course, many other sports gatherings in Zagreb.

Q: The event was followed by numerous media channels. In your opinion, what has the media outcome been for Zagreb Tourist Board?

Even though we, unfortunately, could not expect attendees to come due to the epidemiological conditions, we had to place special attention on the competitors and their teams. Furthermore, there was great interest from media channels, who present their impressions about the destination to the world. Over 200 foreign news reporters and filming crew members came to Zagreb for WRC, while the race was broadcasted live in more than 150 countries around the world. The effects of such synergy between sports and tourism help to popularise the host destination. WRC represents one of the best forms of promotion – both for Zagreb and Croatia.

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Photo: Aljaž Čad

“The city or country that hosts a grand international sports competition sends a message into the world”

Q: We heard that the hotels were almost fully booked during the event. We want to ask you for some statistical information regarding how the race itself influenced Zagreb’s tourism.

From the first to the 25th of April, which was the last day of the race, there were 60.000 overnight stays registered in Zagreb. From that number, during the week when WRC took place (19.4. – 25.4.), there were around 25.000 overnight stays, representing a third of all bookings in April. Some hotels recorded very high numbers of guests, while the results would certainly be even better if fans could have attended the event.

Q: Such spectacles are an incredibly positive signal to organisers of global and regional events. They are indisputable proof that Croatia can host such challenging events. How will you profit from this exceptional capital in the field of MICE?

The city or country that hosts a grand international sports competition sends a message into the world about its openness, attractiveness, professionality in organisation, flexibility and adaptability. These are factors that event organisers from the MICE industry look for. In short, the host that successfully hosts a large sports event shows that they can host seminars, business groups and congresses smoothly. Such manifestations put the spotlight on the destination and give ideas to companies worldwide to organise their next event in the country or city of the host destination. Zagreb has certainly done its job (once more).

Q: We were personally impressed by Zagreb’s surroundings. We got acquainted with cities we otherwise rarely visit. How did the cooperation with other destinations look like, and how can this be additionally improved in the future?

We will try to further connect with them, while our campaign dedicated to Zagreb and its surroundings – Close to the city, close to the heart – will surely help us. In this sense, we will expand the campaign and highlight outdoor stays. The focus will be on sports, health, safety, sustainability and compatibility of Zagreb and its surroundings.

Q: If you could choose the highlight of the competition, what would it be?

Shakedown Medvedgrad stands out from the very start of the competition, while the so-called parc ferme at Ban Jelačić Square was very special. Of course, I also need to mention the last day of the event, which took place in Medvednica.

Q: What can event organisers learn from this year’s WRC?

Organisers can learn of all the necessary steps needed to successfully execute such a serious event. Even the pandemic time can be smartly used, as the organisation can prove to be easier as there is no concern regarding spectators. In the same breath, all details can be analysed without rush, and any possible issues can be resolved.

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Photo: Aljaž Čad

“As the capital of Croatia, Zagreb is known as a meeting hotspot”

Q: In your opinion, what is the competitive edge Zagreb has over other destinations for organising such mega-events?

As the capital of Croatia, Zagreb is known as the meeting hotspot where almost half of all congresses and events in the country take place. In its rich history, Zagreb has been the host of numerous international congresses, sports events and other events. By hosting them, the city and country’s governmental bodies, hotels, cultural, sports and other institutions proved their organisational competence. Furthermore, they proved their quality congress and road infrastructure.

Moreover, as a Central-European city, Zagreb has a great geographical position and is easily accessible via road and air routes. Even from the farthest European cities, Zagreb can be reached in less than two hours. Organisers of various international events prioritise the accessibility of cities and their venues and appreciate it if all the city’s main attractions and halls are located in the centre. We cannot forget to mention the value for money, which guests often list as Zagreb’s greatest advantage.

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Photo Credit: Davor Rostuhar

Without a doubt, WRC is an exceptional project in terms of organisation. The organisers have announced that the media promotion alone is worth 40 million euros. Such a promotion is certainly appreciated before the start of the tourist season. Find out more about the largest automotive spectacle in the region here