by Josipa Zekanović
Zadar region – the hidden gem of the Mediterranean attracts more and more Belgians.
Croatian travel agency representatives and owners from Zadar met Belgian colleagues to foster better cooperation and a successful common future in the tourism sector in Croatia-Belgium relations.
On an initiative of the Croatian Tourist Board Benelux, the Commerce Chamber of Zadar and Zadar County, Croatian travel agencies have presented their offer to the Belgian market at hotel Van der Valk in Diegem.
The two-day event saw Croatians and Belgians exchange experience in tourism and learn about cultural and social aspects from both states that are affecting the tourism industry.
Croatia is still a fresh tourist market for Belgians, and every year more and more of them are discovering the country. Croatia is definitely going up on the bucket list of vacation destinations for Belgians.
Regarding Croatia, there are still a lot of things that are unknown for Belgians, so the event was used to present Croatia in a quality way. On this occasion, Zadar county, with its representatives, showed all its beauty in historical and natural diversity. On the first evening, the Croatian contingent met the Belgian press and representatives from tourist agencies.
Zadar representators and their visions
Participants from Zadar region were: Shuttle Tours, Maricom, Kayak Adventure Zadar, Distinct Travel Croatia, Terra travel, Adriatic Explore Travel, Feral Tours, vir turizam, Salt Sand Stone, Dalmatia Adventures, Zračna luka Zadar, Croatian Commerce Chamber – Zadar County, Tourist office board of Zadar county.
This is the first time Zadar region has been presented in Belgium in this way.
The first evening started with the serving of local Croatian delicacies and an introductive multimedia presentation.
The next day a workshop and working meeting were scheduled in Brugge, which one of the most beautiful old towns in Belgium and is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The meeting spot was the Tourist Office Board of Brugge, wherein this medieval building you could actually feel the history. It was really interesting comparing Brugge and Zadar, talking about the economic, ecologic, and social perspective of tourism in these two old towns. Also, participants pointed out about the problems with mass tourism, overcrowding old parts of towns and legal aspects for local tourist guides. Both sides, Belgian and Croatian agreed that tourism service in towns like those should follow the needs of the guests and keep promoting areas in a quality way.
Impressions and highlights of Brugge
After the workshop, the Croatians enjoyed a walking city tour with a local guide. In those two hours, they learned a lot about the culture, tradition, history and heritage that Brugge and Belgium is offering tourists.
The afternoon was reserved for buying the most well-known souvenirs from Belgium, beer and chocolate and exploring little restaurants and shops.
- I was really thrilled with this trip and the programme in Belgium, the fascinating gastro-culture, beers, chocolate, seems to me like a cozy place for living. Speaking of business relations between Belgian colleagues and us, I made good contacts with them and I hope for a successful common future in business- said Mate Čulina from Vir Turizam.
- I had a very good time in Belgium, I must say it was a very good experience as well, especially when the topic is mass tourism and the problems and how to deal with it. I really hope one day we will have that kind of working approach in tourism – said Marino Buljanović from Maricom company.
- Definitely, a great and positive experience we felt in Belgium and we learned how they are dealing with mass tourism making it sustainable and movable. I would like to repeat this adventure in some other state. I really like the way how the Brugge Tourist Office Board and other tourism institutions keep up with mass tourism aspects in theory and in practice, also I liked the way how they are encouraging production and developing domestic products – claimed Yvonne Richner Skiljic from Dalmatia Adventures.
- We definitely see this as a great way of cooperation with Belgian colleagues, it is always good to learn something and from both sides in this story. Belgium is our homeland, and Croatia also, so we are familiar with this market and our business is based on those customers, we hope we will make our connection even stronger thanks to this event we were attending, and definitely must say how we had a great time with our colleagues from Zadar – said Philip Dupont and Josipa Zekanović from Salt Sand Stone travel agency.
- I would like to point out the smart sustainable plan of tourism in Brugge, there are opportunities to open and start a business in tourism without taxation in the first three years. Smart managing of the entertainment content for tourists in the town that doesn`t make any competition for locals who are in the tourism business in Brugge and that still effects criterion of sustainability. The example of how they are dealing and providing cultural tourism services should show us how we should use our potential more like for example our ancient Roman Forum in Zadar, other Roman relics and monuments, early Romanesque architecture….This event was held on the initiative of the Professional Association of Tourist Agencies by the Commerce Chamber of the Republic of Croatia, Zadar department, and connected 20 agencies from Belgium with Croatia. It is the result of a collaboration of the Croatian Tourist Office Board Benelux, the Tourist Office Board of the City of Zadar and the Tourist Office Board of Zadar County – said Martina Deša from Croatian Commerce chamber in Zadar.
Photo Credits: Private archive