November 24, 2021 – Is winter tourism in Split this difficult to reach? Croatia’s second largest city and summer star loses its infatuation as soon as the seasons change. But it doesn’t have to be like that. Our new TCN series takes a look at businesses in Split that work hard in the winter to provide locals and visitors with the environment they deserve. Continuing this week with winter tourism in Split at the Brasserie on the 7th, Zinfandel Food & Wine Bar and Charlie’s Bar.
If there is one powerful couple who carved their name in the Split hotel industry, it is Maria Mustapić and Korana Bučić, two Australian-Croats who moved to Split in 2004, opening one of the first real hostels. in town, a backpacker’s bar and two of the city’s best dining establishments.
TCN has long been fans of Mare and Ko and their constant efforts to create an inclusive environment at the center for foodies, wine tourists and travelers looking to relax on vacation, even in winter.
We caught up with Maria to find out what motivates them to keep Split alive this offseason, what needs to change and what we can expect from them this year.
Croatia and Split enjoyed flourishing year-round tourism in the 1980s until the outbreak of the Homeland War, but now the Dalmatian coast sleeps all winter. Why do you think it is?
As people have mentioned before, the summer season has become so intense and popular that there has been a change. People see Croatia as mainly the Dalmatian coast, which is the land of the sea. The most we have to offer is the crystal blue Adriatic, the sun and the beautiful islands.
When Croatia was part of Yugoslavia, the other regions were also included. So people saw Croatia differently. The Greek Islands, the Italian coast or the French Riviera were the main summer vacation spots, while Croatia has always been nice and pristine, but it wasn’t on the map. Almost like it’s being kept a secret.
Because people work so much in the summer, they like to rest in the winter. Lots of other places were open year round which is a huge factor. But again, it’s a catch-22 – if no one comes, then why would you stay open? It is difficult to balance.
The market shows that we work in the summer and we rest in the winter. During Yugoslavia there was more industry and manufacturing, and the main income was not tourism. More people lived in the city, which made the city fuller. It’s hard to feel the city when it’s empty, and there are no more inhabitants in the palace. The same goes for Dubrovnik. But it’s a shame it got so bare and empty here in the winter.
If flights weren’t the problem, does Split have a winter tourism offer, and if so, what is it?
I think we need to work on this. I think Split can be accepted as a city-break destination where travelers get away from it all for 3 days. They don’t expect much, other than a bit of city life. They come in, rent an apartment, but once they get out of their house every night, they want to see it happen. I think for starters, that’s all you can expect. If you are only here for 3 days I guess you won’t be booking a cooking class or something similar; you won’t look much in extracurricular activities.
I think Split could finally start with convention tourism in the winter. Congress tourists have a plan while they are here and in their free time they can explore the city, dine at some restaurants, see a few sights, be in the middle of nature, and stroll the beach promenade. . But it remains relatively simple. Depending on where they are from, the weather can also be refreshing for them.
I think the city needs to grow, and people will feel it, especially if we have good weather and the establishments remain open, including a few more stores.
Do you know of any initiatives to improve the winter tourism situation?
The biggest initiative I see is the digital nomad movement. Split is becoming more and more attractive to digital nomads. Since there is a market for them, initiatives are taken to entertain them which become successful and great fun. We’re also starting to create a great culture around digital nomads.
Digital nomads can see the city when it is not in high season or with tourism. They can see how the locals live, like shopping at the pazar or at the fish market every day.
Advent, of course, is also a great initiative that must stay afloat.
Give us some quick wins that could make Split a bit more appealing during the winter months?
We have to get people to come to town. For example, offer free parking at the port to motivate people to come to town. We need to create a plan for the locals in the winter and include the community, whether it’s kids dancing on the Riva stage or something similar, the parents will come and maybe the extended family. We will then create an atmosphere in the city. I would like to see what the money is used for in the summer because you don’t notice it; Split is busy in the summer anyway.
However, we can use that money when it is not busy to create something. Another example, certain events can be postponed until November. For starters, if we could build on November and December with flights and see if there is a difference, we can include January and February. But if we can have enough to take us through to the end of the year, that’s huge.
Then we can get the flights from March, then in about 5 years we can integrate January and February if the other months are successful. The initiative has to come from the council and the tourism board, and then the private sector can follow. But we cannot do it ourselves.
Let’s take a look at the plan and agenda created for the summer and see to what extent it can be crossed out or postponed to the winter.
Are you planning an event (s) in the near future?
We have our winter menu at the Brasserie on the 7th. Our chef, Alex, has incorporated some of his French specialties like cassoulet, which is made with duck confit, pancetta, sausage and beans.
We also have a pappardelle with lamb stew, pistachio whipped cream and candied orange. Because B7 is located on the Riva and breakfast and brunch are very popular, we also have the 60 kuna brunch special, where you can choose between Eggs Benedict, French toast and porridge, until ‘at noon. The locals appreciate it too.
This year we are participating in Advent in Zvončac. Charlie’s Bar will be the main caterer for this within our company. Alex creates the menu, and the offer is going to be loaded with hot dogs. We have an Asian style with sesame, soy and cucumber, a Texan with barbecue sauce and beans, a New Yorker with cream cheese, green onions and cheddar, a Spanish with roasted peppers. and a classic with fried onions.
Every second Friday, Zinfandel hosts Nomad Table with a fixed menu. This is a super fun event organized for digital nomads by Tanja Polegubić and Saltwater Nomads. There are games for everyone to interact and get to know each other better.
When winter tourism is mentioned, many locals say they don’t want it because they are tired after peak season. What is your perspective as a successful business owner?
I think it’s a shame that this is the case. If you have a more stable income during the winter, then you can have more staff. You have a core team. We already have it to some extent, but we would like to keep more people going all year round. The summer turnover allows us to do that, but it also reduces your summer profits. It would be nice if it didn’t go from one extreme to the other. This way people can alternate their vacations and it will look more like a city all year round. Everything will stabilize. But there is no one to be open to; This is the problem.
Although the staff are very tired during peak months, they can cut back a few hours towards the end of the season. On the other hand, they are also bored when they come to work, and there is nothing to do, which is demotivating. When you have your shift, and there are tables to serve, it’s easier for everyone. The day goes by faster; you feel more like you’ve accomplished something.
What do you think are the critical steps to get more flights in winter?
I guess it all has to do with finance. Airlines should fill seats and demand, and subsidies should be available so that the airline does not lose money. If Croatia can maybe invest in this at the national level, then maybe we have something. The Ryanair base in Zagreb will also take a long time to start up. Although they are connected to many destinations this winter and to some 42 next summer, bookings will not happen overnight.
Marketing is also one of the biggest successes. Split should be considered as a holiday destination in Europe, especially for travelers from the UK or Scandinavia who want to see blue skies in winter.
Split needs a program and an agenda that needs to be marketed so that people have a clear idea of what they can do here.