MEET UP: SMART TOURISM 5.0 – the first Croatian Virtual Tourism Conference successfully completed
The crisis and the COVID – 19 affect what and where we eat, what the restaurant scene in Croatia will look like, how we will travel, spend our vacation, and how the tourism sector will cope with the challenges of the pandemic. These were the topics discussed at the First Professional Virtual Conference on Tourism in Croatia, held on May 5, organized by the coordinators of four different manifestations that promote tourism and gastronomy in Croatia and on the international scene. Tourism 365 Conference, Taste the Mediterranean, the Festival of Mediterranean Gastronomy, PLACE2GO, the International Tourism Fair and the HTI Conference, a European initiative that promotes health tourism. The Smart Tourism 5.0 conference brought together renowned experts from Croatia and abroad to exchange information and business experiences, and discuss new market opportunities in a future “smart” society.
The Smart Tourism 5.0 conference aroused great interest: 1250 applications were collected, and more than 900 active users from about 15 countries around the world, “live” followed what brings us the concept of “super-smart” 5.0 society, in which everything is completely subordinated to human well-being – from robotics and artificial intelligence to the circular economy and sustainable resource management.
Nothing can stop the love for food
How will the cartes and the service in the restaurants change? Will fine-dining survive? Will delivery to the consumers’ homes replace the traditional hospitality and will it be economically justified? We discussed about all these questions with chef Marin Rendić, owner of Bistro Apetit in Zagreb and one of the initiators of the Facebook initiative Chef kuha doma (chef cooks at home) and Yvan Estève, co-owner of the gourmet deli shop “Za pod zub” in Stari Grad on the island of Hvar who launched together with his partners “Hvar chef” – a luxury villa and yacht cooking service. Their discussion was moderated by Dubravka Tomeković Aralica, project manager of the Taste the Mediterranean festival.
When asked what safety standards could we expect in restaurants once they reopen, chef Marin Rendić said that it would not be a problem for him to spread the tables more than the recommended two meters, but he firmly dismissed the possibility to separate the tables with some plexiglass barriers. .
“Then I’d rather not even open my restaurant. We can spread the tables three meters apart, although it must be clear that under a certain number of tables the restaurant becomes unprofitable. But a fine dine restaurant offers a story, an interaction with the chef, the waiter and the sommelier. The whole “ package” makes the guests come to this particular restaurant. We will listen to the wishes of our guests, so we may also develop a video interaction with guests in restaurants. However, the greatest happiness for a chef is seeing his guests taste his food.” Rendić said.
Yvan Estève added: “We need to be aware that a lot has changed in a short period of time. Hygiene in Croatian restaurants was never a problem, but now we have to show our guests that we think about their safety and at the same time enable them to have a superb experience.“
Although gastronomy is one of the worst hit branches in the business sense, Estève and Rendić agreed that the crisis due to the COVID-19 pandemic is the right time to launch new ideas and projects because – love for food will never stop.
That’s why, during the special “stayathome” period, chef Marin Rendić with some colleagues – all renowned Croatian chefs – launched a Facebook initiative “Chef kuha doma” (The chef cooks at home). From their private kitchens chefs Hrvoje Zirojević, Mate Janković, Ante Božikov, Braco Sanjin and Pero Savanović share recipes and cooking tutorials in the way they prepare it in restaurants. They consider to develop from this project an online kitchen school as well as to print a classic cookbook.
In recent months Yvan Estève has stepped up organic farming on the island of Hvar and he believes that the pandemic has brought some good, too.
“Hvar gardens and fields, especially in the protected UNESCO area of Ager, are much more cultivated than before. It is a pleasure to see how much energy people invest in growing local foods. Working with them brings added value, which guests will surely recognise”, says the Frenchman who moved to Hvar six years ago with his life partner Chloe Molina who grew up on the Caribbean island of Bora Bora.
Ingrid Badurina Danielsson, director and founder of Taste the Mediterranean festival, whose seventh edition will take place from 7 to 11 October in Split, concludes: “Croatian caterers, as well as those from other countries, strive to find alternative ways of doing business: from food delivery, preparation of semi-finished meals that guests complete at home, to online cooking schools, such as Chefkuhadoma. But they all agree that sustainable local food production and the local guests should be at the forefront.”
The new age of tourism
Ivana Kolar, the initiator of the Smart Tourism 5.0 conference and the director of the company Julius Rose d.o.o., Ivana Budin Arhanić, vice president of Valamar Riviera, Siniša Topalović, director and partner of Horwath HTL, Jan de Jong, managing partner of Webpower Adria and Christopher Hinteregger, executive director of PKF tourism experts from Austria, spoke about what tourism will look like in the coming months, what it means for Croatia and what are the potentials of domestic tourism, whether the crisis creates an opportunity for year-round tourism and activation of less popular destinations and creative development of new products and local contents.
Ivana Kolar believes that we need to accept changes, and prepare standards and rules of conduct because the most important prerequisite for the arrival of the guest will be – safety. “Whoever adapts first to these changes will have a significant advantage in the market. Croatia can emerge victorious here, within the given framework, for several reasons – a good epidemiological picture, the healing factors of our tourism, the proximity of our strongest markets and an active tourism sector “.
How to travel after the Corona, how to choose destinations, what to look for and what to avoid, will traveling become a luxury and what are the new trends in tourism? Travel writers and influencers – the blogger Ivan Bengeri, the travel consultant Vlado Šestan, travelholic Iva Mihalić Krčmar and the director of PLACE2GO International Tourism Fair Damjana Domanovac tried to answer to all these questions.
“We will travel in a different way, the mask will no longer be a travel equipment reserved only for Asians, and domestic tourists will explore their own country and the surrounding countries in the coming period. Traveling by car will replace air travel for a while, but there will always be traveling.”– concluded Damjana Domanovac.
As a partner of the meeting, the HTI Conference brought together experts who spoke about social distancing, how to get to a super-smart society with prevention and digitalisation, about trends in health tourism and what to offer and how to address the market.
The panelists were Dr. Meri Bura, founder of the Mulier Holistic Center in Šibenik, Christian F. El-Khouri, partner of the oldest German medical facilitation agency and international consultant, and Dr. Sherif Hassan from the USA, infectious disease specialist, expert for digitalisation in healthcare and the owner of a portal offering medical tourism.
Leila Krešić-Jurić, the executive director of the HTI Conference concluded that despite the drastic decline in health and tourism services, we can expect a positive change. “It is the quality of these services and health safety that will become one of the key elements in choosing a destination. Health tourism will base its development on a stronger connection with health systems in emitting markets, and thus ultimately enable an increase in the quality of health care and the domicile population.”
A video of the conference will be permanently available at smarttourism.live.