In recent years, Croatia has bore witness to a few brave and innovative trends emerging from young people determined to seek disruption and innovation in industries that were traditionally seen as inflexible and untouched, at least in this country. Inspiration came from ideas which later turned into products, many of them much sought after such as the Rimac Concept One electric vehicle (brain child of Rimac Automobili CEO and founder, Ante Rimac) as well as the Solarna E-klupa solar-powered bench and outdoor Smartphone charger (developed by Solin native Ivan Mrvoš and his classmates). Both men have made big names for themselves both at home and abroad, where they have significantly bolstered the image of entrepreneurship in this country and shaken industries that were considered bulwarks of change. While frolicking at the beach today on a small Dalmatian island where my family has a summer home, I was witness to yet another unique game-changer.
Less than 20 metres from the beach where I happened to be swimming, a throng of tourists had gathered around what appeared to be an old-timer VW camper van, the sort hippie Germans would use to embark on southern European tours during the great days of the 1960’s and 1970’s. I couldn’t make out what was going on and decided to have a peek for myself, at which point I was pleasantly surprised to find out what all the commotion was about. On the small road hugging the lovely local beach which we share with tourists, alocal duo had come up with a concept that was recognized by the county chapter of the Croatian Tourist Association (HTZ) winning the 2016 ‘Simply the Best’ award for something called the ‘Mobile Visitor Centre.’ Using a refurbished and uber-cool old-timer VW camper van, the Mobile Visitor Centre does exactly what its name implies -- visits tourists at the places where they congregate be it the beach, the quayside, the local art gallery, café row, or the town square. The Mobile Visitor centre ‘visits’ you and is meant to make things more efficient for tourists in every possible way.
The brain child of Rogoznica natives Petar and Marija Režić, the Mobile Visitor Centre made its debut appearance last summer as part of a pilot project in conjunction with the Rogoznica Tourism Association (and on a larger scale, the Croatian Tourism Association), and quickly earned scores of accolades from local and national tourism organizations. What it does is provide tourists with useful and up-to-the minute information about cultural events and happenings in the town and nearby region which they are vacationing in. Encompassing everything from tourism brochures in multiple languages, to detailed town maps and pamphlets displaying festivals and cultural events, right down to practical information about local hospitals, pharmacies, pet centers and more, the Mobile Visitor Centre serves as a one-stop-shop for all your visitor needs. One of the coolest things about it is that the VW camper van comes armed with complimentary WIFI for visitors to use and the hipster van is a hit with children who clamber to have their photo taken and engage in a pop-up experience. As the concept is still in its infancy, there a range of ideas still being explored about what else to equip the van with and provide, but rest assured that the Mobile Visitor Centre is one of the best ways to find out everything you need to know about your destination without ever having to leave home or log-in to your own mobile device.
Given the marketing gimmick involved, the Rogoznica Mobile Visitor CentreVW camper van with its colourful image of the island had my curiosity on high alert.
Marija and Petar Režić, the pleasant young couple who were administering the pop-up stand next to it took their time to explain what it was to the tourists who had gathered in front, each one of them as equally as intrigued as I was. They explained that the idea was initially designed to provide visitors with an easy overview of local options for family tourism in Dalmatia. Understanding that families were less likely to pop into the local tourist centre office, they thought about how best to bring the centre directly to the visitor using new and innovative options. Knowing that guests were sure to be wowed by a design concept that involved a much loved and recognizable brand, the first VW Mobile Visitor Centre camper van was born.
Rogoznica is a small island located right in the very heart of Dalmatia halfway between Split and Šibenik. It is connected by a man-made bridge to mainland Dalmatia and boastsa private yacht marina - Marina Frappa, that has consistently been voted the best in the Adriatic. As with many Dalmatian towns, Rogoznica has seen tourism quadruple in recent years and the demand this year has reached unprecedented levels, boasted in part by a newly renovated town square and a range of terrific restaurants serving local and foreign cuisine. Walking alongside the quay and ‘Trg’, many visitors were pleased to seethat Rogoznica town centre is now a WiFi mobile hotspot (one of the first of its kind in Croatia) and the quayside has recently installed the Mrvoš’ solar-powered benches with mobile chargers built-in. Given the ingenuity of local entrepreneurship, The VW Mobile Visitor Centre is already a recognizable site in town and in speaking to Petar and Marija, what started as a pilot project will continue in 2017 as the Mobile Visitor Centre tours other Dalmatian towns and regions, both to promote Rogoznica and seek partnerships in innovation.
Although the idea was born in and started in Rogoznica, which is natural as the founders are both situated here, looking ahead they would like to scale and expand the concept to other Dalmatian towns and cities. The aim is to utilize the Mobile Visitor Centres to engage with tourists while providing unique and innovative experiences that bring the best of Dalmatia to the fingertips and footsteps of our guests. Here’s hoping Dubrovnik is next.
By Mirella-Marie Katarina Radman