The Dubrovnik Times caught up with the President of the Board of Gulliver Travel, Goran Hrnić, ahead of another busy tourist season in Dubrovnik. Gulliver Travel was founded in 1989 and is one of the iconic travel brands in the region. But this isn't an agency that is resting on its laurels, far from it, Gulliver has just relased a brand new website that offers guests the possibility of online booking, as Hrnić explained “with the explosion of the online bookings, as well as online reviews, agencies that have a strong digital presence have the upper hand.”
Gulliver Travel was the first private travel agency in Dubrovnik, now almost thirty years later you are the leading agency in the city. What are the keys to your success?
In fact we were the first private travel operator in the region, not only in Dubrovnik. We started in 1989, on the 1st of February; I can still remember those humble beginnings. Of course being the first travel agency in the region helped us get a head start on all of the competition. There were three partners in the foundation, and we all came from the travel industry. We always had many ideas and new projects that we worked on in those formative years, in fact we have always kept that innovative edge. We don’t want to follow – we want to lead.
How has Dubrovnik changed as a destination since those beginnings and how have you seen the travel business change in general?
You would have to say that the increase in modern technology, the internet and the digital era have completely changed the face of the travel business. Travel operators have either had to follow the trends or have gone out of business. And it isn’t enough just to follow the trends you also have to make your own developments, find a way to create your brand in a crowded market. We are proud at Gulliver Travel that we have been able to blossom in the digital world. There are many more specialised agencies than before, agencies that look after a small niche sector, so the competition is fierce.
As far as Dubrovnik as a destination is concerned you have to say that there are many more contents and attractions than before, although there is still lots of work to be done in my opinion. The rate of development of Dubrovnik, and the opening of new accommodation, hasn’t been followed by the development of the infrastructure. The market has opened much more in recent years and that has brought new investment and new developments. We have work to do, but I am sure that we are going in the right direction; I would just like it to move a little faster.
In these modern times how difficult is it for a travel operator to compete with “digital” tourists who arrange their travels online?
We have to follow all the new trends on the market, as the world changes so the travel industry changes as well. With the explosion of the online bookings, as well as online reviews, agencies that have a strong digital presence have the upper hand. In fact we have just released a new website and online booking system that we are particularly proud of. I am sure that our clients, and future clients, will recognise the advantages and benefits of this new website.
Is it difficult to invent new and innovative excursions and travel ideas in Dubrovnik, a city that is an international brand due to its historic old city?
Yes, Dubrovnik is an international brand, a name that is recognised in all the continents. With such a strong and iconic brand, as the historic Old City of Dubrovnik is, we are constantly thinking of new excursions and tours to present the other highlights that the region offers.
As I have already mentioned the digital age has drastically altered the way people travel. Today people tend to travel for shorter periods of time but more often throughout the year. In fact the average in stay in Dubrovnik was under three days last year. So we have a shorter time window to interest guests to experience other attractions apart from the Old City. You could say that this makes out work harder, but in fact in drives us on to make even better products for guests to enjoy. At the end of the day I love this region so I really want to present it to tourists in the right manner. Every year we introduce new excursions and new projects to showcase all of the hidden beauties.
What would be your top three recommendations for tourists to experience in Dubrovnik?
In my opinion the top three attractions are, the Old City walls, the island of Šipan and the picturesque Cavtat. I might be a little biased but these are my favourites. There are many more, in fact three is too small a number to make a shortlist. I would also recommend Korčula and Pelješac, in many ways these are still undiscovered destinations.
With so much choice for tourists on the market today why do you believe Gulliver Travel stands out from the crowd?
In the first place should always be value for money, I am a great believer in offering guests products that are great value for money. We are always trying to be ahead of the game, ahead of the business, bringing forward new ideas that many other business follow.
In my opinion reputation, as well as high levels of safety, are key elements when forging a successful travel operator. We work with many of the world leaders in tourism, and therefore our standards have to be extremely high. And with our new products and especially our new website I see a bright future for Gulliver Travel.