The Mediterranean Sea has always sparked my imagination. Visions of full-sail triremes slicing through sapphire-blue waters, clay amphoras brimming with wine and olives, and stone walls that have stood for thousands of years fill my mind when someone mentions ‘The Med.’ In the European Union’s latest member country, Croatia, where national tourism brochures are emblazoned with the brilliant slogan ‘The Mediterranean As It Once Was,’ my visions of an exotic coastal destination that epitomizes the Mediterranean came to life in a swirl of singing, delicious food and incredible wine.
Croatia’s island of Hvar is certainly ‘The Mediterranean As It Once Was’, thanks in large part to protection from the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The island is home to the UNESCO-protected Stari Grad Plain, where vineyards and olive trees are separated by stone walls and barriers, representing the land division methods used by the Ancient Greeks over 2,400 years ago. Ample amounts of seafood, vegetables, cheese, and red wine, have also earned the island’s cuisine protection under UNESCO’s ‘Mediterranean Diet’. Traditional, all-male, a cappella music on the island is known as Klapa, and is protected by UNESCO as intangible heritage. The delicate process of lace-making has also earned protected status on Hvar.
As the island looks to move forward with its tourism development in a sustainable fashion, prominently embracing its UNESCO status strikes me as a smart approach. This strategy includes an emphasis on the best part of the Mediterranean Diet: wine. With the emergence of innovative Hvar wine-makers like Tonči Marjan, who has mastered the local varietal called Plavac Mali (Little Blue) using 500-year-old techniques, and the rise of brilliant Tourpreneurs like Srđan Mitrović, who introduces his clients to The Art of Wine through customized tastings, wine is shaping up to be a key tourism draw for Hvar. This is particularly relevant to the 9 million American tourists* who trot the globe every year in search of unique wine and food experiences. While Croatia may only produce .5%** of the world’s wine, this presents an excellent opportunity to brand Hvar as one of the few places one can go to taste novel varietals.
The island of Hvar is an incredibly special and magical place, and I hope that it will remain this way for generations to come. By embracing its UNESCO protection and by working together to preserve the island’s attributes, the tourism industry can both ensure its sustainability and profitability.
For more on our experience in Hvar, check out Tricia’s blog post.