Interview with Ivan Zovko.
W: How did you get the idea to start a business in Croatia based on cycling tourism?
After many miles covered on a bicycle in Europe and Asia, I’ve realised Mediterranean offers similarly extraordinary natural and cultural wealth ideally placed for exploring on a bicycle and well connected by a network of small roads. Having spent most of my life in Croatia, I was lucky enough to discover a number of superb, small family owned taverns, restaurants, wineries, and meet local people that are running them. After talking with my friends, I’ve realised visiting those places by cycling through Croatia could be an ideal holiday and a perfect way to discover this Mediterranean country.
W: Can you find comparisons between cycling tourism in Europe and in Croatia?
Absolutely. Cycle tourism makes a significant share in overall tourism spend in many European countries, such as the UK, Switzerland, Spain, France or Italy. Although Croatia is still at the very beginning of its journey to recognise and properly accommodate cycle tourists, many pre-requirements are well set; a good network of roads, hospitality facilities and natural beauty. Cycling, both for pleasure and commuting is experiencing tremendous growth worldwide, and there is only a question of time when Croatia will become a major destination for cycle tourism in Europe. Even now, with very little investment in cycle tourism in Croatia, there is no real obstacle preventing more people getting on a bicycle and discovering the best of the country.
W: How small business and farms can benefit from bicycle tourism?
The best time for cycle tourism in Croatia is outside peak tourist months of June, July and August, as the temperature is more moderate. There is thus no surprise one will find a number of pro-riders from neighbouring Italy and tourists cycling along Croatia in May, beginning of June, September and October. This spread of tourist visitors on touristic shoulder months, flattens the season helping small operators and family owned restaurants manage peaks and optimize their businesses.
Also, often taverns and businesses with the very best offer and a true Mediterranean culture are not well known to the mainstream market, making them hard to discover and visit using standard marketing channels. Finding an authentic prosciutto producer, organic goats cheese maker or a tavern that is hardly anything more than a back garden of a fantastic chef requires good knowledge of the destination and good relationship with local people. Therefore, guests visiting those places with Adriavélo act as ambassadors and an international marketing platform helping small businesses gain presence outside the national borders.
W: What is the main channel of communication and presentation of bicycle roads in conjunction with a sightseeing of Istria?
Referrals from our guests are by far the best marketing tool we have at our disposal. It is not unusual to have the same guests come back with a different set of friends for another round of wine, prosciutto, cheese and truffles tasting cycle holiday.
Our routes are almost exclusively made of unused, but well preserved roads connecting Istrian villages and small towns. We place our focus on developing road cycling and avoiding riding on unpaved roads. Existing network of side roads with very few cars and scenic backgrounds are well in place to allow exploring small villages for gems of Istrian gastronomy offer. Using local knowledge, we are helping our guests experience the true Mediterranean in all its natural wealth.
W: What is the average length of the route and their weight and configuration?
Adriavélo events feature two rides of different length and level of difficulty. Adriavélo Bello is 60 kilometres long route aimed at those who are physically active, but not necessarily regular cyclists. Adriavélo Grande, a 120 kilometres long route is aimed at regular and advanced cyclists wanting to enrich their ride with some Istrian gastronomy. Both routes start in central Istria, at luxurious villas Adagio where the guests are accommodated during the event, and end at one of the best family owned wineries in Croatia – Kozlović. After wine tasting and a wine tour, there is an organised transportation back to the villas, so guests can completely enjoy the wine experience.
W: Do you have special offers for those who prefer more adrenaline rush, like downhill?
Descending through serpentines of mount Učka or hill town of Motovun before climbing on the pedals yawing the bike between your legs to pass Grožnjan, another hill town famous for its artists is thrilling enough to raise hear beats and pump adrenaline through your veins. Also, to access those wineries and gastro marvels scattered around Istria, one needs to be mobile, which is very convenient when cycling on a road bike.
W: Who is more interested in this kind of activity? Individuals professionals, groups or young people?
Our guests come from different countries, age groups and profiles, baring a common interest for a quality active holiday. Singles, groups of friends, colleagues, couples to ex-pro cyclist, our guests are desiring a holiday that offers more than just lying under the sun. Cycling, taking golf as a new favourite sport for business executives, is a new trend very present with guests at Adriavélo.
There is something appealing in merging high quality food and wine, luxurious accommodation with cycling through beautiful and picturesque Mediterranean landscapes.
W: Is there any seven-day cycling tours or you are focused mainly on the three-day events?
Adriavélo concept includes both extended weekend and full week tours. Through weekend events, we are trying to provide a full experience of a luxurious gastro cycling event, in a compact form for those who’s calendar cannot take a full week off. Through our seven days events, guests discover whole of Istria on a bicycle, from Umag, Rovinj and Pula on one side of the peninsula to Labin and Opatia on another.
W: Do you have any further plans for the future ventures in Croatia?
For the season 2016, we have developed a tour that covers southern and central Dalmatian islands, following the very same proven concept of merging road cycling to gastronomy and authentic Mediterranean cuisine. We are very much looking forward hopping between Dalmatian island, cycling through their magnificent roads and tasting delicious, authentic food and wine.
Author: Diana Mikloš