“I think that neighborhood’s pride and the feeling of belonging have woken up and encouraged thinking about what else can be done to improve our lives. Of course, after the starting enthusiasm it’s important to actually do the organizing… But, enthusiasm is the crucial first step of any activity.”
Mr. sc. Neda Telišman-Košuta is a tourist manager and a market manager in the tourist sector, educated in Croatia and the USA (George Washington and Cornell University), with more than thirty years of experience in the field of tourism. She works for the Institute for Tourism in Zagreb, and she focuses her scientific interests on the issue of building an image and branding tourist destinations, as well as managing the marketing of that field. She has published several works in Croatian and foreign scientific magazines, and is the author of the Action Plan for the Development of Congress Tourism, based on Croatia’s tourism development strategy for up to 2020. We were interested in what a longtime resident of the neighborhood and a high-profile expert can tell us about the recent changes in Martićeva Street and around it, and about the Design District Zagreb Festival.
Bojan Krištofić: What is your view of the first DDZ festival?
Neda Telišman Košuta: From my perspective as a resident of the neighborhood, it was very interesting watching the reactions of my neighbors and other people to the program of DDZ. I live on the corner of Brešćenskoga Street and Vojnovićeva Street. Our building originally had two terraces, but the first one was walled up into an apartment, and the second is full of VIP’s antennas. These were not discussed so far, but after DDZ the neighbors started asking themselves: “OK, how long will VIP be here, can we somehow move the antennas?”, and the like. I think that neighborhood’s pride and the feeling of belonging have woken up and encouraged thinking about what else can be done to improve our lives. Of course, after the starting enthusiasm it’s important to actually do the organizing… But, enthusiasm is the crucial first step of any activity.
I often wondered about the possible strategies for managing the city and how to implement them in everyday life. How do the citizens and the city’s institutions see the neighborhoods? What kind of neighborhood is it and how are its shops managed? Being flooded by car-part shops or just bakeries should never happened, because how many bakeries do we really need? It’s important to control the incoming content and coordinate it with the needs of the neighborhood.
However, this does not happen on an institutional level, it’s all a matter of rent – whoever offers more money. When I see that an old, dilapidated place is about to be reopened, sometimes I’m afraid of what is coming there (or at least I hope for the best), but if a nice flower shop, for example, opens, then I support them by shopping there. I think a systematic mapping of content is the most important at the beginning, and it should be managed by the Office of Strategic Planning or some other institution.
BK: Since you’re a tourism expert, I wonder how you see the profile of the neighborhood today and in the past.
NTK: In tourism, a places attractions are what defines its position in the competition, and this can be applied not only to cities as destinations, but also to neighborhoods. So this is how I think about what would make Zagreb’s neighborhoods more attractive, be it Upper Town, Lower Town, or this neighborhood. I think that it began changing in a good way between the objects of historical significance, like the Meštrović Pavillion or Džamija, Vitić Skyscraper and the Wooden Skyscraper, etc.
It’s clear that the neighborhood is becoming a place of intimate, individualized points, which will, hopefully, last for a long time. A whole series of unique shops coming here attract each other, and this process is still ongoing. I think the next step is activating the space, which should be done by the residents of the neighborhood themselves (because there is surely a link between the people who decided to live here): their backyards, gardens … Will these be vegetable gardens, flower beds, terraces open to anyone… That’s the question now.
I surely wouldn’t like the neighborhood (and Zagreb) to become radically commercialized, trampled like Dubrovnik or Split. Of course, the norms are different, but the historic cores of Dubrovnik and Split are trampled by tourists, and tourism is sucking out the local life. I really wouldn’t want something like that happening here. First of all, this is a pleasant, quiet neighborhood and it’s important that it stays that way, no matter how much attractive and commercial content it might get. This is primarily the neighborhood of the people living here. But, the balance between different activities is indubitably important. There should be renting subsides, favorable loans for interior design, this would draw in investors, whether local or foreign. I will say this again: diversifying activities is important – never put all your eggs in the same basket.
BK: Does Zagreb as it is today have anything resembling a tourist season?
NTK: When talking about tourism in Croatia in general, then this season is quite noticeable, beginning in June and ending in September, as we all know, with the high point during July and August. In Zagreb, the story is a bit different, and the season more balanced out over the year, even though the high point is still in the summer. However, the content is really balanced out over the year, and Zagreb’s tourism has definitely been blooming during the last few years. Zagreb definitely put itself on the map of central-European destinations, and this is visible while walking around the city, listening to more different languages than ever before, which is really great. There are several target groups present: business travelers, people drawn in by cultural content in the spring or in the fall, young student backpackers, and older people with a tendency to visit cities outside of season.
Also, this has to do with Croatia entering the European Union, making Zagreb a capitol of a member-country. Zagreb’s specialty is being just big enough not to be provincial, and small enough not to overwhelm you. A combination of Austro-Hungarian, Middle-European and Mediterranean culture is what makes Zagreb different.