The jubilee fifth edition of the Sea Star Festival, which exceeded all expectations and wrote new pages in the festival history in this area, with a record attendance of more than 42 thousand visitors, along with a wealth of musical experience, also brought the panel “Development of the tourist offer in the off-season”.
Held at the Festival site on Friday, 19 May, the panel brought together leading professional names from the tourism, economic and political sectors in one place, and the conclusion was unanimous – events like this are a key factor in the development of the tourist offer outside the main season, as demonstrated by the highlighted figures.
The role of moderator of the panel was performed by Mr. Siniša Topalović, global head of the advisory sector for tourism and partner of Horwath HTL, who on several occasions emphasized the importance of developing such events for the destination itself, which not only maintains the strength of the tourist offer outside the main season, but also creates new generations of loyal tourists, who otherwise, they would not have come to that destination if there had not been such an event. “What’s great about an example like Sea Star is the fact that both the destination and the organiser and the private and public sectors work together; at every step there is synergy, harmony and everyone breathes together“, he pointed out.
The panel was also attended by Mrs. Monika Udovičić, Director of the Directorate for the Organisation of Tourist Boards, Categorisation and Legal Affairs at the Ministry of Tourism and Sports, who pointed out that the Ministry in its work encourages and realises the co-financing of various events, especially in the periods before and after the summer months, in order to extend the tourist season . “It is especially important for us to attract the young generations, who don’t just want to be on mobile phones, but want a real experience and adventure, and we can only do that with a new motivation to come to the destination, created by these manifestations“, she concluded, explaining how the national sustainable tourism development strategy states that the goal is to balance the tourist demand geographically, but also to balance it within the required time frames, that is, to work as much as possible on the offer in the pre- and post-season.
“First of all, congratulations to the organisers” said at the beginning of her presentation, Mrs. Nada Prodan Mraković, Head of the Administrative Sector for Tourism of the Istrian District, emphasizing that she has been a part of this festival from the very beginning – both privately, as a visitor, and now also through the business sphere: “Istria has been encouraging the development of special forms of tourism for 25 years, and the result of those years of work is clearly visible, precisely because it grows at an annual rate of 20-25% in the pre and post seasons. One of the reasons for the arrival of tourists in that period are precisely the manifestations that Istria offers in large numbers, both local, regional and national. Thematically, these manifestations are very different, from traditional to gastronomic, but the most numerous gains come from precisely those manifestations that fall into the category of music festivals. She also pointed out that the Istrian district has been supporting the Sea Star Festival since its very beginning in 2017, because holding such an event created a new motive for coming to Istria in the pre-season: “It is important to support and synergistically approach such an event and organisation, in order to later turn it into a tradition. Now it is already understood that you will come to Istria in May to the Sea Star Festival”.
The guest of the panel was also, as announced by the words of Mr. Topalović, ‘the main culprit for the reason why we are here today’, Mr. Dušan Kovačević, founder of Sea Star and EXIT Festival, who initially expressed his gratitude to the Mayor of Umag and the entire City administration for the fact that the entire Festival team always feels at home here: “Our entire team considers coming to Umag the most beautiful part of doing this business, so Sea Star is truly a special gem in EXIT’s family.” He particularly pointed out that this Festival is one of the first major musical events in Istria and the region, which managed to achieve the task of expanding the tourist offer even in the off-season. “It is much harder to bring tourists solely for the music event, and that is something that Sea Star has been doing successfully for five years. Bearing in mind that Sea Star is officially the second most visited event in Croatia and the first most visited manifestation in Istria, I believe that it would be very useful to find a solution in which key stakeholders in the country can create an even stronger synergy and strengthen the effect, so let’s all together strengthen the power that the event brings to the destination. Sea Star is at the same time a unique brand of Umag, Istria and Croatia, and as such it cannot be moved anywhere else”, he explained.
The positive impact of this type of event for the destination was explained by Mrs. Silvija Ilišković Balagović, Specialist for real estate in the hotel and catering industry at the Hotelis company, highlighting precisely the measurable and concrete results and contribution to the economic and tourist development of the destination of the city of Umag. “Just as our tourism is a phenomenon that engages all the resources of the country and activates almost all branches of the economy, such a big festival like this has a positive shock therapy on the destination”, she pointed out and emphasized the exceptional figures from the researches and analyses that have been done up to now: “The results of Sea Star over three years, from 2017 to 2019, are that it generated 60 thousand overnight stays in Umag, of which 54% were foreigners, and as many as 30% of participants constantly return, and not only to music festivals , but to this destination, with which they emotionally connected precisely through Sea Star. The total economic result together with personal expenditures has amounted to 20 million euros. And everything that comes from that as an indirect effect of media efforts, promotions and announcements through social networks and other channels, in my opinion, is priceless and immeasurable”, she concluded.
Thanks to the proactivity of the Tourist Board of the City of Umag, the invitation and support for the creation of Sea Star was realised a few years ago, which was also talked about by Mr. Milovan Popović, Director of the Tourist Board of Umag:
“We recognised the potential that our destination has, and we had this vision to create the largest festival in Istria, the largest festival in the pre-season period, and I’m glad that we’ve been proving it for five years now.” He also pointed out how it is very difficult to organise this type of festival at this part of the year, in such a small destination, and the importance of cooperation and unity of all participants in the event: “The function of the Tourist Board is to encourage the organisers precisely for the organization of events in the pre- and post-season, and in the past several year, the destination of Umag has been achieving enormous growth precisely in that period”.
Before the start of the panel, the Mayor of Umag, Willi Bassanese, addressed the audience in his welcoming speech, who welcomed them and expressed his gratitude to everyone who in any way participated in the creation of the Sea Star Festival: “I want to thank all people of good will, all those who have vision and breadth, who have no borders, who promote culture, entertainment, music, good life – and finally, to all who promote love” and highlighted the quality that this Festival carries with it from the very start, which can be seen in its growth from year to year. “I sincerely hope that precisely because of that emotion and positive energy that reigns in our City, this Festival will live on for many more years to come,” he concluded.
According to HDS ZAMP data, Sea Star was the second most ticketed national festival in 2022. As one of the few major music festivals in the Mediterranean that takes place outside the main tourist season, Sea Star brought tens of thousands of young people to Umag again this year, with a focus on one of the Festival’s main missions – promoting the destination and enriching the tourist offer far from the peak of summer tourism season.
With more than 42 thousand visitors, the jubilee fifth consecutive edition of Sea Star was for four days a place of powerful symbiosis of fans from more than 40 countries of the world, with the biggest world and regional music names, and it was with this event that the new tourist and festival season was officially started on the Adriatic coastal region – with a message of peace, love and unity, another mission that Sea Star has been carrying out since its inception.
This year’s Sea Star Festival was realised with the support of the Croatian Tourist Board, the Istrian District, the City of Umag, the Tourist Board of the City of Umag, the Tourist Board of the Istrian District and Plava Laguna.