Aug 25th 2005 - Letter to Croatian Prime Minister dr. Ivo Sanader

Dr. Ivo Sanader,
Prime Minister of Croatia,
Office of the Prime Minister,
Trg Sv. Marka 2,
10000 Zagreb - Republic of Croatia.

Dear Prime Minister,

“Dodajte ispod natpisa Croatia, ispod logotipa vaseg Drzavnog turistickog znaka, tekst ‘Homeland of Marko Polo’ (Domovina Marka Pola) I --jednim malim zahvatom I bez ikakvih torso, osim, naravno, torso tiskanja ovog kratkog teksta -- istog trena bio bi zajamcen porast turizma za 10%.”  (Marko Polo i istocni Jadran u 13. stoljecu: Korcula, 4 - 7, listopada 1995. Pub. Hrvatska Akademija Znanosti I Umjetnosti, Zagreb 1996) p.121

I was delighted to learn from friends in Croatia that, as a consequence of your recent visit to China and your appreciation of the degree of interest in Marko Polo being taken by so many in that country, the Croatian Tourist Board has decided to market your country under the slogan: CROATIA: HOMELAND OF MARKO POLO. Both this Committee and the other organisation with which I am associated -- EUROPA-YOUTH -- has for many years been corresponding with your Government inviting such a move, as is evidenced in the above quotation made in a Paper I presented at an International Conference on Marko Polo held in Korcula 10 years ago, in 1995.

In the same Paper I added the following suggestion which, I believe, has a similar potential for publicising both Croatia in general and Korcula, Polo’s reputed birthplace, in particular:

“Slicno ispod natpisa Korcula dodajte ‘Birthplace of Marko Polo’ (Mjesto rodenja Marka Pola) na svu turisticku dokumentaciju, sto proistjece iz ili se odnosi na taj took, i turisticki potencijal otoka polecat bi se otprilike za 20%.” (p.121)

Important as such a decision is to your country’s tourism potential, I would like to respectfully draw your attention to an additional suggestion made in the same Paper:

“Marko Polo bio je u biti prvi Europljanin.”. (p. 116)

Whereas the slogan now to be used by your Tourist Board offers the prospect of enhanced tourism traffic to Croatia, the addition to it of the phrase ‘The First European’ offers, I would respectfully suggest, the prospect of enhanced political influence upon the European stage. Croatia is a small nation compared with others in Europe, eager to join the European Union, to have her cultural and historical heritage both known and respected, and to wield influence within European affairs. Small she may be, in terms of size; but Croatia possesses one national treasure of international fame within the European context: she was the traditional birthplace and homeland of Marko Polo, one of the most famous persons in all history. Were your country to assiduously promote Marko Polo within the European Union as being uniquely the First European -- the first to appreciate, as a consequence of his travels in Cathay, the value of a Europe without national boundaries limiting both trade and cultural exchange -- then the position of Croatia within Europe would soar. For example: persuade Brussels to adopt Marko Polo as the de facto ‘Patron Saint’ of Europe, with an annual Marko Polo Day holiday being observed across the E.U. in honour of the principle and the achievement of European union, with a set of Marko Polo postage stamps issued in celebration of the latter, and with an annual Marko Polo European Sports & Cultural Festival enlivening the European calendar, and Croatia would be seen as a leading European nation, rather than a comparatively minor one.

Marko Polo was only 17 when he embarked upon his epic journey across half the world; and as the teenager he was then, he offers today’s youth generation of Europeans a heroic role model for their own lives. To quote once again from the above work already cited: “We see Marko Polo as a fitting symbol of, and role model for, today’s young Europeans, epitomising as he does those qualities of daring, initiative, imagination and intellectual curiosity, coupled with a capacity for wonderment, that will be needed by today’s young if they, like Marko Polo before them, are to have a hand in changing Europe’s history.” (p.126)

If you are marketing Marko Polo as a tourist attraction -- just as Nottingham markets Robin Hood and, only recently, Romania is marketing Dracula -- then it will be necessary to provide Marko Polo-related events within a Croatian context to offer these visitors to your country. This is, of course, what Korcula seeks to do, with the traditional birthplace of Marko Polo being open to visitors, with annual Marko Polo events in March and September, and with its desire to create an International Marko Polo Centre within the birthplace building. I have, myself, made my own small contribution to this, last year presenting Korcula with a replica of Marko Polo’s flag flown from his warship off the coast of that island in the battle against the Genoese 700 years ago.

With imagination, much could be achieved in this area of utilising your most famous son for publicising your nation and its tourism potential. Some form of Marko Polo events could be mounted annually in Zagreb, Dubrovnik and Split. A Croatian, some years ago, rode on horseback from Croatia to China in celebration of Marko Polo’s epic journey; one might inaugurate a ‘Marko Polo Trail’ across Europe and Asia in two forms: an expedition attracting the more adventurous traveller, and a cultural holiday involving stays at comfortable hotels en route, for the ordinary tourist. Your national airline could introduce Marko Polo Club Class accommodation.

With the forthcoming Olympic Games in China in 2008 -- just 3 years’ time -- interest in China is going to erupt all over the West. What better time, therefore, to publicise your own country’s link with China via the Croatian hero, Marko Polo? I am currently in discussions regarding the possibility of having a television series produced retracing Marko Polo’s journey from Korcula to the site of Xanadu in China -- this represents a unique opportunity for Croatia’s own television service to participate in this venture, should it wish to do so. I am also involved in arrangements to mount the first-ever European Youth Peace Conference: PAX EUROPA. If held in Croatia, this could readily be renamed the MARCO POLO YOUTH PEACE CONFERENCE.

My interest in Marko Polo stems from my having been born in China; but my interest in his potential to publicise Croatia lies in my being a former Tourism Project Director working with the Wales Tourist Board. I am a friend of Mr. Boris Marelic, Manager of Dalmatian & Istrian Travel Ltd. in London, with whom I have had many conversations regarding Marko Polo’s potential as a marketing device, and am also known personally to Mrs. Flora Turner, the Cultural, Educational, & Scientific Affairs Counsellor at the Croatian Embassy in London. I should be most happy to discuss such ideas as I have mentioned above with these individuals and/or your representatives in your London Embassy, in a bid to maximise the potential of Marko Polo to help both your tourism industry and your country’s political enhancement in Europe, especially on the eve of discussions to enter the European Union..

I am taking the liberty of enclosing a copy of a letter sent to your Minister for Culture in 2000 on this subject, together with an enclosure first sent with the latter letter. May I add, in closing, that H.E. The President of Croatia has in the past expressed his support or what we have been trying to do, here in England, to make Croatia better-known throughout Europe by utilising the name and the fame of Marko Polo.

With all good wishes.

Yours sincerely,
James A Gilman

Copy to: Mr. Niko Bulic, Croatian Tourist Board Director