How was born the idea for a project that I call my baby “ In Your Pocket “
At the beginning of this story I would like to mention a few details. By coincidence at the end of 2006 I met one professor, who was a lecturer at MBA program in Slovenia. During the meeting, he presented himself and his current projects that he was working on. One of the projects he was working on was to buy a frachise for an essential city guide „In your Pocket“ for South Eastern Europe, which was the European version of the „Lonely Planet’s”. At that time I believe that there was a necessity in Bosnia to create a representative international travel guide in English. From the further conversation we felt that there was a need for this kind of publication in other countries of South Eastern Europe too which would allow us to present this part of Europe in a more attractive and more beautiful way.
This idea appealed to me with a great enthusiasm and positive energy and I was planning to start this project first in Banja Luka, then Sarajevo, Mostar and Bihac. People always think of me as an innovative and persistent person, because I had a few years of experience working on various succesful projects from organising an art exhibitionts, festivals to working on the projects of European Commission. The idea seemed very challenging for me, and I had gladly accepted and proposed conceptual design for the project that involved entire territory of South Eastern Europe .
The story that started as an informal conversation had inspired me to develop the marketing and business plan and to present this to professor at our next meeting. The professor liked my propositions and thought I was a competent person to create and complete the In Your Pocket project for Bosnia. I believe at that moment I was lucky to be at the right place at the right time and trusting my instincts I thought it would be great to introduce European, and international standards in the publications of tourist materials in Bosnia.
It was a well known fact that there was a long way from from the initial idea to completion of the project and usually this road is full of challenges and obstacles. In Your Pocket is a specific tourist guide only printed in English, with a clear form and a brief descriptions and reviews. These reviews are usually written by the British journalist. At the beginning of the project our team consisted of two members only, me as the project leader and one more person who was focused on the research part of the project. My main duties involved the organization of the project and discussions with various potential sponsors and advertisers. My assistant was in charge for creating the relevant database and for the technical part of the work related to the research of tourist attractions that city of Banja Luka had to offer. I strongly believed that all the hard work and dedication would pay off one day and I decided to leave aside the fact that we did not have the full team capacity.
There was a clear aim that the guide had to be finalised and presented at the In Your Pocket annual conference in Belfast which was suppose to be held in December 2008. This deadline inspired me to work even harder with the desire to show the city through a new kaleidoscope which will enable us to attract more foreign tourists with the desire to visit Banja Luka for the first time. Usually foreign tourists want concise and comprehensive guide on where to stay, what to see, where to eat or a simply to have an access to a good city map.
I wanted to show to the rest of Europe and the world that we have a beautiful city known for it’s friendly people, even more beautiful nature and our famous river Vrbas. Our tourist guide was one of the ways to promote the First World Championship in rafting in this area, which was organized a year after by Canyon Rafting club and it was recognised as the largest global event in Bosnia and Herzegovina after the Winter Olympics in Sarajevo in 1984. The initial thought was that the time has come for us to send a new image of Banja Luka and Bosnia and Herzegovina to the rest of the world, which would get a new dimension of beautiful nature, pleasant, friendly and courteous people, and that the war and all the negative reputation in the world was in the past.
The tourist guide was funded purely from the advertising and all copies were complementary distributed on the various locations in the city from the Touristic Organization of Banja Luka, travel agencies, airport, bus and railway stations. At the start of the project, we had received a financial support from the City of Banja Luka, the Ministry of Tourism and the Government. As I have previously dealt with our main commercial sponsors through different projects and I had established a good relationship they all agreed to advertise in the first edition of Banja Luka In Your Pocket.
One of the biggest challenges we had to face was to obtain a city map and an updated list of all streets in the city as we were aware that without this we could not proceed with the project. At that time a tourist organization did not have its own city map and the same case was with the Department of Urbanism. One of the issues they were experiencing was that many of the street names were changed during and after the war and the database with the list of all streets was never completed. In the entire city only one publisher owned the city map and they did not want to provide us with a copy. They explained their position that this may cause a conflict of interest, and that it could reduce their sales as their map was commercially sold at numerous newsstands. After several meetings and negotiations, our request to provides us with a copy of an existing city map was not accepted.
Throughout this project, I realized that being persistent in life does pay off, and I managed to find a printing company who accepted a challenge to design a new city map and they also agreed to print the first edition of Banja Luka In Your Pocket. The first guide was successfully implemented as a mini guide and printed twice in more than 40,000 copies. With this so far called, “ baby “ I have successfully presented this project at the conference in Belfast and I had an opportunity to present Banja Luka and Bosnia to the rest of the world. The next edition of the guide was printed for the World Rafting Championship in 2008, and a year later Sarajevo In Your Pocket edition was printed for the Sarajevo Film Festival.
I am still proud that through my enthusiasm and persistence I successfully delivered the first In Your Pocket Travel Guide for Bosnia. As soon as the “ baby “ birth I spread the network of interested colleagues throughout South Eastern Europe and the guide today exist in all major cities of the Europe.