They Hold the Key of Your Room in Dubrovnik

Author(s): Olja Ljubišić Photographer(s): Goran Mratinović
Everyone owning 4 walls and a roof in Dubrovnik rents his place to tourists. One room, studio, apartment or an entire house. Not so long ago all of them were advertised on a piece of cardboard at the main bus station. Those Grandmas waving with minimalistic “room for 20$” signs mastered the guerrilla marketing but these guys not it better. 

Once you set foot of the bus, you would choose one based on, well, nothing really, a hunch maybe, and she would take you to your accommodation. No English, just smiling. If you’d need an extra pillow, old fashion dictionary would not help as the word is replaced with dialect. At that time, pantomime was a method of international communication, not a family game.

At the end of the day, you would get the pillow and sleep like an angel on a white cotton pillow case dried by bura. The next morning knocking would wake you up. New guests would be ready to walk in even though you paid for 3 nights. Awkward. Honeymooners defend their claim to the throne because they have been there few days before and told the lady whey would be back on that precise date. No mobile phone. No internet. No English. Just smiling.

Technology changed since then, service got better and two guys finally put things in order. Nino and Nikola saw an opportunity to assist renters and manage their bookings.

They’ve opened Direct Booker in 2010with one apartment and today they manage almost 2000 accommodation units and have employed 70 persons.

“There is no secret. We approached the clients one by one. Then, they recommended us, and it’s still based on word of mouth,” Nino explained.

“He is the chatty one, he loves working with people. He is the one that meets the renters, takes care of their concerns and tries to give the best service possible,” Nikola added.

“That’s why we don’t advertise. Imagine that our renters see a commercial where we brag about 150.000 travelers and 30.000 reservations only in 2015 and they have an empty bed. That’s not right. So we try to monitor the market, manage the prices, use inputs from the guests and work with them on a daily basis,” Nino added.

“Also, the number of lost guests has drastically dropped”, Nikola said and smiled. 

“It really happened. So, one of the first things was to establish automatic e-mail with the simple and functional interface. They can get location info, book transfer or contact us (among other options) from 8a.m. until midnight 365 days a year,” Nino summed it up.

From the moment a tourist books the accommodation they manage using, Agoda, Expedia or any other provider; they will assist both the guest and the accommodation provider. Guests can easily book transfers, excursions, cars, scooters, boats, make the dinner reservation, buy tickets to shows or entrances to the museums.

On the other hand, they have all IT support for monitoring the booking, cleaning and welcoming services that a renter may need.

It is wonderful to see how the company pays attention to every single client: “We have to adapt to the lady who doesn’t speak English to the most demanding renters,” Nino emphasized.

It has to be challenging, without a doubt, in a business where you have clients and their clients. Anyone who has ever worked in tourism knows how hectic that can be. Well, in their office, the atmosphere is friendly with jokes, background music, and concentrated young staff.

“Our good communication and friendship is a base upon which we build the office, and I believe it wouldn’t work otherwise,” Nikola said with genuine satisfaction and pride.

I wondered about the problems and obstacles they face. It can’t all be that peachy.

“We can’t find enough cleaners, drivers, etc.  and they cannot find accommodation as the majority is rented to tourists. It’s a vicious circle. Hopefully, in the future, that problem will be solved. Then, we would get the opportunity to bring more IT partners and convert Dubrovnik into our own Silicon Valley. Considering expanding tourism, infrastructure’s needs of IT support is definitely the direction we are aiming,” Nikola shared glims of their vision.

 Whatever they are planning, I’m certain they’ll do it well.

Olja Ljubišić