[FORBES] The impending matchup between the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks, who are presently hunkered down near Scottsdale in preparation for Super Bowl XLIX this Sunday, has unearthed a new rivalry: the Battle of the Croatian Coaches.
Thanks to an enterprising reporter, it was revealed at a recent press conference that Bill Belichick and Pete Carroll are both of Croatian descent, making Sunday’s game the first-ever Super Bowl between two coaches of Croatian ancestry. (Belichick’s paternal grandparents emigrated from Croatia to the US in 1897, while Carroll has Croatian ancestry on his maternal side.)
In response, today the Croatian National Tourist Office, in a timely and impressive show of PR savvy, jumped into the fray, offering the winning coach COH -4.49% a “trip back home:” an all-expense paid trip to Croatia in 2015. While the itinerary is TBD depending on Belichick’s or Carroll’s preferences, the office announced that “the winning coach will get the chance to explore the land of his ancestors as he and his family experience the impressive history, stunning landscapes, rich cultural heritage, medieval architecture and delectable cuisine of Croatia.” (Belichick mentioned at the press conference that he’s been to Croatia before; no word on Carroll.)
Indeed, the winning coach can ride the tourism wave that’s made Croatia one of the world’s leading emerging destinations in recent years. With nearly 3,600 miles of coastline (counting the country’s 1,200-plus islands), crystal-clear blue waters, and seven UNESCO World Heritage sites—including the picturesque medieval Old Town of Dubrovnik and the Stari Grad Plain on the island of Hvar, a popular resort during the summer months for glamorous young jet-setters like Prince Harry—Croatia’s appeal continues to lure more and more travelers. According to the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), the travel sector’s total contribution to the country’s GDP was nearly 28% in 2013 (latest figure available), and is expected to rise to nearly 38% in 2024. And if you need any more evidence that this Mediterranean gem is a global hotspot—and a staggeringly beautiful one at that—much of HBO’s smash-hit series, Game of Thrones, is regularly filmed there. Enough said.
Here’s hoping Belichick or Carroll takes Croatia up on its generous offer: In a press release announcing the prize, the victor of Sunday’s hotly anticipated game is invited to contact the the tourist office in New York directly to book his trip.