Whisper it quietly but hidden in a forest of pine trees on the edge of the pristine Adriatic just outside Vrboska, a rather remarkable thing is happening on Hvar, and one which I think I can already call the Hvar success story of the summer.
You may recall a blog about six weeks ago introducing the first four-star quality restaurant in central Hvar, as the old two-star Hotel Adriatic underwent a 30 million kuna makeover this winter, reemerging with a lot more class as the new Senses Resort when it opened its doors for the season on June 1, a couple of weeks later than planned.
I went to visit a couple of days after Senses opened (you can read that introductory blog here), and I was stunned by the tranquility and peace, where birdsong seemed to be the loudest noise. Not that the hotel was without guests even after just opening, it was more a case of here was a hotel which offered something different to those in Hvar Town, Stari Grad and Jelsa – space, a true affinity with nature, and isolation from the crowds.
I returned again this afternoon in the peak of peak season, and my heart initially sank. While the car park was almost full, it just did not seem very busy. If the hotel was not full now, when would it be? After the pace of Hvar Town yesterday, it was definitely a lot more chilled, or ‘laganini’ as they say in these parts. People seemed to be spread out all over the place, taking advantage of the natural shade offered by the resort’s seemingly endless supply of pine forest and beach front. It was REALLY chilled, a reminder of walking along the coastline in Hvar Town in mid-May.
But this was the end of July, and as I went to my meeting at the hotel, I was both thrilled and a little surprised that not only was the hotel fully booked, but fully booked it had been from the middle of June and is until the middle of September. Indeed, while last year the two-star Hotel Adriatic was closed in September for this season, Senses Resort will keep going at least until mid-October, as bookings are going extremely well. It looks as though the investment in quality has paid off, and the boost to tourism in Vrboska and the town’s economy should be considerable.
The achievement is all the greater given the fact that there was little time to prepare agencies for the change, and upgrading from a two-star tradition to four-star quality comes with its own challenges, not least trying to find new markets in an increasingly competitive global market.
There has been a significant rise in the number of British tourists, with new influxes from Scandinavia, Holland and Germany as well. Interestingly, about 50% of guests are from the same sources as previously, and the transition in quality (reflected of course in the prices) does not seem to have deterred as many guests as one might have thought.
We convened of course in the bar for a drink, and that feeling of space came back once more. I guess it would have made some commercial sense to put lots of chairs there to try and maximise the revenue from the space, but instead the hotel decided upon a more relaxed and spacious approach, which works really well. The view is spectacular with the coastline to Jelsa in the distance. Sailboats bob along on the water, and in the distance, the sight of a seaplane landing at Jelsa seaport.
With a wellness centre and a range of other activities, Senses is bringing more than just quality accommodation to central Hvar.
Stressed in peak season and looking for somewhere to escape the crowds? Come to Senses and experience the full hotel with space, and a real taste of Dalmatian life in the slow lane.
For more information on Senses Resort, visit the official website.