A new chapter for President Tito’s favourite island retreat?
This summer has been completely calm on the Brijuni Islands. There are no investors, no construction, and not even the new president. “We are not planning to go to Brijuni Islands”, reported the Office of the President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, and this is probably the first summer since Josip Broz that the president did not come. There are only memories and the expectations of the future when Hilton, Four Seasons or Ritz Carlton will change the islands so strongly connected to the former Yugoslav president, who first came there in 1947. Five years later, he discovered Vanga island, and the rest is history, reports Jutarnji List on August 24, 2015.
The future will begin soon. The goal is to turn Neptun, Istra and Karmen hotels into two five-star hotels, with a capacity of 335 beds and reconstruct the existing facilities. There are also plans to construct a new hotel with a golf and spa resort and with 186 rooms, which will be built by one of the most renowned hotel companies in the world. Construction equipment will arrive at Brijuni in a few months and next season the island will have a somewhat different look.
That will be the start of an ambitious project which plans to create “the miracle in the Mediterranean”. “The project is underway. Given that the amount of investment we want to attract is over one billion kuna, we have a duty to explain to the investors from the very beginning what is possible and what is not”, says the Ministry of Environment and Nature Protection. Nothing will be as it is now, with dilapidated hotels and villas. In total, Brijuni should attract investments of 1.5 billion kuna, and minister Mihael Zmajlović says there are more interested investors than for Kupare complex. Special attention is devoted to the issue of finding the balance between tourism and environmental protection.
This summer, the Brijuni Islands have attracted many tourists who have occupied old and somewhat dilapidated hotels and villas. This is the fifteenth consecutive year that the actors led by Rade Šerbedžija are performing on the island. As things stand now, the actors could be the first victims of the forthcoming wave of reconstruction on Brijuni. It is at the site of a former military facility where the actors stay that a trendy hotel should be built, right next to the sea. “Every year, we think that is our last year on Brijuni, but the summers pass and nothing happens. This summer, it is happening all over again.”
Brijuni as we now know them started when Josip Broz decided to appropriate this paradise for himself. Tito received his guests there, from Fidel Castro to Yasser Arafat, laid the foundations for the Non-Aligned Movement, and socialized with film stars. Ordinary citizens did not have access to the islands, and the army strictly controlled everything. The residence has also seen better days, but dinner on the terrace with a view of the sea is still an unforgettable event.
Recently, everybody was busy preparing for the arrival of the new president. The staff was ready, everything was being polished, the cook had prepared the menu, but obviously the president’s office concluded that it would be too much for Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović to spend a few summer days in the place so connected to Tito.
Kupari and Brijuni should bring to Croatian tourism 2,500 new beds. Minister of tourism Darko Lorencin claims that the main precondition for the realization of the Brijuni Riviera project is the launch of construction on Veliki Brijun island, which will dictate the quality level for the investors in the wider area. Milanović’s government is keen to start the project as soon as possible, and Lorencin argues that it is a superb investment opportunity.
There remains the question of what will happen with the zoo and animals that Josip Broz Tito received from his non-aligned friends. The Safari Park is the only one in Croatia and was founded in 1978. Nehru, Sekou Toure, Haile Selassie gave to Tito exotic animals, antelopes, llamas, elephants, but there are just a few of them left. Indira Gandhi gave the elephant Sony, at that time the largest Indian elephant in Europe.
One of the most visited places is the Brioni photo exhibition of Josip Broz, which presents the ninety statesmen, kings, presidents and prime ministers who have stayed there. Foreign tourists have a lot of respect for Tito. “All of us in Europe are indifferent towards our history, whatever it is. We look at the past times through today’s glasses”, says Wolfgang Riedl from Austria who has been regularly visiting the Brijuni Islands for years.