Suncani Hvar: Hvar’s Top Hotel Chain on Guest Structure and Adaptability

Lauren Simmonds

Copyright Romulic and Stojcic
Hvar, Croatia
Hvar, Croatia

As Novac/Jozo Vrdoljak writes on the 4th of August, 2020, during this crisis, the largest hotel chain on the island of Hvar and one of the largest in Dalmatia, Suncani Hvar, lost 90 percent of its market overnight. As many as 90 percent of the guests of this hotel company were tourists from the USA, Canada, Australia, Brazil and from closer to home in Europe – Great Britain.

Every other guest came from outside of Europe in 2019. With a quick reaction in a very short time, they managed to change the market in order to get new guests from other markets. The good occupancy of the hotel at this time instills optimism in the President of the Management Board, Gordana Tomicic, and she’s of the belief that in spite of the woes of 2020, this year will end positively. She is especially pleased with the occupancy of the Palace Elisabeth hotel, which, she says, is proof that exclusive hotels have their pull even in times of crisis.

How many guests are currently holidaying in Hvar Town?

According to official data obtained from the Tourist Board of Hvar Town, at the end of July, Hvar Town realised slightly more than 50 percent of the overnight stays it had when compared to the same period in 2019. Since the beginning of April, Slovenia has been the leading market for Hvar terms of the number of overnight stays realised, recording 97 percent of last year’s result, followed by Croatian tourists with 92 percent, German tourists with 58 and Polish tourists with 63 percent when compared to the same period last year.

What is the situation with Suncani Hvar?

At the moment, we have 66 percent of the guests staying in the facilities when compared to last year. At Suncani Hvar, due to objective reasons of the inability to arrive, our main markets of the USA, the United Kingdom, Brazil and Australia are in significant decline. We compensated these markets with closer markets, so Croatian guests are the leading market in the number of overnight stays now, and 66 percent of last year’s result was achieved. This is followed by Germany with 31 and Denmark with 73 percent compared to the same period last year, and they’re then followed by other closer markets.

Which hotels are open?

As for the opening of the hotels, the Riva hotel was opened back in June, and due to the increase in demand, our largest hotel, Amfora, was opened on June the 30th. Camp Vira opened in July. In addition to these hotels, the Palace Elisabeth, the first five-star hotel on the island of Hvar, was opened in July and was completely renovated last year. We’re pleased with the fact that we’ve had unexpectedly high demand for the Palace Elisabeth hotel, which is 90 percent full, which makes us happy and shows that exclusive products have their pull even in times of crisis. In the past few weeks, we’ve been working intensively on preparations for the opening of the Pharos Hotel. With its opening, we’ll have more than 80 percent of the capacity belonging to Suncani Hvar in operation, with the planned high occupancy during the month of August.

What are the announcements for the coming months?

Considering the circumstances and the change in the structure of guests, the announcements for the coming months are positive, and today at the Amfora Hotel, we’re recording occupancy rates at last year’s levels and even as much as one hundred percent occupancy at the Palace Elisabeth Hotel.

How are you doing in terms of reservations?

The condition of the reservations being made is also very good. We’re currently achieving a higher entry of reservations into the system compared to last year, although this is partly the result of higher capacity availability compared to the same period last year.

How did you attract guests?

During the lockdown due to the pandemic, we literally lost more than 90 percent of all our standard markets overnight. In addition to Dubrovnik and Split, we were the most affected in the Croatian tourism sector. We had to adapt to the new business conditions in a very short time and with timely reactions. So, we had to adjust our prices and business conditions and establish cooperation with new partners. We focused on the fact that there are those for whom Hvar was unattainable due to its exclusivity and price, so this season those people can experience the charms of Hvar at a more affordable price. In a short period of time, we managed to attract markets that aren’t really dominant for Hvar. So, from the beginning of the season, we were faced with a situation that resulted in a complete change in the structure of our guests both at the level of the destination, and especially at the level of our hotels.

You say you have completely changed the structure of guests?

In 2019, in the hotels of Suncani Hvar, every second guest came from outside Europe. Mainly from the USA, Canada, Australia and Brazil. These are the countries that were or are still the most affected at this moment in time with respect to the pandemic.

As many as 90 percent of our guests arrived here by plane, so the cancellation of the operations of some airlines and the generally significant drop in flights to Split Airport further affected us. With the easing of the measures and the opening of borders, things began to change rapidly, so we’ve been recording an increase in guests from neighbouring countries such as Austria, Germany and the Czech Republic, as most people from there travel to their final destination by car, and with the increasing number of summer flights to Split, we’re getting guests from the UK.

What else have you done? Did you lower your prices? 

These good figures are the result of price corrections, relaxed sales conditions, and adjustments to our offer and the packages that we’ve implemented this season. For example, one of the advantages of staying at the Palace Elisabeth Hotel and in the rest of our luxury offer is the use of what’s on offer at the luxury beach Beach Club Hvar, the former Bonj ‘les bains’ beach club, which we renovated this year.

What business changes have you made as a result of this crisis?

In moments of likely revenue decline, the emphasis was placed primarily on optimising the cost side, so we reorganised our operations, we reduced our operating costs and we focused on optimising the workforce. We created an internal labour exchange and redistributed work responsibilities within the existing team of Suncani Hvar. We’ve reduced all cost categories that aren’t necessary for current operations in a timely manner. All of our employees have been providing their contributions throughout a very difficult year. Despite the difficult business conditions, the operating staff didn’t have any salary reductions. We also applied for the Government measures to help us to preserve jobs, which is crucial to retain workers and preserve the stability of the tourism system during the crisis.

What are the prospects in terms of business results?

Despite the fact that this is the most difficult tourist year in the past 20 years, we expect a positive result at the level of the year itself, which confirms the market value of Suncani Hvar, and also the potential of the destination. We don’t expect the normalisation of business in terms of the return to the results we had in our most successful year of 2019 even in 2021. I believe it’s more realistic to expect a return to these figures during 2022.

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