December 14, 2018 – TCN caught up with Zoran Pejovic, the person in charge of the Hvar Star Residence hotel project in Maslinica Bay, Stari Grad.
A major project on the island of Hvar has received a building permit! While this would not ordinarily be news in most countries, things are a little different in Croatia. Especially, for some reason, on Hvar, which is an island with bureaucracy to match its beauty. Zoran Pejovic, the Hotel Development Director, gave us an update on progress.
What is the current situation at the Hvar Star Residence hotel project in Stari Grad?
We are underway. I am tempted to say we are finally underway, because getting to this point was not an easy ride. However, when I look at some other projects, I must say that I am very happy to be in the stage that we are at now. You have to keep in mind that this is a greenfield investment and that a lot of preparatory works had to be accomplished before even being able to apply for the building permit. We received our building permit two weeks ago, and officially opened the construction site on December 12, 2018. We are very happy to have Radnik from Križevci, one of the most respected construction companies in Croatia, with experience in building high-end hotels and resorts as our main contractor.
Also, the entire team working on the project is sincerely dedicated to ensuring this becomes a flagship project in all our careers. The owners, the Truchi family, are also heavily involved, and their inputs have been shaping the project from the very beginning. This is a very personal project for them as well, as they have fallen in love with the site in Stari Grad. And not only with the site really but with the Island of Hvar and Split and the entire Dalmatia. I dare say that this is their signature investment, which they regard more as a family legacy than a typical financial investment. All this being said, we are really just now at the beginning of a long journey.
Tell us a little more about the project
The project is quite complex, and it has gotten more complex as we got along the way. The first phase of the project will consist of the main hotel building with 50 keys, with the main hotel restaurant, wine bar, wine & concierge club and two gorgeous pools, three hotel annexes which will add three more keys to the rental pool, each with four or five bedrooms, a separate spa and wellness building with its well balanced offering of treatment rooms, aqua thermal experiences, fitness center and a beauty salon, and beach bar, that will offer more casual dining. And that is not all, because we will also be developing a plot nearby into a vegetable garden applying the standards of organic farming. More elements are to come, but I think this gives an indication of the direction in which we are heading.
You come from a background of luxury tourism. Tell us about the vision of hospitality with the project.
Sustainable and experiential would be the two driving ideas behind this project. I have already mentioned our plans for the organic garden. Besides that, we will have all organic linen, will not use single-use plastic and we are developing our own organic cosmetics line among other things. Being sustainable is not only about the impact on nature, but also on culture. We want to build on the existing heritage of the Hvar island, which is immense and create legacy for the future, mainly by supporting local producers, be it winemakers, olive oil producers, lavender producers or anyone else ready to partake in the process of creation of unique experiences for the guests. We want to take our guests on a transformational journey of experiencing these continually developing and unique Hvar traditions and practices.
How do you see the future of tourism in general, and the future of tourism in Dalmatia and especially Stari Grad?
Tourism has many faces. It is a huge industry that is growing faster than the world’s overall economy. The number of people who can afford to travel is going to double by 2030, estimates suggest. It is hard to imagine anything stopping this trend other than some cataclysmic events. Reasons for this growth are numerous, from the obvious economic ones to the subtler psychological ones. Travel is one of the emotional industries, and it will grow. While the future will certainly be defined by technology, the future for humans will be nevertheless more emotional than technological. This might sound paradoxical, but I am sure of this. We have already enough evidence in the current narrative which is to a point religionizing the travel industry.
On the receiving end of this tide of tourism are the most beautiful places in the world, which we by chance got to occupy as well. Some are unhappy on how it has been unfolding over the years, citing the deurbanization of the traditional city centers, pollution and rapid changes that come with it. There are some truths to this, but changes are happening mainly due to technology, pollution is something that can be dealt with by raising the awareness and the deurbanization is not an irreversible process. More often than not people that have sold old houses in the city centers have made for themselves more comfortable living than before. This is not a tirade in defense of all things that come with tourism, but a small reminder that the only people who can reverse these negative trends are us, people who are living here. And we can do that by promoting excellence, supporting small producers and raising the bar when it comes to experiential and transformational forms of travel and tourism. That is the new luxury.
In Dalmatia, we have seen all of these faces of tourism, and we have seen different reactions. Most of the people are waiting for someone to come up with the set of rules and bar this and prohibit that, romanticizing about days gone by and being just the passive observers to these processes. Yet, this is not the case everywhere. In Stari Grad we are seeing an increasing interest in the development of high-end hospitality establishments. Besides our project, there is much more publicized Four Seasons project as well as Valamar hotel in the place of Helios hotels. I am sure more will come with time. The local authorities with Mayor Škarpa have shown great interest in pursuing these type of projects, that are both culturally and naturally conscious and take into account local dynamics and heritage.
For clarification, Hvar Star Residence is the company name of the hotel project, and the final name of the project will be announced shortly.
For the latest updates from Hvar Star Residence and other news from the island, visit the dedicated TCN portal for Hvar.