It is a sad irony that the most snow-sure resort in Slovenia, Bovec Kanin, is beginning its second winter season without an operator for its now ailing infrastructure which, has never recovered since two empty cable-car cabins fell to the ground. Miraculously, both were unoccupied but the gust of wind blamed for their untimely descent would’ve killed any occupants. If that was seen as a slice of luck, it ultimately hasn’t done the Kanin ski centre any favours since.
It is reported in The Slovenia Times the Kanin ski centre has suffered financial problems from its very inception. Forty years is indeed a long time to endure seemingly endless monetary difficulties; it is perhaps though to the credit of the operators that they have soldiered on for so long in the face of unremitting monetary issues although, if a resort as snow-sure as Bovec cannot make money through its lift infrastructure throughout the year, questions need to be asked why. Elsewhere in Slovenia, in some of the best tourist-traps the country has to offer, assets have been sweated, inward investment nonexistent and repeat-custom taken for granted, almost all resulting in closure or denudation. Below are just a few examples:
- Villa Bled – currently closed.
- Hotel Bellevue, Ribcev Laz – less than the sum of its many parts.
- Hotel Zlatorog, Ukanc – currently closed.
- Maribor Pohorje (SC Pohorje) ski infrastructure and hotel portfolio – ongoing issues.
- Ski Hotel Vogel, above Lake Bohinj – see the Bellevue.
It would appear that the problems being experienced in Bovec are far from unique in Slovenia but often stem from poor business plans, a lack of sympathetic and pragmatic ongoing investment and an over-reliance on one core market, often the ski crowd. It is all well and good to groom pistes whilst the snow falls but in a country with such an unpredictable snow-record as Slovenia, to base a business model around an unrealistic projected number of purchased lift-passes, occupied hotel rooms and consistent snowfall is a recipe for disaster. Bovec serves as a cautionary tale that nowhere is immune from mismanagement or unfeasible expectations.
Further irony is undoubtedly found where guests are actively encouraged to stay in Bovec, a picturesque settlement that does feel more Italian than Slovenian, but are then transported to Tarvisio or Sella Nevea, the resort on the Italian side of Mount Kanin which continues to operate its winter-sports infrastructure and enjoy the benefits of higher altitude skiing. Bovec heavily relies upon Kanin for tourist revenue but instead of tapping into that it shuttles its patrons over the border. It is though easy to suggest the municipality should step in to reactivate the lifts – due to the ongoing costs involved, the lack of specialist management knowledge and local budgets where every euro(€) has to be accounted for, this can only be deemed to be a short-term solution, an oxymoron in itself. As with Marprom currently servicing and operating the winter-sports infrastructure at Maribor Pohorje, such a bail out by the local authority can only serve to buy time, in the hope, vain or otherwise, that a more suitable ‘strategic partner’ will materialise with the requisite finances and know-how. When the deal runs out in Maribor with Marprom, as it is due to do so at the end of March 2015, the region will again be beset with uncertainty unless, the likes of Gazprom come forward to expand their local portfolio beyond Terme Maribor and the clutch of hotels previously owned by SC Pohorje. Should such a deal be possible, one would imagine it is dependent on this winter being a successful season. The early indications suggest that is unlikely.
With this winter season already lost in Bovec, it is to be hoped that a call for bids by the bankruptcy administrator will yield fresh interest in the assets of the former ATC Kanin. A resort though with a history of malfunctioning lifts and in Bovec’s case, an accident that could’ve been fatal will do little to attract investors needing deep pockets to acquire the assets but also to bring them up to scratch, be that through overhauling the present infrastructure or completely replacing it. In Slovenia’s current financial climate such an investment would be a huge risk and a massive leap of faith into a potential financial abyss. Whilst it is hoped that such a wonderful alpine area can once again be accessed by skiers and hikers, one senses that this story is set to run and run; as things stand, it isn’t destined for a happy ending.