There appears to be no way back for the Hotel Zlatorog, its current structure having long since disappeared into an abyss of the making of its negligent, absentee owner. Pictures of the hotel’s roof having collapsed into the Zlat’s swimming pool speak volumes of the former Lake Bohinj tourist mainstay that has drowned amongst a sea of incompetence, dereliction of duty and levels of inward investment that didn’t even cover essential ongoing maintenance, let alone attempt to bring the building and its sinister-looking annex up to the standards 21st century travellers have come to expect.
Despite its abandonment and being subject to some looting by the lesser lights of Slovenian society, it is ‘fortunate’ for the Ribcev Laz-based Hotel Bellevue that Zmago Pacnik divested himself of the hotel famous for Agatha Christie having made room 203 her bolt-hole whilst visiting the Bohinj region. The Bellevue’s fortune should be cautioned as being somewhat relative compared to the terminally ill Zlatorog but there does, finally, seem to be some will on the part of its incumbent owner/tenant, Japec Jakopin, to bring the ailing hotel back into service in the next two years. There has been some conjecture over whether the Bellevue fell into the bankrupt estate of the now defunct yacht builder Seaway, although, it has since been confirmed that any hotels within Seaway’s portfolio fall outside of the assets that will surely be liquidated through due process. Whether this outcome is more advantageous to the Bellevue and the wider Bohinj area is debatable; a mandatory sale of the hotel that wasn’t carrying on in business at the time of the bankruptcy would potentially have given it a fresh lease of life under new auspices. With though the hotel being exempt from a compulsory sale there continues to be no obligation for the owner/operator to bring it back into service, despite positive noises to the contrary. Should the hotel have in the last few years been put on the open market it would surely have garnered sufficient interest from Slovenian or foreign based investors, as would have been the case had it been part of the stricken Seaway’s catalogue of realizable assets. A synopsis of a prime resource such as the Bellevue failing to sell on the open market or by auction in the same way as has been the case with Bovec’s cableway infrastructure could be ruled out – the level of binding interest would be significant – although, would the Bellevue benefit in the same way as Bovec’s lift-system and Prestreljenek mountain-top restaurant have by falling under municipal control, affording the local authority an element of control over one of ‘its’ high-profile tourism assets rather than helplessly hand wringing on the sidelines? For the time being, such a convoluted series of events remains purely academic and a personally held opinion.
The distance Bohinj has fallen behind Lake Bled and other regional rivals is perfectly encapsulated by an estimation of €150 million being needed to bring the area’s hotels up to scratch – Hotel Ski, Zlatorog, Bellevue and Bohinj(formerly Kompas) and some potential new-builds accounting for this eye watering figure, a level of finance that surely won’t be found en bloc from within Slovenia’s borders. It is with this in mind that Jacopic hopes to raise the €10-12 million – from foreign sources – that commissioned experts have adjudged to be necessary for the Bellevue to be fully modernised and declared fit for purpose, rather than just replacing loose panels and applying a lick of paint. Institutions steeped in experience of investing in Alpine tourism projects seem apposite partners for such a venture but it might also need an overseas hotel chain to get the project over the line, similar to the recently ended contract between Sophos/Ramada and several of Kranjska Gora’s higher-profile hotels. Local and governmental red tape have been cited by Jacopic as just two of the reasons behind the Bellevue’s demise, credence to both can be justified whilst the Triglav National Park(TNP) authority have seemingly asphyxiated the area with arcane and impenetrable legislation, the irony being that the TNP heavily restricts residents from mending their storm-damaged properties but allows unchecked two of Bohinj’s iconic edifices(arguably three including the albeit open Hotel Ski) to become shameful eyesores that stain the local area and leave the national park authority open to accusations of being flat-track bullies who only pursue petty quarrels with the average Bohinjci, of controlling the controllables. In this respect, the TNP’s authority is surely untenable.
The Bellevue’s structural integrity hasn’t been compromised to the extent of the Zlatorog’s destruction, leaving a blank canvas to work with of relative merit. Are the plans though for work to be completed in two year’s time of for it to then commence? I doubt very much that the Bellevue can withstand two more years of lying empty, at the mercy of the capricious nature of Bohinj’s weather and vulnerable to further attacks by vandals and speculators will illegal intent. If though the money to properly secure and mothball the hotel hasn’t been forthcoming so far, how can it be raised to keep the Bellevue standing still for the next two years? There are still more questions than answers attached to whether the hotel will ever again welcome guests. I, like many pundits, will believe it when I see it.
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