Bohinj’s eponymous Ribcev Laz-based hotel is the latest to reach a state of crisis following the demise of the neighbouring Bellevue, a former favourite of Agatha Christie, and time-lapsed dereliction of the Ukanc-based Zlatorog, whose heyday saw it welcome national leaders and global heads of state. How the ongoing bankruptcy process will affect the Hotel Bohinj is as yet unclear – its current trading status is unknown – although the fact that the management voluntarily applied for the hotel to be placed into insolvency proceedings would suggest it is no longer able to meet its liabilities as a standalone entity, implying the umbrella company is equally unwilling or able to absorb operating losses. All this would of course be regrettable in any industry but is hardly unprecedented or viewed as a barometer of an area’s financial health. Many factors routinely come into play, often unique to the company and individuals labouring within it, therefore normally such occurrences are viewed in isolation. Not though this one.
The common thread running through much of Bohinj’s accommodation woes is an individual named Zmago Pačnik(ZP), owner of a large swathe of bed and camp space abutting Lake Bohinj. The local municipality have ultimately failed in their attempts to work with ZP and find solutions to a situation that is slowly asphyxiating the local tourist trade. Having given ZP sufficient rope the local council has finally bared its teeth, reclassifying land in nearby Stara Fuzina which reneges on plans that ZP formally had to build the five star Hotel Lev(Lion). Land and utility concessions have also been withdrawn at Camp Zlatorog and whilst these attempts to provoke a positive response from ZP have been long overdue, there seems to be little end in sight to what has become a tragedy born from a crisis that stems from assets being mercilessly sweated without appropriate levels of(or any) inward investment being ploughed back into the properties. In short, finance generated by the hotels was seemingly siphoned away from where it was needed most, never for it to be re-diverted back. Decaying properties and the subsequent decline in visitor numbers are not mutually exclusive, resulting in businesses becoming untenable with abandonment perpetuating further material destruction such as the roof above the Zlatorog’s swimming pool collapsing into the water.
The powers afforded Bohinj’s local municipality and the Triglav National Park authority are limited, denying both the chance to unilaterally or collectively take charge of the intolerable situation the area now finds itself in. Legislative change at national level through statutes outlawing the abandonment of domestic and commercial property that aren’t externally maintained and secured can at least guard against the compromising of aesthetic sensibilities in areas of outstanding natural beauty; it is though only by forcibly removing properties from negligent, absentee owners if stringent maintenance and local taxation compliance issues are not adhered to will similar cases be avoided in the future.
The ironic English translation of Zmago is “Victory” – it is though difficult to see any winners in an ongoing saga that would just not happen in such a high-profile resort in Austria or Switzerland.