Despite formidable competition within the sector almost any well-run, clean accommodation operated by friendly custodians should more than exist but thrive in an alpine setting. While there is a danger of, for example, one generic Austrian four star establishment resembling the next, only reputational damage born out of genuinely poor guest experiences can realistically jeopardize the very existence of hotels situated at altitude.

There are though surprising examples, for whatever reason, of exceptions to the rule – often in the most unlikely of locations. Affluent Seefeld, only 40 minutes from regional capital Innsbruck attracts the well-heeled throughout the calendar, housing guests in a series of high-end bolt-holes tasked with aiding tired limbs that have embarked on a hike up the Gschwandtkopf, or, merely from the arduous jeweller-boutique-cafe circuit. There is nevertheless the somewhat incongruous sight of the empty, decaying Hotel Schneeweiss, a cliche by name but that once provided guests with a indoor pool and outdoor relaxation in bucolic surroundings. Cursory investigations have revealed little about how it got to this point, although rumours of absentee foreign-ownership would appear to have some credence. Empty buildings with a backstory far-removed from their current circumstances are of course of infinite fascination, and to some relieve the monotony precipitated by unbroken rows of identikit properties. Although the potential of ownership steeped in shadowy intrigue appeals to our sense of inquisitiveness, to see a hotel in Seefeld, or anywhere, that has become a target of vandals inevitably reflects negatively on its otherwise idyllic environment.

Much has been written elsewhere and within this blog of the similar fate that has befallen both the Bohinj-based Zlatorog and Bellevue, two hotels steeped in history but seemingly treated merely as assets to be sweated by their respective owners. Although the Bellevue, once visited by Agatha Christie, has found new, responsible proprietors it will be some time before plans to rejuvenate the hotel and its dependance(annex) are realized but at least its future is secure, unlike the decaying Zlatorog, which has been allowed to shamefully wither on the vine by much maligned owner, Zmago Pacnik.

The Slovenian frontier resort of Bovec has in recent times been incommoded by its biggest money-spinner, the eponymous Kanin cableway, being out of action for several years after a near-catastrophic but inexplicable fall to earth of several of its carriages – which were mercifully empty. I believe the definitive cause has still to be determined, and perhaps will forever be shrouded in mystery, but after successfully sourcing central government-backed aid the gondola is once more operational. Despite Bovec and its immediate region bordering Italy offering a wide range of outdoor pursuits there was a strong feeling that the whole area was critically handicapped by the absence of its cableway, its upper reaches serving the highest skiing in Slovenia. With such an ‘eggs in one basket’ mentality Bovec seemingly stalled as a viable resort, prompting the type of state-intervention viewed enviously by other, less prominent ski areas within the country.

Before new life had been breathed into the gondola it would have been unthinkable, commercial suicide to build a new hotel in the area; winter guests, whilst able to access Mount Kanin were doing so from its Italian side at Sella Nevea. Transporting visitors staying in Bovec each morning across the border was effectively an open invitation for tourists to stay in Slovenia but spend euros(€) in Italy; a state of affairs that was as unacceptable as could be imagined. It is therefore a barometer of the upturn in Bovec’s fortunes that the construction of a new hotel, the Soca, is slated to commence in the Autumn before the first guests arrive in approximately 18 months time. An accepted lack of beds in the area has hindered the local tourist economy, with a perceived negative image that Bovec was a great place to visit but a difficult one in which to stay now gradually becoming a thing of the past. The construction of the Soca has undoubtedly been influenced by the confidence coursing through the area sparked by the bringing back to life of the Kanin gondola, but also the long-overdue renovation of former mainstays the Alp and Kanin, two hotels whose illustrious histories belong in the distant past.

The market ultimately decides the fate of most commercial enterprises, although operating a successful hotel in an area short of quality accommodation but replete with nature’s blessings and recreational opportunities represents something of an open goal for a savvy proprietor. For too long Bovec has been less than the sum of its parts, but finally it now appears ready to take its rightful place among some of Europe’s finest, but unheralded bijou resorts.

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