The tourist season may be over but there is plenty of interest in the island of Hvar this winter — both internationally and academically.
An uncharacteristic rainy spell on Europe's sunniest island coincided with the visit of a group of students from Northeastern University in Boston, culminating in a public presentation on their findings in Hvar's third largest town of Jelsa on January 31, 2014, an event attended by Digital Journal.
The students, from the School of Architecture in the university, have put together a phenomenal amount of data for their research project for both Jelsa and a community in Portugal, under a programme called Resilient Coastal Leisure Environments, work which will be of great benefit to the local authorities in their planning strategies.
Jelsa Mayor Niksa Peronja chaired the meeting where the Boston students presented their findings.
Vivian Grisogono, founder of Hvar first environmental website, attended the meeting, and summarised the initial findings of the group:
"Professor Ivan Rupnik gave a powerful and engrossing description of the scope of the project, illustrated by the impressive material which has been collated from the first phase, after which the researchers each described their particular interests. It was heartening to hear how many of them highlighted the need to preserve the environment and make use of Hvar's abundant natural resources, as well as existing facilities and amenities.
Professor Ivan Rupnik was an enthusiastic leader of the American academic group.
"Each researcher had a practical project in view. Among the suggestions: 'wellness tourism' based on using the 'working landscape', that is the areas of cultivation such as the vineyards and lavender fields; developing the vineyards, especially on the south side of the island, to make Hvar progress to being a top wine destination; developing agricultural tourism, and helping the problem of accommodation through partially pre-fabricated lodges for the fields; revitalizing the old hotels in prime locations, specifically the Hotel Jadran on Jelsa's waterfront; opening up the possibilities for year-round tourism, especially upgrading the sports facilities to be used as training centres; developing the villages into tourist locations, without spoiling their identity; improving the infrastructure by making better use of existing services, especially the ferries; and considering the development of air services such as the seaplanes, and perhaps building an airport."
Jelsa Mayor Niksa Peronja with Ivica Covic, Professor of Architecture at the University of Milan.
The Boston interest is not the only American academic involvement in Croatia's premier island, famous for its sun, lavender and UNESCO heritage; Fresno State University in California is also work with the island's winemakers to put together an intern programme on the island, which has a 2,400-year wine story, and whose exports now span from China to California.
The Boston presentation came just days after another initiative, Hvar 2020, was presented in Hvar Town by Professor Ivana Maric from the Economics Faculty of Zagreb, who is part of a team putting together a development plan for the town. The initial presentation of the project was well-attended and keenly discussed, as previously reported on Digital Journal.
The historic Loggia building was packed on a blustery January evening.
There has also been other international interest in the development of the island, including an intriguing presentation by Julije Skelin to all four mayors of the island on the possibilities for developing tourism, based on the successful model of improved tourism on a Swedish archipelago.