While the main political story of the week in Croatia was undoubtedly the presidential election
, a town council meeting in Hvar Town on December 29, 2014 could prove significant for the tourism future of one of the hottest destinations in Croatia, as the failure of Hvar Mayor Rino Budrovic to pass his annual budget triggered a new election.
Budrovic, who has been in the job for 18 months after ending the eight-year rule of the flamboyant but largely ineffective Pjerino Bebic (who now finds himself awaiting trial for misappropriation of public funds
) has endured a difficult relationship with the 13 members of the town council since his election, as councillors have become increasingly frustrated with the mayor's inability or unwillingness to implement decisions of the council.
As one of Croatia's most exclusive destinations, tourism is the main show in town, and Hvar Town has struggled to balance the needs of its luxury tourists who are attracted by the island's culture (including the oldest public theatre in Europe, the only island in the world with four UNESCO heritages) and its natural beauty (officially the sunniest island in Europe and the birthplace of organised tourism in Europe in 1868 with the founding of the Hvar Health Society in 1868) with the island's growing (and undeserved) reputation as one of the party capitals of the world.
With just two nightclubs in the town, comparisons with Ibiza are laughable, and yet the town's chic image, coupled with Croatia's emergence as Europe's top music festival destination and the rise of party sailing holidays organised by companies such as The Yacht Week, have begun to have an adverse effect on the quality of the destination.
Nowhere is the impasse between town council and mayor better exemplified than in the events which followed a petition by the residents of Palmizana
(on the nearby Pakleni Islands, an administrative district of the Hvar Town council) requesting that The Yacht Week and other party sailing operations be moved from the island. The town council voted unanimously to ban The Yacht Week from the region, a move not implemented by Budrovic.
The failure of the mayor to pass the budget automatically triggers a new election and, as local portal Otok Hvar reported
, the government will now appoint a commissioner to oversee the administration of Hvar until new elections, which must take place within 90 days. Should the new mayor's policies by in line with those of the current town council, the knock on effect for Hvar's relationship with party tourism could be significant.
In an unrelated development, the long-standing director of the Hvar Town Tourist Board retired earlier this month, opening a vacancy for a new director. Applications for the position must be sent by January 20, although this will not necessarily result in a quick decision, as one of the titles of the Hvar mayor is President of the Tourist Board.
After a somewhat troubled year of politics and party tourism, however, there is perhaps a unique window of opportunity for Hvar Town to steer its tourism path back to the quality and luxury for which it is rightly famous, if the two vacant positions are filled with the right people. Some late year good news from financially troubled hotel group Suncani Hvar, whose financial restructuring plan was recently approved
at a creditors' hearing, is another key potential positive in the Hvar tourism story. With a united mayor and council, a dynamic tourism director and a revitalised hotel group, the future of tourism on Hvar could be very bright indeed.