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article imageOp-Ed: The acid test for the future of Hvar Town as tourist destination

By Paul Bradbury     Aug 23, 2014 in Travel
Hvar - The party tourism debate continues to dominate on Croatia's premier island of Hvar, and a unanimous town council decision brings clarity. But will its wishes be implemented?
As another perfect day begins for many under azure skies on the island of Hvar, an open letter to the CEO of party tourism enterprise The Yacht Week on August 21, 2014, has once again highlighted the debate about the uneasy relationship between the island and its growing reputation as one of the world's leading party destinations.
Home to the oldest public theatre in Europe, birthplace of organised tourism in Europe and the only island in the world with four UNESCO heritages, Hvar also suffers from an embarrassment of natural resources and beauty, and is known as the lavender island and also the sunniest in all Europe.
While bikinis are banned from Hvar s famous main square  it would appear that the legendary Croatian...
While bikinis are banned from Hvar's famous main square, it would appear that the legendary Croatian bureaucracy has not yet to add the category of mankini.
Igor Andjelic
With such a wealth of natural and cultural heritage, the arrival of party tourism to an already successful tourism destination seemed initially to be one more string in the offer of the exclusive island, whose recent visitors have included Tom Cruise, Beyonce, Prince Harry and Ellen DeGeneres, but there have been growing concerns in recent times that the rapid rise of drunken party tourism was threatening both the image of the destination, as well as driving away tourists who enjoyed Hvar for its cultural and natural charms.
The most successful and high profile business of this new party tourism was The Yacht Week, an extremely professional and intelligent concept, which sells week-long sailing holidays around Croatia, with a heavy emphasis on drinking and partying from morning to the following early morning. The highlight for many is 'Hvarday', where the programme starts with first drinks at 10 a.m..
Hvarday continues with a party on the waterfront bar Carpe Diem from 5 p.m. - 8 p.m. where up to 500 party-goers enjoy three hours of loud music and boozing to the detriment of the quality businesses in the neighbourhood, before being free to do some sightseeing (many of them cannot see at all by this stage), drunkenly and loudly roaming the streets of what many see as a family destination, until the organised party continues from 1 a.m. until dawn at a club on an island a short water-taxi ride away.
The party excess on Hvar was famously likened to Sodom and Gomorrah last summer in the national press, and the new deputy mayor of Hvar, Fabijan Bronzovic, said that The Yacht Week would not be back in 2014. It was a decision that was reinforced in January when the town council unanimously against The Yacht Week.
Despite such local decisions and pronouncements, The Yacht Week returned to Hvar in 2014 on schedule, with an extra boat party before the 5 p.m. party on the waterfront.
Complaints increased, with the residents of Sveti Klement, a small island off Hvar where The Yacht Week boats were moored, complaining that their businesses were being devastated by the effect of the party tourists on the island, and they petitioned the mayor to ban them from Palmizana.
Continuing the tradition of relaxed tourism on Palmizana  which was started by the Meneghello family...
Continuing the tradition of relaxed tourism on Palmizana, which was started by the Meneghello family in 1906.
Meneghello Archives
In an interview with this Digital Journalist, The Yacht Week CEO William Wenkel dismissed the petition:
"These petitions represent a small fraction of the society. We do our best to work directly with the communities, but as with any situation, there will always be people that oppose some ideas. If the situation arose where the authorities requested we change or cancel certain elements for the welfare of its residents, of course, we would abide - the welfare and beauty of Croatia is at the heart of our company and our foundation."
The "small fraction of the society" was represented at the latest town council meeting in which the petition, with the resulting unanimous decision of the 13 council members, the elected representatives of the people of Hvar:
"It is recommended that all possible measures should be taken to ban the manifestation called Yacht Week and similar events of the kind from the territory of the municipality of Hvar (not just from the centre of the town), because they lead to constant infringements of legal and moral norms.
"(NB the territory under Hvar Town’s jurisdiction includes the area just past the tunnel to the North, Sveta Nedjelja and the Pakleni islands on the East and West of the island)."
In the open letter, CEO Wenkel was asked whether or not — in the light of the unanimous decision of the elected body of the people of Hvar — he would abide by his interview commitment:
"If the situation arose where the authorities requested we change or cancel certain elements for the welfare of its residents, of course, we would abide."
No answer has so far been forthcoming, and it will be interesting to follow events, for in many ways, this particular issue is one which will define the future of tourism in Hvar Town. If a company which claims to care about Croatia and is respectful of the wishes of local authorities refuses to implement the wishes of its hosts, that is one thing. But if the unanimous decision of the elected council of the people of Hvar cannot be implemented, what does that say about the future of an island, which would then clearly not be in control of its own tourism development agenda?
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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