The Dark Side of Croatia’s Tourism Boom

Hotel Bellevue

The story of Hotel Bellevue sounds awfully familiar. As a five-star hotel on the island of Pag, it had its own sandy beach and landscaped gardens. It had 360 beds, and was the largest hotel on the island when it opened back in 1968. Some say that up to 1,000 guests used to attend the raucous summer parties the hotel hosted on its terrace. But nowadays, locals say it’s become a very dangerous place, that kids play inside the ruins and risk getting seriously injured from all the falling plaster, hanging wires, and broken beer bottles. Like many of Croatia’s hotels, Bellevue was used as a refugee center during the war, privatized in the early 1990s, then sold to new owners in 1998. Soon, the property was falling apart.

The hotel’s owner is rumored to be Vladimir Cerkez from Zagreb, who is considered something of a mysterious villain by most people on Pag. It isn’t even certain that he owns the hotel. Rumors in local newspapers suggest he only bought Bellevue in order to build an apartment complex in its place, something the island’s restrictive zoning laws have prevented him from doing. Unnamed city officials tell local media he’s never intended to rebuild the grim remains of the hotel.

Meanwhile, Cerkez has allegedly blamed the city of Pag and the Office of Urban and Regional Planning for preventing him from beginning work on the site, an accusation the city vehemently denies. Either way, locals are still angry that a dangerous, “apocalyptic-looking” building looms over their beach (and their tourism prospects). Pag’s Green Party recently issued a bulletin that listed “using all legal means to force the owner [of Bellevue] to remove debris and to join the operation to create health tourism” as one of its top priorities.

Next Page: Bijela Kuca

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Lily Lynch

Lily is co-founder and editor-in-chief of Balkanist Magazine. She lives in Belgrade, Serbia.