The Dark Side of Croatia’s Tourism Boom

Belgrade Children’s Resort in Jelsa

Many years ago, there was a Belgrade Children’s Resort on Zencisca Bay in Jelsa, on the Croatian island of Hvar. The resort had pizzerias, restaurants, a kitchen, TV rooms, libraries, two discotheques, classrooms, dormitories, shops, swimming pools, soccer fields, handball and basketball courts, warehouses, garages, gas stations, boiler rooms, a lookout tower, bays to swim in, and workshops on topics like plumbing, carpentry, electronics, and car mechanics. Socialist Yugoslavia had pretty much created the ultimate childhood dream destination.

But after the war started, the Croatian National Guard moved in. After the war ended, refugees arrived.

In accordance with a post-war agreement, Croatia transferred the property rights of the Belgrade Children’s Resort to Serbia. Soon, the Serbs started talking to Danko Koncar, a Croatian businessman and chromium magnate who was willing to buy the hotel for a fair price — about 6.25 million euros. This was very good news because the Croatian Fund for Privatization had tried selling it 15 times, sometimes for far less money, but had never been able to seal the deal. Finally, the former children’s resort would be renovated and rebuilt. Koncar’s son said the family company planned to invest 30 million euros in the project, turning the defunct property into a luxury resort, and employing 150-200 people on Hvar. It seemed like a happy resolution for everyone.

But when Koncar tried to register the property to his company so he could start building, the Croatian government simply wouldn’t allow him to. The state has failed to offer any rationale for this, though Koncar has had to continue paying taxes on the property -about 1.5 million euros- even though they’ve barred him from registering, let alone building anything. Some speculate it has something to do with the certain ownership-related disputes still being resolved between Serbia and Croatia. Others say that’s impossible because they’re too insignificant, and that someone with close ties to the Croatian government must want the resort on Jelsa for themselves. Either way, it’s been five years now since Koncar first attempted to register his business, and still nothing. Not even so much as an explanation for one of the richest Croats in the world.

In the meantime, people will keep stealing from the children’s resort. Doorknobs, light sockets, and copper wire. They’ll keep filling the swimming pools with garbage. They’ll keep writing neo-Nazi slogans on the dorms’ walls. And they’ll keep tearing doors off of their hinges in the lookout towers and libraries. And the Croatian government will shrug and pretend it has nothing to do with them, nothing whatsoever.

Next Page: Motel Trogir

Liked it? Take a second to support Balkanist on Patreon!
Lily Lynch

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