The Dark Side of Croatia’s Tourism Boom

Hotel Dalmacija

The Dalmacija factory was built by French and Italian investors in 1908, in the coastal town of Dugi Rat. During the socialist era, it was a feroalloy plant, and became a major exporter. Hotel Dalmacija was constructed for factory workers, and unmarried workers lived there permanently. The plant was known to be hazardous to workers’ health.

After 1990, the factory went bankrupt, but the former directors allowed the newly unemployed workers to live in Hotel Dalmacija, along with war veterans. By 2002, the state decided that the former factory should be turned into a resort. A headline from the time read, “100 years of metallurgical hell preparing for era of tourist heaven”.

In 2006, the Hotel Dalmacija was purchased for 900,000 euros by a man named Petar Vuko, who the media dubbed “a typical Croatian tycoon”. The 40 former factory workers still living in the hotel filed a request with the Croatian Fund for Privatization to purchase it as privileged buyers. Their request was denied.

The following year, the municipality of Dugi Rat filed a request with the public prosecutor’s office to investigate the bankruptcy of the factory and the sale of the hotel, which many found suspicious. There was no reply.

Finally, Hotel Dalmacija’s longtime residents were asked to vacate the premises. This turned into an agonizing process, with many residents begging to stay on account of their unemployment and disabilities. Police were brought in to escort the families, who had nowhere to go, out of the hotel. The Grizeljs were the last family to be forcibly evicted, on June 8, 2010.

Exactly one year later, on June 8, 2011, owner Petar Vuko, who had been seen as a villain by Hotel Dalmacija’s former inhabitants, was on the roof of the hotel overseeing the progress of construction. In a freak accident, he fell through a hole in the hotel’s roof and plunged to his death.

Late last year, more misfortune came to Dugi Rat, when a sleazy British company bought the grounds of the old factory, promising to invest 330 million euros in the construction of a “high-end” tourist resort. Instead of preparing the land for building, however, it turns out they were only collecting ferrochrome from the soil. They sold eight million euros worth before the government closed the site- but only after Marina Matulovic-Dropulic, the Minister of the Environment, left office. It’s suspected that she’d made some kind of unsavory deal with the Brits.

Local media has since dubbed the Dalmacija a “haunted hotel”, and officials from the municipality have little hope for the hotel’s future, as superstition has allegedly driven potential investors away.

Next Page: Novi Sad Institute for Communal Construction Resort


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Lily Lynch

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