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OPATIJA, Meetologue 2014

November 11, 2014

CROATIA, DESTINATIONS MEETOLOGUE

VINTAGE MEETINGS

The Queen of Croatian tourism can also in gloomy autumnal days surprise continentals with its sun and typical Austro-Hungarian patina. Opatija is also reminiscent of the elite places on the Côte d’Azur and seems that at the turn of the century it arose as a response to the fashion fads of Paris. If you therefore find yourself missing the smell of the sea, a trip to Opatija and a walk along the Lungimare coastal footpath is the best tonic for winter depression.

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Opatija was given its name by the Benedictine monastery that was built in the first half of the 15th century. For the unprecedented tourism development it must primarily thank its favourable climate, as well as the visit of duke Ferdinand, who was so excited over the place that many well-known tourists started flocking to Opatija, with the rush resulting in the construction of the southern railway between Vienna and Rijeka. Interestingly, the first major hotel, the legendary Kvarner, was built by the Southern Railway.

Aristocracy destination Opatija marks 170th anniversary of tourism – the reputation of a top destination that stretches back seventeen decades is today reflected in the wide range of facilities and services on offer that together make Opatija an attractive destination for all seasons. 

Naturally and geographically dominating the city is Učka mountain, which includes an attractive national park and Kvarner Bay, the coastal part of which is rich with the Mediterranean vegetation of laurel, camellias and magnolias. The city boasts six Blue Flag beaches and many beautifully landscaped parks. Despite other cultural and historical tourist attractions the sun and the sea still dominates in Opatija as the main motives for visits.

The city has recently undergone renovation of many of its historical villas and hotels. One can see this when walking around the city, which is very safe and clean. For some of the famous hotels, such as the Kvarner, renovation is still due, but in general the city is changing for the better and is slowly approaching the goal of revitalisation of its tourist architecture. The overhaul of the Hotel Kvarner raises parallels with Portorož, where renovation of the Palace Hotel and inclusion in the Kempinski chain gave back some of the old glamour.

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22nd International Congress of Tourism & Hospitality Industry 2014 – with the main objective to bring together scientists and practitioners from Croatia and abroad to exchange their knowledge and experiences, and to present their latest achievements in the field of tourism and hospitality management

Accessibility by road is solid, whilst air accessibility, despite the relative closeness of the airports of Pula and Krk, remains a major challenge for planners of tourism policy. In Opatija today are mostly tourists arriving by road. The city is squeezed at the Učka slopes, which is why there is always too little space, making parking in the city a major problem, which is especially pronounced during the high season. However, the city positively surprises in another detail: it is excellently covered with WI- FI signal that operates smoothly and without complications.

The heart of Opatija’s tourism is a park around the villa Angiolina, including the famous Japanese camellia that is the symbol of the city. The park was created in the period from 1845 to 1860, when tourism began to flourish with the Kvarner and Astoria hotels, as well as several private villas. When we are talking about the tourist destination it is necessary to consider the entire Riviera, from Mošèeniška Draga to Volosko with the centre in Opatija. In this, the destination has 34 hotels that have been recently upgraded and their quality was generally improved, but these are mainly concentrated in Opatija. Their raised quality is the key point of the revitalisation of Opatija as a fashionable resort.

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Gastro world in Hotel Continental Opatija – in the Hotel Continental, Opatija is opening a unique catering complex named Gastro world, mostly in the premises of the previous Grand café and clothing store.

Heartening news is also coming from Liburnia hotels that after privatisation it has become the largest hotel house in the region and is now owning many failing hotels. This year they introduced a Remisens brand that targets upscale guests and in the coming year they are planning to overhaul the legendary Hotel Kvarner and a few other hotels. Today, therefore, the most stable part of tourism is concentrated in Milenij hotels, the Grand Hotel Adriatic and other smaller hotel companies.

In Opatija there is also no shortage of special treats, such as Opatija’s ‘Street of the Famous’. Among others, there are Janica Kosteliæ, Krešimir Æosiæ, Nikola Tesla and many other Croatian celebrities. A unique museum of tourism is also cute, which is located in the villa Angiolina, and there are many other cultural and historical ‘candies’.

Opatija gets its first hostel – Hostel Link will have 111 rooms at the site of the renovated old hotel. The investment is worth 5 million Euros.

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In Opatija the first medical congress was in 1885, so it may be regarded as the historical city of congress tourism. Thanks also to the congress the city was in 1889 declared a health resort. Opatija today enjoys the reputation of being one of the most popular convention destinations of the region. It is especially popular among pharmacists and doctors.

Today, the majority of congresses are held in hotel convention centres. The project of reconstruction of the summer theatre into a multifunction hall remains as a design concept on paper, although it would certainly provide Opatija with greater competitiveness.

Opatija’s successful bids – Opatija won the bid to host an annual meeting of the International Honey Commission (IHC) in 2014.

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The largest convention centre is at the Grand Hotel Adriatic, with the largest hall for 550 participants in eight theatres and many reputable references that have been accumulating since its 1971 opening. Very active in the field of congress are the four Milenij hotels: Milenij, Milenij Grand, Hotel 4 Opatija flowers and Agava and the largest hotel centre Tamaris, that in the largest hall can take 300 people, and in the classic Orchard Hall up to 400. The third largest supplier is Liburnia hotels, with conference centres at the Ambassador hotel – that in the largest hall can accommodate up to 515 guests – and smaller conference centres in a series of their hotels.

In Opatija there is no shortage of special venues. Probably one of the most beautiful halls of the Adriatic is the Crystal Hall at Kvarner hotel, which holds 900 guests, and the Golden Hall at the Imperial hotel for 400 participants. A special venue is Villa Angiolina and many other locations, including a modern lounge restaurant, Bevanda, which can be privatised for a little more modern impression. 

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The Opatija Convention Bureau can, with the sincere support of all stakeholders, quickly help to improve the dusty image of the destination, which is the biggest congress challenge of Opatija today. Everything else at the destination is solid: Opatija is cost competitive, mostly excites the professionalism and business orientation of hosts who know how matters are dealt with in the meetings industry.

The Opatija Riviera – Have you ever wished to go back by time machine to a distant, more romantic time, to a time when kings and emperors, many crowned heads, used to come here on holiday?…. And then to return to the present day with a greater awareness of the opportunities that modern times offer?! Both are possible on the Opatija Riviera.

Opatija otherwise fluctuates between aspirations and a vision of the cosmopolitan resort and mass tourism that is prevalent today. One type of tourist usually does not understand the other very well. However, as a convention destination it is a refined old lady with a wide range of culture and exquisite cuisine and a few restaurants that are the best in the Adriatic, such as Bevanda, Blue cellar (Plavi podrum), Kukuriku or La Mandrač. Above all, it is one of a few destinations in the Adriatic with the complete and year-round congress infrastructure, from the operating Convention Bureau through all kinds of convention venues to DMC agencies and individual specialists for teambuilding programmes and incentives. This, combined with a wonderful ambience and a rich natural hinterland, has been creating a winning convention combination ever since 1885.

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Destination mark: 4,24 – QUALITY MEETINGS DESTINATION

Marks:
5 excellent meeting destination
4 quality meeting destination
3 recommendable meeting destination
2 average meeting destination
1 passable

Individual grades:

A. Natural and cultural factors: 4,30
The whole part of the Kvarner below the Učka mountain is famous for its mild climate, due to the sunny position below Učka, which allows year-round tourism. This combined with lush vegetation and a clean Kvarner sea is main reason for the development of 30 kilometres of the Opatija or Liburnia Riviera. The primary tourist motive is therefore natural wellness that nicely upgrades the needs of congress organisers.

B. General and transport infrastructure: 4,10
Connections with Rijeka are good and also at Opatija’s disposal is the relative proximity to the major population conglomerates of Central Europe. In terms of infrastructure Opatija appears tidy and offers a truly diverse tourism story with the legendary tourist Adriatic Riviera connected with an attractive Lungomare promenade.

C. Tourist infrastructure: 4,50
Almost every stone and building in Opatija is a witness to the rich history of the city’s tourism, which was once called the ‘Nice of the Adriatic’. With the renovation of hotels, which is in full swing, it will again shine in its former beauty and with an upscale hotel offer. A rich gastronomy offer thrills, with some restaurants at the peak of Croatian cuisine.

D. Meetings infrastructure: 4,00
The ratio between hotel rooms and congress facilities enables the organisation of medium-sized conferences with up to 600 participants. In Opatija there is virtually no hotel without meeting facilities, and also very attractive is the accompanying offer with its well developed incentive programmes and the offer connected by the Opatija Convention Bureau.

E. Subjective grade: 4,30
An elegant tourist lady to which years are showing and appears at times a bit tired, but is still very charming. It will need a facelift as soon as possible and a vitamin treatment to be able to fully compete with the competitors on the Croatian Adriatic, and above all to fight for its congress place in the battle with Dubrovnik.

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Comparison with the region:
170 years of tourism tradition is based on the positive energy of the riviera and the exceptional natural conditions. This is a great sign for the revival of Opatija congress tourism, which has recently relaxed slightly in comparison with the hyperactive Croatian Adriatic competitors. The city already boasts the entire infrastructure, but it is beaten mostly by an unfavourable image and somewhat slow adjustment to the new congress market conditions. A change of the structure of hotels is also necessary, as ‘cosmopolitan’ Opatija today only boasts three hotels in the 5-star category, whilst in Dubrovnik there are now 14

Cool meetings:
Kvarner scampi: are considered to be the best in the world. Identified by the pale red colour and thinner armour, their specialty is – experts say – in that they live here in a very shallow sea with a lot of drinkable water springs and are therefore very soft and sweet.

 

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About Gorazd Čad

Gorazd Čad is a veteran convention tourism addict. Founder and owner of the marketing and congress agency TOLERANCA MARKETING, he has numerous years of experience in the planning, preparation and execution of major international trade shows and fairs. Having started his career in Cankarjev dom, where he project-led on fairs such as Infos, Kapital, Bits & Fun, Slovenian Wine Festival and many others, work in his private capacity has given him a long and multi-faceted experience of developing B2B trade shows, the most noteworthy of these being Conventa, Space, Natour and Hot-Rest. B2B selling solutions sit at the heart of the action of his work and are the key specialisation with proven added value and measurable results.

View all posts by Gorazd Čad

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