We got together with Sandi Kovačevič, Executive Director of Hotel Cubo Ljubljana, to hear a little bit more about Hotel Kanin, its plans and the expectations from this long-awaited renovation pearl of Bovec.
Q: Having been closed since 2013, what does the renovation of Hotel Kanin represent for Slovenia and for you personally?
Hotel Kanin is situated in a very picturesque region of an exceptional destination, or better to say a destination of tourism potential, but one that lacks an offer of accommodation capacities that adequately follows contemporary tourism trends. The closure of the ski slopes and of Hotel Kanin were factors that had an enormous impact on the region and it seems that people kept forgetting about the destination. Therefore, in light of future developments and getting this project established we do see many opportunities of how to reinvigorate the reputation and profile of the destination and raise it to an even higher level than it was at before the closures.
The bulk of tourist accommodation at Bovec currently consists of hotels, apartments, camp sites, inns, tourist farms and room rentals, all classified as 3* or below. The former Hotel Kanin will be classified as 4* superior, which after its complete renovation will be on the market as a high-end hotel in the region. When it comes to the renovation, it will certainly propel it as a unique product, where our main purpose will be to maintain the boutique aspects and a sense of exclusivity, as well as to set out the guidelines and standards for development of the entire destination.
After the successful story of Hotel Cubo in Ljubljana, the renovation of Hotel Kanin presents a new challenge for me personally. As with any project, I push myself to deal with the design and reopening of the hotel with enthusiasm, positive energy and optimism.
Q: In 1973 Janez Lajovic, the architect of the original hotel, won the award for best piece of architecture in Yugoslavia. Are you in cooperation with the original architect for the renovation and what kind of interior changes will the hotel deliver?
Hotel Kanin, which is officially registered in the Register of Immovable Cultural Heritage, will upon re-establishment maintain its status as an object of cultural character and in full cooperation with the Institute for Protection of Cultural Heritage. The hotel is designed perfectly and its exterior imitates the surrounding slopes, with the indoor multi-storey hall with common areas for socializing offering a view of the swimming pool covered by a glass roof, while the rooms open up to the surrounding peaks and sunny lawn.
In choosing the current architect we have been in agreement with Mr Lajovic, but have decided to cooperate with the architect Mr Kovačević, with whom we are already cooperating in other projects. We truly believe that Mr Kovačević will connect the original architecture of Hotel Kanin with our wishes and modern tourism trends, as well as with trends in the meeting industry. We wish to continue the existing story of CUBO Hotel in all our new accommodation facilities, which is also expressed through style and design.
I believe that it is not only the fate of the hotel and the preservation of its architectural heritage, but also the economic opportunity it all presents, that could have a significant impact on the development of the entire region. At the same time, the facility reflects the harmony between nature and architecture and is therefore an object of utmost importance for the destination.
Q: What will be the hotel’s capacity and any additional offer available?
In addition to the primary accommodation business, where we plan to have 101 hotel rooms, the hotel will have a 1000m2 wellness spa programme, a wellness centre with a swimming pool, 8 saunas and a massage centre.
Given the fact that the hotel sits in an idyllic setting of natural heritage, our offer will be upgraded with many sports and other activities in collaboration with local providers. The offer will include hiking, climbing, mountain running, biking, road biking, mountain biking, rock climbing, caving, paragliding, scenic aviation, golf, tennis, archery, kayaking, rafting, canyoning, canoeing, adventure park, fishing, river bobsled, skiing, backcountry skiing, sledding, ice climbing, cross country skiing and horseback riding.
Q: Will cuisine also be an important part of the offer and should we expect a recognized chef de cuisine?
From the very beginning the CUBO name has been linked to cuisine, as is apparent from it having one of the best restaurants in Ljubljana – Cubo Restaurant at Šmartinska Street. Thus, cuisine will certainly play an important part at the renovated hotel as part of a complete gastronomic offer, although finding a great chef de cuisine in the hotel restaurant will not be an easy task in Slovenia. As you already know, Ana Roš (The World’s Best Female Chef 2017) has done a lot of promotion for Slovenia and for local cuisine. However, this destination needs a boost in its culinary offer and a great chef in our hotel restaurant would definitely help this.
Q: How do you envisage the connection of Hotel Kanin with business tourism?
Ljubljana’s Hotel Cubo has worked closely with a number of successful companies and business guests from the very beginning – business guests represent 85% of hotel occupancy. Given the fact that we successfully recognize the desires and expectations of business guests, an offer that will be interesting and attractive for business tourism will also be prepared in Hotel Kanin. Great emphasis will be paid to the segment of congress, conferences and events at the destination, as a large deficit and huge market potential sits at this level. The hotel will also offer a convention centre with 3 conference rooms for up to 80 attendees, designed for a wide variety of seminars, meetings, lectures, presentations, press conferences or business meetings. Various events, such as presentations of new products, may be perfectly set up in the hotel environment.
Incentive tourism, which can extend the hotel and the destination season, is particularly undeveloped, despite there being plenty of options – after a business event a guest could spend up to 14 days at the hotel before running out of options on a variety of sports or cultural activities.
Despite the hotel’s halls, there are currently no possibilities for organising major conferences, but there is the idea that we could find an option for a public-private partnership with the municipality to construct a large hall for congress, sports and cultural events and, in this manner, offer the opportunity for the development of the meetings industry.
Q: When do you expect the hotel to welcome its first guests?
We are receiving many positive responses to the project as presented to the local community, our business partners and from partners and friends in the tourism industry. By all means possible, it is our great desire that the renovation should be completed as soon as possible. However, a complete renovation of the entire hotel needs time, while time and adaptation is also required by cultural-protection requirements that delay the final period of the opening. The expected opening time is currently planned for the middle/end of 2018. From the outset the crucial thing for the success of this hotel is hotel staff and the quality service found at Hotel CUBO. It is important to find the appropriate team of co-workers who will work together and who will be able to provide the quality of service on a slightly larger project – as it currently is in CUBO Hotel in Ljubljana.
Q: Bovec is certainly one of the Slovenia’s unpolished gems with huge development potential, so which segment of guests do you expect at the hotel and are you already planning for a specific additional offer for the meetings industry?
The hotel will be sustainably oriented and with this in mind we will focus on the aspects of guests’ profiles that contribute to the development of sustainable tourism, such as
lovers of nature and the active life, whose aim is to maintain their health and well-being. Therefore, we are talking about guests who show a responsible attitude towards their health and the “health” of the environment. We want to offer our guests the holistic treatment, which currently cannot be found at the destination level. This is essentially a holistic concept of “well-being”, where in addition to the organisation of daily and weekly custom made packages that include a variety of activities in the Soča Valley a guest would receive the wellness facilities within the hotel itself. In addition to the numerous activities available outside of the hotel, the design of the hotel, with its large common rooms, also provides a lot of space for socializing and organised events inside.
We believe that the renovation of the hotel into a modern hotel complex that will be something new in the Bovec valley hotel offer will contribute to the diversity of the region. The hotel will satisfy even the most discerning guest and in this way contribute significantly to improving the quality of the hotel offer in the Soča Valley.