Terme Tuhelj in the Croatian Zagorje just received a new addition: the existing capacity was renewed and raised to 4* and a new hotel with 4* was built. The total investments, in the amount of 12 million Euros, represent one of the largest investments in Croatian tourism this year, with which continental tourism in Croatia gets a new fly-wheel. Ivana Kolar, the director of Terme Tuhelj speaks of the ambitious plans of one of the largest thermals in the region.
How did you in Terme Tuhelj decide upon such an investment since the recession has been present over the last few years?
Even though it is somewhat an unusual period for such investments because of the stagnating economy and pessimism, we decided to go ahead with this brave move because we believe that a better time is ahead with new markets as well. We wanted to be prepared for new challenges so we used this time to “polish up our tools”, to develop new services and to build new contents. I believe that this was a good decision and that this is not only a great step for Terme Tuhelj, but also for the all-year tourism in Croatia since that with the opening of the new hotel, Terme Tuhelj has become the largest continental tourists centre in Croatia.
Along with the existing wellness and spa offer, with the investment you have expanded the accommodation capacity to 270 four stars rooms, and in the new hotel you are opening a congress centre for 450 people. What segment of guests and which markets are you primarily targeting?
The primary orientation will surely remain in the Croatian market, specially connected to congress and business tourism since we can highly position ourselves due to the new congress contents. But this development will enable a more serious performance on foreign markets since we now equalized the quality of the offer of the entire centre, or the wellness, congress and hotel part. Other then very high levels of congress technology we have installed, we also built an atrium and amphitheatre next to the congress centre where workshops on the open and coffee breaks in nature can be organized.
What standards does a wellness resort have to satisfy in order to offer suitable service even to that more demanding segment of the market; the business and congress guests?
In any case it is the level of service, or the quality of the offered service and the professionalism of the staff. Our advantage is a diverse offer taking into the account the size of the object and the constant development of new services and the advancement of the package services. We offer our guests more every day. We invest a lot in development and for autumn, or the new season for wellness, we are preparing a completely new approach which is individualized and adapted to each guest, and all with the goal of advancing the quality of their life.
The Croatian continent is not well known by international congress guests, who usually choose our seacoast destinations for organizing business meetings. Can Terme Tuhelj influence the increase of congress guests in the region? What Croatian autochthonic items can Terme Tuhelj and Zagorje offer such guests?
In Terme Tuhelj we have set high goals in the sphere of business tourism and we will surely influence on the increase of business meetings in our region. Other than multifunctional halls with modern technology, open spaces without walls and pillars in halls, with the possibility of complete darkness but also natural light and a view of the swimming pools and Zagorje hills, here is also the already mentioned atrium and breaks in nature and greenery and the possibility of holding lectures in the amphitheatre in the open, Terme Tuhelj offers our business guests a complete series of additional contents – wellness services, gastro festivities and organizations of events, team building in nature but also professional lectures adapted to the needs of each group or individual. Zagorje is a beautiful destination for excursions in nearby farms, castles and curiums, wine tasting or visiting Zagorje museums – a true fairytale at the palm of your hand.
The owner of Terme Tuhelj is the Slovenian Terme Olimia. How much has the wellness and spa experience in of the Slovenian colleagues helped you in all of this?
We do excellent business with our colleagues from the main company. We have learned much from them since their business is “older” than ours, they have been sharing their knowhow with us unselfishly since the beginning and today with our mutual strength and knowledge we are developing new contents and services in both companies. In Terme Tuhelj we are trying to also develop specific services for our area, using our natural values – thermal water, medical peloid mud, beautiful nature around us and the professionalism of our staff. A great part of our wellness treatment is based upon our peloid, which is excellent for the skin, but also for repairing consequences of various problems.
Do you plan to increase the regional cooperation with the Slovenians in the future, or enter mutual tourist projects which would be financed also by the European Union?
We hope and try to connect our regions and certain institutions and individuals who would be able to participate in it. One of the ideas is to make a bike trail between Terme Tuhelj and Terme Olimia since the area is ideal for bicycle tourism, rich with castles and curiums, wine roads, beautiful nature and gazebos, but there are serious projects as well. A small step towards that is the activation of mutual service packages, such as packages we are offering far-away destinations under the name 1 vacation in 2 countries, where we offer a stay in both thermals and getting to know both regions.
You are a new, young generation of managers and you have used this opportunity to prove yourself in the business environment. In what way did you establish authority and was it difficult for you, as a young woman, to lead such a demanding project?
I have always been a good organizer and I know what I want, so there were not too big problems regarding that, but it is a fact that in years of work I have learned quite a lot and I always try to implement new knowledge. A larger problem was my younger years so I have to have much better results than my colleagues in order for me, being so young, to be accepted. I am happy I have succeeded in that together with my team.
Ivana Kolar finished the Faculty of Economics in Zagreb where she is currently finishing her post-graduate studies. She has been leading Terme Tuhelj almost from when it was founded, since 2003. The thermals under her leadership have received many acknowledgments and have become the largest wellness and thermal centre in Croatia. Ivana is a member of numerous organizations for the development and promotion of tourism and wellness, and in 2011 she received the award for the best manager from CROMA, Croatian Manager Association.