Interview with Zoran Užar, Hotel manager at Navis Hotel

Are you looking for a hotel with exceptional architecture, outstanding furniture design, top notch cuisine and a place that provides the “sleeping with the story” concept? Then hotel Navis is the place you’re looking for.

This new modern 5* boutique hotel, built into the side of a cliff overlooking the Kvarner bay, is a true gem on the Opatija Riviera. The hotel is located in Preluka, 2,5 km from Opatija’s city center, has 40 designer-decorated rooms and 4 suites, all with their own terrace and a sea view. Opened in 2014 hotel Navis has become well-known for its genuine hospitality, exclusive culinary offer, unique architecture and maritime-like design. The maritime theme pervades the hotel with each room marked with nautical miles and corridors painted in dark blue wall paint resembling trans-ocean vessel corridors. The restaurant serves only the best from the local suppliers, with an emphasis on seasonal ingredients where all sea food lovers will pamper their taste buds with the famous Kvarner schampi and other sea specialites. A personal vibe created by the owners – the Kapetanović family only adds to the value of the hotel.

Zoran Užar

Q: What’s the story behind the design hotel Navis? When and how did the idea of a new boutique hotel in Opatija begin?
The idea began when the Kapetanović family, who has been successfully operating Opatija’s well renowned hotel The hotel Villa Kapetanović including its restaurant Laurus for over a decade, decided to take a step further in the hotel business and implement Opatija’s hotel offer. Once the opportunity has presented itself Mr. and Mrs. Kapetanović decided to purchase the property where Navis stands today and create a completely different hotel story. For starters the hotel Navis boasts with its perfect location, since it is built into a cliff, rising directly above the sea facing the Kvarner bay and therefore gives an impression of a large cruise ship. Also the surname Kapetanović derives from a Croatian word for “captain”, so it was only natural to build a hotel based on the maritime or a more appropriate word the “captain” theme. The construction works began in 2014 and were concluded by May 2015 and once their vision came to life, they became captains of Navis.

Q: Was it hard to find the perfect location for the hotel?
Location for Navis is truly unique and was certainly difficult to obtain. However, as the saying goes “All good things are worth waiting for” and in this case it was certainly worth the wait. We also put a lot of effort in the research of the construction site and in the development of ideas for creating an iconic edifice that would meet the conditions of both modern architectural design and the exclusivity of the hotel’s indoor and outdoor equipment.

Q: Opatija is the oldest touristic resort in Croatia and a town with the highest number of high-categorical hotels in Croatia. In what sense Navis stands out from other hotels in Opatija or how do you position Navis in such a crowded market?
Taking into consideration that Opatija has a long and successful tradition of tourism it wasn’t easy to create a product that would stand out from others especially in the city with such an abundant offer of hotel facilities. However, with careful planning, strong focus on design and great care invested in human resources along with the dedication of the entire team we have managed to position ourselves as a unique destination within Opatija. Our location and our offer combined with top notch services we provide enabled us to succeed in creating a base of loyal guests that despite their relatively young age continue to choose our hotel for their holiday. Also the number of new guests arriving at the hotel is growing day by day, which means a great deal to us.

Q: The minimalistic design of the hotel is a complete opposite of Opatija’s well renowned Austro-Hungarian architectural style – how important is the design of a hotel and a hotel room in the contribution to a guest’s experience?
Even though we respect and appreciate the décor of old and established hotels in Opatija, for which there certainly exist a niche in the tourism market, we decided to choose another path and present a modern, contemporary and different hotel design. We wanted to excite the guests with alternative design that continuously surprises our guests; where strong and bold statements are expressed through the bare concrete walls of the hotel rooms which are complemented with warm wooden details, such as contemporary furniture produced by Croatian designers. The design is absolutely a strong factor in the guest’s overall experience of the hotel and plays a crucial rule in terms of choosing a hotel based on its visual appearance. We believe we succeeded in this particular aspect and managed to stimulate the imagination of our guests and therefore continue to encourage them to come and visit our hotel. However exceeding guests’ expectations once they arrive at the hotel is completely another matter, but an area where we truly excel and confirm our guests that they made the right choice in choosing the hotel Navis.

Q: The rooms are equipped with stylish furniture made in Croatia, some of them are even unique pieces made by famous Croatian designers, who was in charge of the hotel decor?
When starting a project from scratch, especially when it comes to renovating an existing structure (note: the hotel Navis was built on to the pre-existing structure of a former disco club “Milde Sorte”) the transformation required a vision without compromise, which was in a way an advantage. We had the freedom to choose between a variety of top quality materials, products and design which also gave us a unique opportunity to put into life the ideas that the Kapetanović family envisaged for creating an exceptional tourism product. We engaged qualified interior designers and others experts to ensure quality, practicality and maximum efficiency of the hotel equipment and only noble materials were used to ensure highest standards of quality.

Q: Opatija is also known for its gastronomy, how much effort do you put in the food and beverage area? What are your signature dishes?
With no doubt the restaurant Navis represents an added value to Opatija’s tourism offer. By no means is the restaurant Navis considered as just another hotel restaurant which goal is to satisfy the norm and provide guests with breakfast included in the price of the room. Our restaurant is a gourmet experience and a journey for all five senses in all possible aspects. Our guests start the day with a gourmet breakfast that includes a vast selection of Croatian and international delicacies. Our rich buffet offers everything you need for a perfect breakfast. You can also order freshly made hot dishes or order from the breakfast à la carte menu and get the great breakfasts foods to start your day. Our à la carte menu is created based on the local and seasonal ingredients, with primary focus on fish and treasures from the sea. Our Chef, Nenad Posavac, is one of the best chefs in the area and we are proud to have him as part of our team, ensuring that the gourmet experience is never anything less than excellent.

Q: What is your target group and how do you attract your guests?
Our target group is anyone who appreciates aesthetics and design, and enjoys finer things in life. Geographically, we have guests mostly from Europe and majority of those are guests coming from our neighboring countries such as Slovenia, Hungary and German speaking countries.

Q: How much focus do you put on sharing hotel novelties on social media channels (Facebook, Twitter)? Are you communicating to your guests, both pre-, during and post-stay? Besides the website and Facebook are there any other elements that you’re using?
Considering that we are a relatively small hotel, with 44 rooms in total, we pride ourselves with personal approach to each guest individually. That personal touch begins with the initial contact with our guests, regardless if it is via social media or direct contact / inquiry to our sales department… when it comes to caring for our guets we consistently express our respect and interest in their well-being. We constantly share news and up to date information via different social media channels (Facebook, etc.).

Q: What are your strategies in maintaining your top position as a hotel? Are you organizing any special events (art, music, culinary, etc.) or are you collaborating with some other partners in order to raise visibility for your hotel?
At this early stage we have not associated ourselves with any group, business or otherwise. We think the best message transferred to our guests comes from the source and for now our team and our guests are the true promoters of the hotel’s offer. However, we collaborate with various media partners to get our story to our target audience. We also work with various business partners like tourist agencies, National tourist bureau and similar. To this day we hosted and organized many different events such as culinary shows, dinner charity events, business gatherings and team building events with key players from the world business environment.

Q: What are the main advantages of the hotel Navis, what do guests appreciate the most while staying at your hotel?
The location of the hotel is greatly appreciated by our guests since it provides a unique opportunity to stay in a secluded privacy with beautiful natural scenery. It is also located within a walking distance to Opatija city centre but for those who prefer a motorized transportation we also provide a complimentary shuttle service connecting the hotel with Opatija city centre. Our secluded hotel location gives our guests the chance to enjoy the absolute privacy of their stay since the also hotel offers a private beach access. Hotel’s design is another attractive element that spices up the whole hotel experience, which combined with great hotel service, create a luxury hotel package that leaves such a strong impression on our guests that they keep coming back.

Q: What are the biggest challenges you are facing today since the opening of the hotel?
The biggest challenge we faced was the completion of the project on time. Once the construction of the hotel was finished it took us some time to establish the quality of all hotel services. Now the main challenge remains in successfully maintaining a strong position on the market, following and setting the trends and innovate to keep the product and guests’ satisfaction at the highest level.

Q: In your opinion why do guests choose to visit Opatija?
Opatija is a destination with a distinctive advantage when it comes to accessibility; it is very well connected with the central and the western European countries. Once Croatia became a part of EU union it became even easier for foreign guests to visit Opatija. In conjunction with the accessibility, Opatija’s strong attributes in terms of natural and historical beauties are mild climate, historical congress and meeting capacities and recognizably great service along with exclusive offer in terms of Gastronomy & Enology which makes it a popular and a well-established destination.

Q: What are your plans for the future? The extension to the beach, etc.?
Our goal is to never stop improving the product value and satisfaction we provide. However, some of the projects envisaging implementation of the hotel’s offer will be realized in the near future. One of which, and certainly one that will be most visible, is the completion of the hotel’s waterfront project. We are planning to build a multifunctional dock attached to the rocks at the foot of the hotel which will serve as a dock (small quay) for smaller boats, jet-skies but can also be used as an additional sunbathing location and access to the ocean. The dock will be directly connected to the hotel’s restaurant terrace via access stairs.

Q: Do you also organize business meetings and does your hotel have the capacity or the facilities (inner or outdoor facilities) to welcome a larger group of people?
We often host business meetings and team building events in our hotel. Moreover most of the autumn/winter season the hotel is booked by guests from the business tourism sector. We have a meeting room with a capacity for hosting 40 people (depending on the set-up) but often we have used other facilities for instance the restaurant to expand our meeting room capacity, or to provide an alternative venue for guest in creating a more casual environment. The beautiful restaurant terrace can and has been used as a venue for dinner parties or casual work.

Q: Do you also engage in promoting business, MICE tourism, maybe in conjonction with Villa Kapetanović?
We often work with large companies that often require more meeting space and/or dynamic working environment. On these occasions, we work closely with the hotel Villa Kapetanović, which has larger meeting capacities and is in close proximity of the hotel Navis. Our complimentary shuttle service additionally makes the experience enjoyable enabling guests to easily move between the two hotels without using their own vehicle.

Q: What was the last event you organized?
Among last events we have organized were large presentations and workshops for an established pharmaceutical company in cooperation with Slovenian doctors where new products and mediacl procedures were presented by distinguished doctors and medical workers.

Q: What would you like to share with our readers?
I would just like to add, for those who did not have the opportunity to visit Navis, that Navis is not only a place where one comes to fulfil his/her needs but is also a place where a guest becomes a part of the family. The panoramic views overlooking the Kvarner bay will take your breath away and make you want to come back. If you find it hard to take my word for it, you will just have to come down and see for yourself.