In Croatia, high-end health, wellness

A view of the harbor at Mali Losinj, which is now the largest town on any Croatian island. Photo Credit: Nadine Godwin
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The entrance to the five-star Hotel Bellevue in Losinj, Croatia, makes a sleek, smart appearance, with lots of white and dramatic geometry.

Beyond the front door, one will find bright, sparingly furnished interior spaces, an expansive bar/lounge with gorgeous views of the Adriatic and outdoor spaces including dining and lounge areas, seawater-filled swimming pools, a spa treatment area and a grand staircase leading to a seaside promenade.

But my favorite feature was the glass-sided hall that cuts through an interior courtyard, transporting visitors from the lobby straight out the back toward the sea.

I encountered this vision at the start of a press trip sponsored by Losinj Hotels & Villas, the Bellevue's owner.

The hotel group owns another five hotels, four villas and six off-property restaurants, all on Losinj, a 29-square-mile island in Croatia's north Adriatic waters.

The properties date from the days of the Austro-Hungarian Empire or were built for the postwar mass market, none with more than three stars in recent decades. In 2007, the group began upgrading properties to four and five stars.

That project moved closer to completion last month, with the relaunch of the 51-room Boutique Hotel Alhambra and its associated Villa Augusta.

A suite at the Hotel Bellevue in Losinj, Croatia.
A suite at the Hotel Bellevue in Losinj, Croatia.

The Alhambra & Villa Augusta, Bellevue and Helios and the villas Diana and Hortensia face Cikat Bay, the hotel group's "luxury zone." Villa Hortensia launched in July; Hotel Helios and Villa Diana will be upgraded by 2017.

The group's remaining hotels and villas, all now four stars, are the Wellness Hotel Aurora; Vitality Hotel Punta, which emphasizes healthy food and sports activities; Family Hotel Vespera; and the Villa Kredo.

In about three years, the group aims to open its first newbuild, a resort and golf course on Cres, Losinj's nearest island, accessible via bridge.

Losinj Hotels & Villas, whose parent is the privately held Jadranka Group, owns 90% of the island's 1,538 rooms. The U.S. accounts for about 5% of the business, said Sanja Trajkov Komadina, the group's marketing and sales director, "but we would like more," and that was one reason for the property upgrades.

Losinj has been an established health resort since the late 19th century, based in part on the island's mild climate and lack of pollution. But it uniquely claims to host 1,100 types of herbs; 230 are said to have healing properties.

The air permeated with these plants' essential oils plus sea salt promotes healing for lung and skin disorders, according to Anamarija Margan Sulc, part of the management team at the Marine Medical Center, which was opened by the hotel group in 2014. It provides fully certified outpatient health care in "health zones" at the Bellevue, Aurora and Punta hotels.

Losinj Hotels & Villas has shifted its focus somewhat, most notably at the high end, where travelers may concentrate on pampering spa services, fine wine and food, cultural sightseeing at sites such as Osor on Cres and activities like boating, cycling, hiking or waterskiing.

Our group stayed at the 206-unit Bellevue, which reopened in its much-upgraded iteration last year. Our visit was all about luxury, with scented in-room towels, toiletries from Natura Bisse (a line featured in the hotel's Spa Clinic), a pillow menu and heated bathroom floors. All rooms have terraces except those facing the courtyard; large suites have terraces with whirlpools.

We were advised the Alhambra will be still more luxurious, but it wasn't ready for a viewing at our June visit.

Villa Hortensia opened in July. The name means hydrangea in Croatian.
Villa Hortensia opened in July. The name means hydrangea in Croatian. Photo Credit: Nadine Godwin

The ultimate luxury is the Villa Hortensia, meant for single renters, with 10 rooms on five floors, a staff of at least 10 with one sleeping on premises, a private pool and massage area, private dock and gym plus teleconferencing facilities accommodating corporate rentals.

Losinj is not easy to get to. At least by 2017, Trajkov said, the island's airport runway will be extended to accommodate Airbuses, and the terminal will be upgraded.

Meanwhile, visitors arrive at Croatian airports such as Krk or Pula, or even Zagreb, and make land transfers that include ferry transport. Or they arrive via Losinj Airport-owned charter air taxi service, King Air, from any of 11 area airports.

Bellevue's daily room rates with breakfast range seasonally from about $213 up to $1,466 for a top suite in high season and about $3,920 for the Presidential Suite. Villa Hortensia rates are about $7,800 to $10,030 per day including meals but not alcohol.

King Air charters start at around $780 one way from Pula accommodating six passengers or $390 for three passengers.

The hotels are in the GDSs, but to book villas, the air taxi or other transfers, agents can contact the hotel group ([email protected]) or the Jadranka-owned Adria Blue Collection in Zagreb ([email protected]), all at 15% pay.

Panorama Travel in New York represents the hotels in North America, providing hotel bookings and air-land packages featuring the properties. Panorama pays 10% or offers net pricing on custom plans.

The Punta is open year-round, but the other hotels operate mid-March into October or November.

The Jadranka Group also owns a yachting business, campsites and food stores. It is a minority owner of the Losinj Airport and King Air. The company plans to add two restaurants in the town of Mali Losinj by next year and build a yacht marina on Losinj in about three years.

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