The Hvar party has certainly been in the news in recent weeks. And peak season has yet to start.
The tragic death of a 20 year-old tourist from Northern Ireland attracted a flurry of interest from the British tabloid media. That death, after the young lady collapsed in front of a Hvar club (it would appear from a bad reaction between alcohol and her medication) brought increased British media attention, which resulted in The Sun branding Hvar Town with the painful tag of 'the Croatian Magaluf'.
More media headlines yesterday and today, as a British stag do reveller was wandering around Hvar Town dressed as a terrorist, complete with fake gun and suicide vest, this in the wake of the recent attacks in Manchester, London and elsewhere. The fact that he had been sitting with his stag mates in one of Hvar's most exclusive hotels gave its own message.
Hvar and the stag and hen parties. I knew they existed and were getting more popular, but just how does Hvar Town rate (if at all) as a global or European stag destination? This, remember, the town which is home to the oldest public theatre in Europe, the birthplace of organised tourism (150 next year) and the island with the most UNESCO heritage of any island in the world. There couldn't possibly be a chance that this historic Hvar Town could be in any way associated with a leading stag and hen destination. Could there?
There is a website you might have heard of which named Hvar Town in the top 7 places in the world for a stag party - Booking.com.
I am not sure what is worse for a destination like Hvar Town - being called the Croatian Magaluf by The Sun, or in the world's top 7 stag destinations by Booking.com, which is quite a big website.
And a little more research showed that it wasn't just Booking.com which put Hvar Town among the stag destination elite:
"Are you hvaring a good time? We anticipate Hvar becoming one of our Top 2017 stag and hen destinations. We’ve already had hundreds of you enquiring about this sultry island off the coast of Croatia."
I won't grace the website with a link, but it seems that this party website anticipates that the stag culture in Hvar Town is only just being discovered, which means we can expect a lot more of it.
It gives me absolutely no pleasure to write any of this, but perhaps by doing so, local people will realise just how much the destination is being destroyed. And it so doesn't have to be this way. Hvar Town is one of the greatest tourism gifts on earth.
I looked into the Hvar stag culture a little further and found a dedicated website to stags on Hvar. Wow! Among the gems they offer:
"You cannot leave Hvar without trying out Rakija! This fruit brandy is the most popular in the Balkans. Brace yourself - the alcohol content is from 50% up to 90%! There are plenty of beach clubs on the island and our local guide takes you to the best funky and hip bars and pubs in the town! Guided Rakija bar tour enriches your stag do in Hvar and brings it to the brand new level! Which of your stag mates will be the one who ends up sleeping on the beach?"
Which of your stag mates will be the one who ends up sleeping on the beach? Presumably the one who has not passed out on the main square.
There has been a lot of social media reaction against this type of British tourist. Understandably. They are less than desirable, and Croatia has been relatively free of them until recently. The question that needs to be asked is why they are coming now, and why to Hvar Town - an elite destination which had no hostels in 2008, but today has over 30, an elite destination which has replaced its art galleries with cocktail bars, an elite destination where a restaurant becomes a nightclub.
These undesirable British tourists will go where people will have them, and sadly for those who love Hvar Town and the way it was (and could be again), people have chosen the quick money over the image of the destination. Last year, two Australian tourists were arrested at 3am for climbing onto the historic cathedral roof in Hvar Town, causing 5000 kuna of damage. It is worth reading the interview with one of them after the event, and how he saw Croatia and behaved the way he did. In the same conversation I had with him, I spoke also to a Hvar hostel owner who told me that people would not behave like this in Dubai, for obvious reasons. But young tourists behave as they are allowed to do. Nobody wants the draconian measures of Dubai, but a little order would go a long way. However, there is probably not much hope of that, with the Hvar Town tourism geniuses branding the island as 'Genuine Hedonism.'
Curious to see how Hvar Town has changed as a destination from 1969 - 2017? A video guide through the decades. The 1980's is a little more reminiscent of Jelsa, Vrboska and Stari Grad today.