Dragan Rožman is the owner of the Leona Holiday house in Otočac, which has gotten numerous positive reviews from recent guests. It is located in a perfect location overlooking the river Gacka and it is decorated with furniture that is several hundred years old. Dragan revealed to us how he got into this successful tourist and business story, whether he is satisfied with the 2021 season and what attracts tourists to Otočac and the Gacka Valley.
You own the Holiday house Leona. When did you get into that tourist business story? What particularly motivated you to this job and are you satisfied?
Initially, it was not my intention to engage in some form of tourism. We built the cottage exclusively for ourselves, to have fun and to hang out with friends.
It was actually our hobby in the beginning, but due to the business commitments of me and my wife, there was less and less time for such a form of “luxury”. At the same time, the demand for rental facilities started. The supply was small, almost non-existent. Honestly, we started with the intention of filling the household budget.
Are you satisfied?
When we decided to start the realization, our guiding thread was: we are not a business machine, the most important factor is the person, the guests should feel at home.
We succeeded. This is confirmed by the fact that we have regular guests and all the reviews they leave after departure. As long as you have the feeling that you have not given enough to the guest, the guest will return it to you by coming again.
What would you single out as specific to your facility?
I’ll go back to the beginning. As the cottage was designed with an open space (gallery), it was not possible to rent it as an apartment, but as a whole. This is exactly the special feature of our facility – guests have complete privacy, they have the whole house to themselves and it was what people needed during the pandemic.
How do you advertise and at what time? Does booking.com do most of the work or do you have other tools to fill the facility?
It is really both easy and difficult to sell a product today because there are many platforms for it – from various groups on Facebook to agencies that want to promote your facility. Therefore, the competition is greater and you should simply justify what is offered. The review is the best advertisement!
Old renovated furniture can also be seen in your accommodation?
Do you do the restoration yourself?
Most of the furniture is several hundred years old, which makes the facility special. Restoration is not an easy job. It requires a good handyman and serious tools to do the job well.
I have participated in the restoration of every piece of furniture. I just had to. It’s a way to become a part of its history.
What is the most interesting item you have renovated?
It’s the same as when you ask which child you prefer… My grandmother’s lamp, the neighbor’s bar stool, the chairs I bought in Kvatrić from the old lady who cried when I came to pick it up. I had to make a promise that I would take care of it and give it another life…
How satisfied are you with the 2021 season? What is it like compared to 2019?
Well, I don’t see many differences between those two seasons. The result of the 2021 season didn’t differentiate from 2019 at all. As I said, the pandemic did its thing. More guests wanted a house for themselves and that’s exactly what we had to offer.
What is the ratio of guests in terms of domestic-foreigners? Has that changed in corona time?
That is already well known. Foreign guests mostly book in the summer. Although there are a lot of inquiries from domestic guests who visit Plitvice, Velebit or Gacka after their summer vacation.
How do you comment on the growth of tourism and branding of the Gacka Valley and Otočac in the past 10 years? Are you satisfied and what do you think could be better?
Why?! Gorski kotar has been crucial for mountain tourism for many years. It has been a part of tourism for a long time and it had had a lot to offer. However, in my opinion, the offer grew old. The guests are looking for something new and this is where we stepped in. It is convenient to come here because within a radius of 40 km are Plitvice, sea, Velebit, Nikola Tesla memorial center…
If there were interest to invest in facilities, we would level up the accommodation. We simply need to take the opportunity. How interesting we are is shown by the fact that renters from Plitvice Lakes put Gacka in their offer, which has not been the practice so far.
What could be better?
There is a critical lack of restaurants, places where the guest would eat something quality and home-made, from lamb onwards.
What is the main reason for the arrival of guests in the Gacka Valley and what do they do besides being hosted in your facility?
Guests know where they are going, they have their plan – it is usually Plitvice, the source of the Gacka river, a refuge for young bears in Kuterevo, Nikola Tesla, Senj… They often spend the day at the beach under the sun and heat of 35 celsius. At night they wrap themselves in a blanket while sitting on the terrace.
What do you think Otočac lacks, in terms of tourist facilities?
Positive things have been happening in Otočac lately. A lot of work is being done to make this city a beautiful location presented to the general population.
Photo: Booking.com, Dragan Rožman