Luxury Tourism in Dubrovnik: Interview with Villa Rental Pioneer Ivan Beroš
by Tanja Gulija Jujnović
It is so difficult to write an article about the city of Dubrovnik and invite you to visit it for the first time or invite you to come back. A lot of people think that everything has been written, all the pictures have been taken… But we think that is not true. Why? Everyone who visits Dubrovnik experiences something special that the city gives back. We also try to hear the locals say something to make them love Dubrovnik despite the unique way of life in and around the city walls.
We spoke to a hospitality manager, Ivan Beroš, about luxury tourism in Dubrovnik, Dubrovnik’s potential as a luxury destination, the opportunities and challenges ahead.
Besides words like destination, potential, numbers and statistics, we try to get Mr. Beroš to share the other emotional side of his Dubrovnik story.
Q: Now, Mr. Beroš, close your eyes and describe for yourself a unique moment in Dubrovnik.
A: Oh, so many of them… I don’t even have to think long. I just have to answer. A unique moment in Dubrovnik is when I take my SUP (stand up paddle) board and paddle to the island of Lokrum. If you look ahead you see Lokrum, if you look back a little you see the city, behind me the magnificent villas… Another moment. Swimming in January while the sun mingles with a cold breeze and the sauna in the villa after… The town itself – I am overwhelmed by the history and the fact that you have a story on every step you take. And cats! I love that this is actually their city because you see them on the streets of the old town.
Q: Ok. You got us with the first one. Tell us your story. Who are you and why Dubrovnik?
A: The story of my life, I would say, begins with sports. I grew up in Brela, a famous tourist destination near the town of Makarska. I was only 5 years old when I started playing tennis. My tennis career spanned 15 years – I played and won many tournaments, traveled over 80 countries, shared courts with famous tennis players… Unfortunately, due to injury, in 2000 I was forced to end my tennis career. Like many athletes, I had to rethink my future. For a while I was a trainer but in 2008 I decided to embark on a new project and it was the restoration of our family home in Dubrovnik.
It was the city of dear and familiar memories. My grandmother Marija spent her life there so I felt the need, in a way, to pay tribute to her by restoring our family heritage, our family villa. Dubrovnik and the luxury villa Paulina are more than a project, they are pure emotions.
Q: Can you tell us a bit about the Luxury Villa Paulina itself?
Villa Paulina is a family home and evokes memories of the past. My grandmother spent most of her life in the villa, she came from the village of Ošalj when she was only 17 years old to find work. My grandfather lived in the house after their marriage and shortly after my mother was born.
The hostess, Mrs Paulina, and her husband Antun built the villa and started living there in 1938. Unfortunately, they did not enjoy it for too long as the war came and a bad time for Paulina’s family . Only 5 years after the war, Paulina was left alone because Antun fell ill and died… My grandmother came to the house in 1953 and lived there until 2012 when we started the reconstruction. We opened the house to our guests a year later.
Q: Do you think your plans were successful?
A: I have to admit we faced a lot of challenges during the renovation, but I think we did. We have done our best to keep the original layout of the interior and the exterior is absolutely identical. Villa Paulina is a house of extreme architectural value and is a protected heritage due to its combination of estate and Mediterranean architecture. We kept the existing furniture in an art deco style and combined it with modern and timeless 20th century furniture for an eclectic feel inside the house.
Q: Why should we book Villa Paulina in Dubrovnik?
A: I would say that by entering Villa Paulina, you are sort of stepping into the past. You just get a certain vibe, you get the emotion, you get the story. Besides the breathtaking view that the villa offers from every room to the old town, technically, Villa Paulina is also a modern villa fully equipped with all the necessary amenities for a villa of this category (garage, swimming pool, hot tub, sauna …) .
In addition, we offer our clients concierge services, villa manager, villa cleaning, but also organized private day trips from Dubrovnik, chef services, cooking classes, yoga classes, guides and private transfers, boat rentals. In short, everything our client needs.
The location is all they say, so during your stay at Villa Paulina you are only 10 minutes from the city gate (800 meters).
Q: Did you mention cooking lessons? Is there something special about food and wine in Dubrovnik?
A: Gastronomy and oenology are my passion. My idea was to give our customers the opportunity to taste, explore and know the best Croatian wines. I am WSET (Wine & Spirits Education Trust) level 3 certified, so I am available to them regarding wine recommendations, not only Croatian wines but also worldwide.
We like to combine the best wines with the best local ingredients, which is why we offer private chef services or cooking classes. Our cooks prepare traditional, slow food or international menus that will amaze you. We have something more and that is a special menu from Grandma Marija with the dishes that she cooked for Mrs. Paulina and her guests.
Q: We have seen some amazing artwork inside the Villa. How important is art to you?
A: Art is important in every segment. It was a very important part of the life of Paulina and Antun, which was therefore also part of the life of the villa. They spend their time with famous artists. Ms. Paulina played the piano and loved literature and Mr. Antun was a lover of classical music.
We offer piano evenings with Ms. Naira Asatryan in the villa you can enjoy the art installations and paintings by painter Nikolina Šimunović and the art inherited from the villa.
Q: So you have been renting the villa for 8 years now. who are your clients? What are they looking for?
A: Villa Paulina has welcomed visitors from all over the world but I have to say the majority are from UK and USA. In most cases, they are looking for privacy, tranquility, personalized service, but also privacy and that “home” feeling. They are very interested in the history of the house itself and in Dubrovnik of course.
Almost all want to try something from the menus and the villa serves as a perfect base for them for day trips by land and sea that we organize for them.
Q: And now the question of the year. The COVID-19 situation and how has it affected your business?
A: We are not pretending that it is not a difficult time for all of us, but I am extremely positive and hope that the situation will gradually return to “normal”.
Even before the pandemic, cleanliness was one of our main efforts. We are highly responsible in this regard.
The great thing is that nowadays all communication can be done online and even when we are close we keep the safe distance and all the necessary precautions.
Q: What are your plans for the future?
A: To strive for perfection. To improve in all aspects. To follow trends. To satisfy all the possible wishes of our customers. To reveal our Villa Paulina and Dubrovnik in the most unique way.
We know we live in an age where every moment is precious and every moment counts. We have a responsibility to provide the best possible services to the ultimate customer satisfaction. The biggest reward for us is the positive feedback we receive.
Q: Thank you for your time, Mr. Beroš. We wish you the best for the future.
A: Thank you for your interest in Villa Paulina Dubrovnik. You are all welcome.