The next year's planned celebration of the 160th anniversary of the founding of Banja Koviljaca will probably be a good opportunity for the symbol of this spa, Kur-salon, to be brought back to its former glory.
This formerly elite facility, built between 1928 and 1932 at the initiative of King Aleksandar Karadjordjevic, has been in a bad condition for over a decade. Kur-salon's former significance is shown by the fact that it used to feature the first gambling house in the Balkans, and the first Miss Yugoslavia contest was also held there. Furthermore, parts of Emir Kusturica's When Father was Away on Business, the winner of the Palme d'Or at the 1985 Cannes Film Festival, were filmed there.
Kur-salon used to be owned by the Hotel and Tourism Enterprise Banja Koviljaca (HTP Banja Koviljaca), which didn't take good care of it, and the facility went into bankruptcy in October 2014. Afterwards, the better part of the inventory was stolen, including the large chandelier from the renowned restaurant, weighing half a ton, whereas the exterior became dilapidated.
In order to prevent further dilapidation, the Property Office of the Republic of Serbia put Kur-salon and other HTP Banja Koviljaca real estate in charge of the Special Hospital Banja Koviljaca last year. In addition to Kur-salon, the Special Hospital was also entrusted with the Bosna and Koviljaca mansions, a part of the mud bathing house and the old head office building.
During 2016, the repair works finally started. The roof construction was changed and all the downpipes were replaced, preventing further ruination. The building was cleaned, disinfected and locked, as were other mansions in the spa's park which had been given to the SH for use. Nevertheless, serious works on bringing Kur-salon back to its former glory are yet to come.
As Aleksandar Jokic, acting director of SH Banja Koviljaca, says for eKapija, complete reconstruction of Kur-salon is planned, and the work schedule will depend on the funds received.
– Kur-salon used to be and should be the center of cultural life of Banja Koviljaca and Loznica, just like the Special Hospital is a central place for healthcare tourism. For the time being, the conceptual design is still being completed. After that, the Valjevo Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments should give the final word, which is to be followed by the filing of the documentation for the building permit. We hope that it will all be completed soon. According to the currently available date, if no big changes prove to be necessary, construction works alone will require around RSD 150 million. The equipping of the facility will also depend on the terms provided by the Institute – Jokic explains.
He says that, regarding the funding of the reconstruction, they first addressed the Development Agency of Loznica in early 2017, in order to try to receive funds provided by the EU.
– We are waiting for the contest to open, and we also hope to receive aid from the Ministry of Trade and Tourism and the Government of Serbia – Jokic adds.
The hall was built to resemble the Vienna Kursalon, but was intended for entertainment from the very beginning, unlike the Vienna facility, which was initially meant only for therapy. The complex consists of a grand hall – a ballroom with 450 seats, a 220-seat restaurant, a boarding hall for 150 people, two oval and two round salons, two summer balconies and a parking lot.
After the reconstruction, the plan is for the so-called lower hall, formerly known as the boarding hall, to replace, along with its big kitchen, the three existing kitchens of the Special Hospital and to be able, in addition to that, to serve a large number of private guests. The large upper hall will be a multifunctional facility, used for concerts and other important cultural events, congresses and similar events.
Big investments in the Royal Spa
In addition to the said investment, the Special Hospital used its own funds to complete the reconstruction of the Kralj Petar Sulfur Bath this May, by fully renovating the entrance hall and the remaining five massage facilities, now featuring new furniture and air-conditioning. Furthermore, these days, the hospital is using its own funds to complete the first phase of the reconstruction of the old mud bath, by building 13 new mud packing and thermo-mineral water treatment facilities.
As the Tourism Organization of Loznica says for eKapija, Banja Koviljaca had over 23,000 visitors last year. More than 147,000 overnight stays were realized, and around 20,000 of the said number of visitors stayed at the Special Hospital. Of these, 8,384 are registered at the National Health Insurance Fund, which amounts to under 50% of all the users of the hospital's services. A large number of guests come there for treatment and rehabilitation, and only a several thousand are wellness guests, visiting the spa for prevention. More attention will be paid to this issue in the coming period.
– It should be noted that the planned increase for 2016 was 3% and that 10% was realized. This year's plan is to maintain the number and increase it by 1%, but we expect the plan to be exceeded this year as well – Jokic says for our portal.
More than 11,200 people visited the spa in the first six months of the current year. Aside from local tourists, there are visitors from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Russia, Germany, Switzerland, Canada and Australia. The Special Rehabilitation Hospital has a cooperation protocol signed with the Ministry of Trade and Tourism of Republika Srpska, and its residents will therefore be provided with a 10% discount on all services in the facility from November 15, 2017, till March 15, 2018.
Minister of Health Zlatibor Loncar recently announced that patients from the United Arab Emirates would soon start visiting Banja Koviljaca
. However, the cooperation has not yet been realized, even though representatives of the UAE Ministry of Health visited SH Banja Koviljaca and liked what they saw.