Vinarium goes from pie in the sky to pillar of tourism
Lendava, 8 September - When it was built four years go, the Vinarium observation tower, meant to draw tourists to the economically depressed eastern city of Lendava, was seen by many as a pipe dream. Now, it is not only a major draw for the region, it has started an observation tower craze that is sweeping across Slovenia.
The Vinarium, a 53.5-metre tower with views of four countries, was meant to attract 30,000-40,000 visitors annually.
Since it launched, however, it has attracted around 375,000 people, with a single-day record of 2121 visitors set on 1 May and a monthly record of 15,000 this August.
The majority of the visitors are Slovenians, but there are also many visitors from Hungary, Austria and Germany.
The influx of visitors has led to a veritable tourism boom in Lendava, with dozens of events held at or at the foot of the tower.
Lendava Castle, which boasts a local museum and an art gallery, has benefited as well: a recent exhibition of works by Friedensreich Hundertwasser and and Shoichi Hasagawa attracted more than 20,000 visitors.
And earlier this year, Lendava started to offer guests a unique accommodation experience as vineyard cottages were transformed into a "dispersed hotel" called Hotel Vinarium.
"Boutique accommodation in vineyard cottages with a fantastic view, 'painful' silence and the ability to hear birds chirping and domesticated animals have convinced many tourists in recent months," the Lendava Tourist Association says.
Beyond kick-starting tourism in the region, Vinarium, an intricate tower which cost EUR 1.7 million, sparked a frenzy of tower building in many smaller towns and cities across Slovenia.
The ski resort Rogla and Podčetrek in suth-east Slovenia recently inaugurated observation towers, nearby Rogatec is planning one as well, while Rogaška Slatina is finalising plans for a EUR 2.1 million tower to showcase its glass making hertage.
There are also preliminary plans for various types and heights of tower in Žalec and Goriška Brda, while perhaps the most ambitious tower project, an 111-metre tower in Koper, has been all but abandoned due to financial concerns and is to be replaced by a more modest tower.