The Šabalj family as ambassadors of tourism and an example of how tourism should be developed in Croatia


4. June 2022.

U Малинской on the island of Krk, the 20th anniversary of the operation of a catering facility was recently celebrated.  

Their successes in tourism testify that with work, effort, entrepreneurial courage, but also vision, we can build a stable and profitable business or, as they say today: sustainable tourism.

That in itself might not be news of great importance, but a tavern Bracer - which in terms of the quality of the offer and staff actually has all the features of a top restaurant - is part of a fascinating story about the tourist drive of a hardworking and dedicated local family.

The Sabalj family from the place Porat they are famous caterers, hoteliers, fishermen and olive growers. This traditional fishing and agricultural family has accepted the opportunity to join the tourist offer in the very beginnings of tourism development in the Municipality of Malinska and has been doing so very successfully for several decades. Their successes in tourism testify that work, effort, entrepreneurial courage, but also vision, can build a stable and profitable business in our country - despite the turbulent economic sea and all the challenges it brings.

Beacera wine

It all started with a modest offer of rooms with breakfast, but over time it developed into a boarding house, where the hosts offered fish from their daily catch and vegetables from their garden. As the family had been fishing for a long time before and knew all the secrets and problems of this noble craft, experience told them that the best-selling products were those sold "on a plate".

Thus was born the idea of ​​opening a tavern Bracer in Malinska. By placing their own products and catches in the boarding house and in the tavern, they have reduced the business risk that accompanies both fishing and agriculture, and their catering offer has thus gained significantly in quality. Of course, guests also benefit from having the opportunity to enjoy indigenous and fresh top-quality food. And the satisfaction of the guest is ultimately the meaning of business in tourism.

On the site of the original guest house in Porto, the family built a modern gourmet hotel Villa Margaret with four stars in which they continue to develop their long-established business philosophy of using home-grown vegetables and fish from their own catch, but now offering high-quality gourmet gastronomy.

Jumbo photo

The whole family participates in the work, from grandparents to grandchildren. The backbone of the business are brothers Danijel and Nenad Šabalja, who together with their sister Margaret today run this family business that was started by their father Ivan at the beginning of the century. They are accompanied by loyal employees with whom they share successes and difficult moments.

"There are about 60 employees, together with family members. They work in a tavern, coffee & wine bar, hotel, on our family farm and on board. From the beginning, we have more or less the same number, some of them have been working for us for 20 years. We are very lucky when it comes to employees - if it weren't for them, I would probably have given up a long time ago. 20 years is a good part of life expectancy; they are not just our employees, they are friends. And it should be emphasized that one can make a good living from working in tourism. Our workers show this by their example. There is no need for young people to run away from us. ”, he says Danijel Sabalja

The tavern, cafe and hotel are in three different locations, and if we mention that agricultural property and the ship that supplies them, it is clear that ‘covering’ this tourist facility is quite demanding. It is therefore not surprising that three generations are involved in the business - from grandparents to grandchildren. The future can be planned on such foundations. Because, one does not need to be clairvoyant to conclude that the Sabalj family will not rest in the future where it is now. He says about Sabalja's plans:

"We have these children who follow us in business. We see that they are interested in that, so we will continue. We will probably be more based on accommodation in the future, on holiday homes. One it is already in our function, and in these rural areas we have these antiques, so it makes sense to convert these old houses into holiday homes. The hotel will remain as it is, because we have no room to expand. That's how it suits me, to keep the hotel small, because that's how you get to know all the guests. " 

Img 8346 hdr3

And finally, it should be clarified what a bracera really is. Danijel Šabalja says: "Bracera is the kind of ship that towed. They were here in Malinska, and they used to drive bulk cargo to Italy - wood and small gravel. " It sounds like a name. And very well hit, in this case.

Because, if we take into account that this ship was made to carry the biggest and heaviest cargo, to sail on the most turbulent sea and that it is a ship you can always count on, there is no name that would better adorn the tavern where the tourist family story Sabalja started. and described their business path. 

It is a family tourism that has been evolving for generations, and each is raising the bar. This is how tourism in Austria has developed and continues to develop, which we see as the best case study. This is a tourist development that we have unfortunately skipped in Croatia, except for the honor of endemic examples such as the Sabalj family. 

Finally, a couple of years ago we recorded a short story or just one part of the success story of the Šabalj family. 

Photo: Šabalj family


4. June 2022.