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Why Hilton's Arrival in Skopje is a Big Step for Macedonia

June 19, 2013 at 1:20 PM | by | Comments (0)

Earlier this month, Hilton announced it is planning to build a DoubleTree in Skopje, Macedonia. It might not seem like anything to write home about on the surface, but those who are aware of the steep uphill climb the country's capital has endured since it was destroyed by an earthquake in 1963 might understand why this is an especially big deal.

Most interestingly, the announcement comes during what is supposed to be the final chapter of the highly controversial Skopje 2014 endeavor, a multi-year government effort to restore the city's identity and, among other things, begin attracting tourists.

Quick backstory: The 1963 quake destroyed about 80 percent of the city, and most of the construction right after was, in a word, boring, lacking the personality it once had and evoking a socialist feel. In 2010, the city announced it would rebuild via the Skopje 2014 project, which was centered around the construction of new infrastructure along the Vardar River - think pedestrian bridges, historic statues, and the remodeling of town squares.

Good idea by the government in theory, but according to many, the project has failed due to terrible planning, direction, and execution. It's a long story, but essentially the critics think the project is a waste of money and has more to do with politics than stimulating the pulse of the city (if you're interested, you can read more details about the current debate and see some new photos of the project here).

With all that doubt and uncertainty surrounding the city's growth and direction in recent years, Hilton's arrival sure makes things interesting. People may disagree about the monuments and other projects being built along the Vardar River in the town's center, but the infrastructure to attract and support business and leisure travelers is something we think will actually pay dividends and please all parties. Did the work of the Skopje 2014 project play a role in attracting Hilton to the city? For now, that's up for debate. Though it is obviously not going to fix everything overnight, it is, at the very least, a start in terms of turning the corner.

The DoubleTree is scheduled to open in 2016 with 172 rooms, including 20 suites, 15,000 square feet of events space, and a health club and spa. We look forward to following the fallout from this move and wish Skopje the best of luck in its efforts. It seems that, given the situation, Hilton's decision to build could instill some confidence in other investors who might currently be a bit skeptical, standing on the outskirts, testing the waters with the tip of their toe. Stay tuned to see if they jump in!

[Photo: balkaninsight.com]

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