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Pictures Appear To Show Delayed Croatian Festival Was Still Under Construction A Week Before Opening

Organisers said the images were "very out of date" and insisted the luxury site was now up and running – despite having pushed back the opening for a second time.

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Organisers of a luxury arts, music, and lifestyle festival housed on a private island in Croatia have criticised pictures that appear to show the site was still unfinished a week before it was due to start.

Obonjan, an "ambitious" six-week event, was set to launch on Thursday 28 July but suffered a power failure, organisers said, causing them to postpone the opening until 3 August.

Ticket holders, some of whom had already flown to the country, were only informed of the decision the evening before they were due to arrive, prompting a barrage of complaints. On Sunday, the opening was delayed for a second time, until 5 August.

A local man, who asked not to be named, shared photographs of the site with BuzzFeed News that he says were taken on 21 July. They appear to show building work was still taking place seven days before guests were due to arrive.

He said he believed the organisers were "late with construction work" at the festival site and suggested that this might have been the cause of the delay.

"There is no problem," he said. "[The] only problem is [the] wrong calculation of time they need to finish construction work." Diggers and "lots of construction workers" were still visible when he took the images, he said.

However, when he returned this weekend – after the event was first delayed – he said it looked better prepared. He has also sent the images to a number of ticket holders, prompting concern.

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As a result of the delay, some British festivalgoers were left stranded on the mainland after arriving in the country in anticipation of the event.

Disappointed holidaymakers said the organisation of the event had been an “utter shambles” and that they were struggling to find alternative affordable accommodation.

They feared they would be left out of pocket with expensive accommodation costs, though Obonjan said it would refund ticket holders for flights and tickets.

Some took to Twitter to express their disappointment.

@obonjan are you fucking serious? How can you postpone so late? Arrogant beyond belief. These issues would of been known for weeks!

@obonjan how could something so fundamental like water and electrics not be functioning at this late stage? Unbelievably disappointed.

What a non-start to @obonjan - cancelled the night before we were meant to arrive for opening. Can't believe it - #nonbonjan

An Obonjan spokesperson condemned the pictures, which have also been sent to some customers, and said they were out of date.

"We're aware this picture is being circulated and have no idea when and who it was taken [by] but can assure [our customers] that this is very out of date," she said.

It was also not unusual to have construction ongoing in the days ahead of an event opening, the spokesperson added, and insisted the only reason the festival was postponed was due to electrical power failure.

The infrastructure was completed in time and work on organising the festival had been in progress for three years, she said.

Obonjan marketed itself as a "festival retreat", offering air-conditioned "forest lodges", DJs, arts, yoga, meditation, and talks on subjects including ecology and wellbeing. Tickets cost from £60 a night.

The island was leased by the organisers last year for a period of 45 years, and is based 6km offshore from the city of Sibenik, on the Dalmatian coast.

Among the consortium of event organisers is UK company Sound Channel, the promoter behind Unknown Festival in Croatia.

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The spokesperson also confirmed that the opening date had been pushed back for a second time, to 5 August – two days later than originally planned when it was postponed last week.

The decision has prompted people to seek assurances that the date would not be rescheduled again after organisers originally advised people not to travel between 28 July and 3 August.

The company told BuzzFeed News the new opening date was final and said it was looking forward to welcoming guests. It added it had not guaranteed it would open on 3 August, but had hoped it would.

Organisers are also battling further complaints as it deals with a backlog of refunds. Some customers have taken to Twitter and Facebook to complain about having to wait 10 days for flights to be refunded.

Others say they have not yet received refunds for ticket costs, although the company had said these transactions would be completed within 48 hours.

Nearly 5 days after I filled out your @obonjan refund form and might account is still not showing any signs. Any chance this will happen?

@KateSawyer @obonjan totally agree Kate. I want a date and time. No more "as quick as we can." Facts only pls. Patience wearing thin.

The spokesperson said all affected customers had been contacted.

"Following [Sunday's] update, we contacted each customer affected by the additional two-day delay personally to explain the additional setbacks, rearrange their bookings and/or offer refunds," the spokesperson added.

"We've also responded to all social media posts personally to update them on both the opening and the status of their refunds."

BuzzFeed News understands 220 paying customers are affected by the late opening of the festival and will be eligible for a refund.

The festival has a maximum daily capacity of 500 guests but organisers told BuzzFeed News some tickets had been given to friends, family, and supporters for the opening.

Sara Spary is a consumer business correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Sara Spary at sara.spary@buzzfeed.com.

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