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Now This Luxury Croatian Festival Can Add A Food Shortage To Its Long List Of Problems

Obonjan was forced to delay its opening last month because of a power failure. Almost three weeks later, people are still waiting for refunds and those who did make it say they walked into "chaos".

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Obonjan, a new luxury arts, music, and lifestyle festival housed on a private island in Croatia, has been hit by more complaints of chaotic organisation and a lack of food.

Guests have told BuzzFeed News that food and supplies including cigarettes have been scarce since it opened on 5 August, with restaurants overloaded, running out of gas, and struggling to cope with the demand.

One festivalgoer said at times they couldn't buy food, no one knew seemed to know what they were doing, and "what was running was chaos".

On one occasion a chef walked out, another guest said, though a festival spokesperson denied that was the case.

The organisers have said they are now "making progress" and blamed high winds for delays in supplies being shipped to the island.

"Given everything else it was quite unfortunate that some bad weather affected supplies coming on to the island," said one of the organisers, Sarah Dora. "A lot of wind meant one restaurant couldn't open, which put a lot of pressure on the other restaurant. The storm element has not helped."

Obonjan markets itself as a "festival retreat" with air-conditioned "forest lodges” and bell tents from £60 a night. The island was leased by a consortium of UK and Croatian investors last year for a period of 45 years and is based 6km offshore from the city of Sibenik, on the Dalmatian coast.

Obonjan / Via Obonjan

It has not got off to a smooth start.

The “ambitious” six-week event, which plans to become a year-round destination, was due to launch on Thursday 28 July but suffered a power failure, organisers said, causing them to postpone the opening twice. It finally opened on 5 August.

Ticket-holders, some of whom had already flown to the country, were only informed of the decision to delay the festival the evening before they were due to arrive, prompting a barrage of complaints as people found themselves stranded.

Customers who had their trips cancelled were promised to have flights and accommodation refunded within 48 hours but Obonjan confirmed to BuzzFeed News on Friday that refunds for 20 out of 115 affected customers were still outstanding.

Those who are waiting on refunds have complained on social media about being unable to reach the company on the phone or email. Some claim to be owed more than £1,500 and labelled the process a "shambles".

"It took two weeks. It was ridiculous. No customer care. No calls, no help. They even pretended to lose my forms," said one customer who didn't want to be named.

"I tried calling, emailing all the staff that had previously been in constant contact. All to no avail."

Another said: "It was a shambles from the start and they should not have opened this year. I think they had very unrealistic timescales."

@obonjan still no refund and it's now day 13. You owe me nearly £1600, this is getting ridiculous. Sort this out now! @BBCWatchdog

@obonjan Still no refund, or personal communication regarding the status.

@obonjan this is the WORST CUSTOMER SERVICE I HAVE EVER EXPERIENCED. 13 Days. No refund. Anyone else feeling ripped off by #Obonjan? RT.

@obonjan this is getting ridiculous, reply to my emails about the refund please, it's been nearly 2 weeks

Dora said the "main reason" for the remaining outstanding payments was that organisers were awaiting further bank account details from customers, but admitted "manpower" had also been an issue.

"In terms of the delay all I can say is that I guess it's manpower," she said. "We didn't know we were going to have this delay and it's been all hands on deck."

There have also been mixed reactions from those who made it to the festival.

One guest said despite the problems – which have also included complaints about last-minute entertainment timetable cancellations, temporarily misplaced luggage, and transfers to the island not turning up – the event had "lots of potential".

"Half the bars weren't open. At times we couldn't buy any food. It is an ongoing building site," said one guest. "What was running was chaos. Nobody knows quite what they're doing. [But] the pizza is excellent. As are the lodges I stayed in."

Another said there had been "too many problems to offer refunds or at least free drinks or anything, which makes it worse", and that no one ever answers the phone "or knows wtf is going on" at on the island.

But "despite all that," she added, "I would go again next year as I had an amazing time and I would like to see how it grows. It has the potential to be amazing."

There has been other positive feedback. Guests have posted pictures of the pool and of activities and thanked the organisers for "good times".

Last day @obonjan (for now!) Breakfast then meditation with @GailSchock followed by sun sun sun ☀️☀️☀ #islandmagic

@leaoband thanks so much for good times @obonjan -Your sound matched the stunning surroundings beautifully.Hope to catch you in London soon!

An Obonjan spokesperson said it had hired an additional chef and the running of the kitchens and the supply chain was now "much improved and running very well".

They said: "This first year has certainly been more challenging than anticipated and is a learning curve of how to refine and strengthen the offering for future years.

"The intention was to deliver the happiest holiday experience to our guests and we are hugely apologetic that we had to postpone our opening and that these initial setbacks also had an effect on operations, with service during our first week not being as smooth as intended.

"There is progress every day with additional resource being brought in to constantly improve the offering, smooth out any initial teething problems and ensure our guests are happy."

Contact Sara Spary at

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