Sarajevo's landmark hotel faces hard times amid pandemic

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The Holiday Hotel, which opened as Holiday Inn, a luxurious accommodation for world's royalty, film stars and other dignitaries who came to watch the 1984 Winter Olympics, and less than a decade later, became ground zero of the bloody siege of Sarajevo in the 1990's, photographed from a nearby building, in Sarajevo, Bosnia, Wednesday, July 29, 2020. The bright yellow Holiday Hotel in downtown Sarajevo, a famous symbol of survival of the Bosnian capital, has seen good and bad times in its turbulent history, but now the landmark's survival is in more danger than ever, with the coronavirus pandemic leaving it with only a few occasional guests. (AP Photo/Kemal Softic)

SARAJEVO – SARAJEVO, Bosnia-The bright yellow Hotel Holiday in downtown Sarajevo has seen good times and bad times in its 37-year history. Mostly, it has been a symbol of survival in the once-turbulent Bosnian capital.

Now the boxy landmark is in danger once again, with the coronavirus pandemic leaving it with few guests.

Bosnia, like the rest of the Balkans, has been hit hard by the virus. Cases have been rising in Bosnia since mid-May, when a strict lockdown was lifted and many people seemed to start disregarding social distancing rules and ditching masks.

The country of 3.5 million has reported nearly 10,500 cases and 294 deaths, many since the restrictions were eased.

Amid the pandemic, there are hardly any tourists or business travelers visiting the capital, leaving the hotel with many empty rooms.

It originally opened as part of the Holiday Inn hotel chain and was luxurious accommodation for royalty, movie stars and other dignitaries who came to the 1984 Winter Olympics.

Less than a decade later, it was ground zero for the bloody siege of Sarajevo in the 1990s and an uneasy shelter for the many foreign journalists who arrived to cover the conflict.

“The hotel was working all the time through the war,” said general manager Zahid Bukva, who has been employed there since it opened in 1983.