BELGRADE, Jan. 18, 2008 — -- With fierce competition, the hotel industry is constantly inventing new marketing tricks to attract guests. Now some people are accusing Belgrade hotelier Dusan Zabunovic of going too far with his latest gimmick.
Zabunovic renovated a property opposite Belgrade's central train station, with the help of some of the best designers in the country. He named the hotel Mr. President and designed each room around a current or past world leader.
As a member of the Design Hotel chain, Mr. President boasts many luxurious suites. The most luxurious, on the seventh floor, comes complete with a portrait of former communist leader Josip Broz Tito, who ruled Yugoslavia for more than 35 years. You can enjoy his picture while soaking in your Jacuzzi.
In addition to the Bushes, Margaret Thatcher, Fidel Castro and Joseph Stalin, there is also a junior suite named after the infamous Adolf Hitler.
The Hitler or room 501, occupied mainly by German, Croat and Slovenian guests, sees the highest demand, according to Zabunovic.
But the former Nazi dictator's popularity hasn't gone down well with everyone. The leader of the Jewish community in Belgrade has condemned Zabunovic's marketing ploy as a dangerous "banalization" of the German dictator.
Despite public outrage in Serbia, not much can be done under Serbian law to persuade the hotelier to change his controversial choices.
Like all Serbs — who were persecuted alongside Jews and gypsies during the Nazi occupation — Zabunovic does not have any kind of admiration for Hitler. But sitting in the lobby of his new hotel surrounded by statues of former U.S. Presidents Lincoln, Washington, Jefferson and Madison, he says he refuses to exclude him.
"It is wrong not to have Hitler in Madame Tussaud and other museums," he told ABC News. "All his victims would turn in their graves if nowhere it is reminded what a monstrous criminal he was."
Hitler's portrait overlooks a king-size bed; he wears a military uniform, with a swastika on the left arm. But a night with what many still consider one of history's greatest madmen comes cheaper than most. The rate for the Hitler room is $200, less than half the price of the Tito suite at $500 a night.