The vision and inspiration of the founder Jan Horal

Jan Horal was born in the former Czechoslovakia in 1923. In 1939 he became aware of the dangers of fascism and the threat of a devastating war, and at the age of just 16 he decided to leave his hometown and his family and flee. His journey took him through Europe and Palestine to North Africa, where he enlisted in the British army. He served with a tank battalion in North Africa and took part in the Normandy landings. When the war ended, he returned to Czechoslovakia to find his family and continue his technical studies in Prague. However, political unrest changed his life again. In 1948 he was forced to leave Czechoslovakia because of the communist coup.

When Jan Horal arrived in Sweden, he started working as a worker in the SKF factory producing ball bearings. He became interested in photography, and in order to earn much-needed money for his family, he started to earn extra money as a photographer in a studio and a local amusement park in Liseberg. Jan soon realised the market potential of the Far East, long before everyone else. He especially recognized its ability to deliver quality products (such as toys and optical/photographic equipment) at a low price. Unlike some European competitors, local companies were not reluctant to adapt to the demands of foreign markets and were open to technological improvements.

Business Opportunities

In the 1950s he founded Libro, an import/export company specializing in trade with the Far East, which still exists in Gothenburg today. In the 1960s he sold Libro and founded a new company, Merkurex, whose main focus was the worldwide purchase and distribution of optics and cameras, mainly from Japan, Hong Kong and Taiwan. One of the most important brands was the Japanese company Chinon. Jan Horal became its shareholder and greatly influenced the development of its products. Jan then sold his company to a giant electronics retailer, the British company Dixon, in which he became a major shareholder and board member. Chinon soon afterwards became the world's largest manufacturer of the super-8 film camera.

Hotel industry in the lead role

After the fall of communism in Europe in 1989-1990, Jan decided to make a career change at an age when most people are long retired. At almost 70, he returned to his native Czechoslovakia, where he started a successful hotel business in Prague and Český Krumlov, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in South Bohemia. In 1994 he founded Bohemia Properties a.s. In the same year he opened the first of his hotels, Hotel Duo. The company soon expanded and opened two more hotels in Český Krumlov. Hotel Růže started its operation in 1999 and Hotel Old Inn in 2001.

During this period, he also began to fight for the restoration of rights and dignity to Czech soldiers who had fought with the Western Allies, who had been treated very badly after the communist coup and who were considered potential traitors or spies. Many of them were even imprisoned and their children were denied higher education. Jan also organized and hosted meetings of war veterans from various countries.

Mr. Horal was awarded the highly prized Order of the British Empire and the French Legion of Honour. The hotel business was inherited by his three children, Eva, Peter and Mikael Horal (now only Mikael), who continue their father's vision of providing the finest hospitality services.

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