Slovenia on the path to becoming a top culinary destination

Published: 29.1.2020

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Slovenia on the path to becoming a top culinary destination

Gastronomy is the main development and communication topic for 2020-2021. Thus, numerous activities will take place in order to position Slovenia as a destination for 5-star culinary experiences.

Slovenia on the path to becoming a top culinary destination

A series of activities will be carried out to position Slovenia as a recognisable destination with high-quality, innovative, distinctive gastronomy and authentic cuisine.

In 2020-2021, the Ministry and the STB will focus on the development, promotional activities and incentives related to gastronomy, which is also identified as one of the key tourism products in the Strategy of Sustainable Growth of Slovenian Tourism 2017–2021Gastronomy significantly contributes to implementing the objectives of the strategy, i.e. higher added value, targeting guests with higher purchasing power, developing year-round tourism, and dispersing tourist flows.

The efforts to position Slovenia among the very topmost desirable culinary destinations in recent years have resulted in exceptional attention from the expert public and media, numerous awards and rankings, the increased recognisability of Slovenia as an attractive and desired destination for culinary experiences, and the European Region of Gastronomy 2021 title.

To help integrate gastronomy into sustainable concepts, the Ministry will publish a public call for tenders for promoting the introduction of environmental and sustainability labels in March, with hospitality facilities being eligible for the first time to receive the Green Key and L.E.A.F. ecological certificates.

Eva Štravs Podlogar, State Secretary at the Ministry of Economic Development and Technology

Eva Štravs Podlogar, State Secretary at the Ministry of Economic Development and Technology: "With its exceptional culinary heritage, creativity, and innovativeness, Slovenia has been successfully positioning itself as a top culinary destination for boutique, 5-star experiences. Slovenia increased recognisability and reputation as well as the development of the local environment. As part of the Strategy for Sustainable Growth of Slovenian Tourism for 2017–2021, the Ministry has been intensively promoting the further development of gastronomy. Gastronomy is recognised as one of the key products for the promotion of the country and the development of Slovenian tourism. Slovenia is the first country in Europe to be granted the European Region of Gastronomy title, providing another opportunity to enhance the national promotion of culinary art. It is a national project coordinated by the Ministry and features 21 various partners from the public and private sectors and educational institutions. The vision of Slovenia as the culinary destination of 2021 is intended to help the country achieve greater recognition for its high-quality, innovative, and authentic range of food and wine created by several boutique providers of high-quality food who build their product range on local diversity and production, an abundance of natural resources, and heartiness. The clear vision of Slovenian tourism is our commitment to continue working towards green, sustainable and responsible development".

The STB has been paying particular attention to gastronomy for more than 20 years. Gastronomy is an essential aspect of the presentation of Slovenian tourism via digital communication content, in particular in digital campaigns such as I feel Slovenia My Way, a digital campaign in cooperation with National Geographic and BBC Global News, the DACH campaign, and the Two Million Reasons Why We Feel Slovenia campaign. Gastronomy is emphasised at business events, on press trips for the media, by influencers on social media and tour operators. It is also included in advertising campaigns, social media posts, publications, cooperation with ambassadors, and several other projects. The STB has additionally intensified its development and promotional activities in gastronomy in recent years, contributing to the strengthening of Slovenia's position as a top culinary destination. Receiving the title Slovenia – European Region of Gastronomy 2021 has significantly contributed to this. At the end of last year, the STB issued the new Taste Slovenia catalogue. At the same time, gastronomy is also prominently featured in promotional items representing the authenticity, rich tradition, and uniqueness of our country. Last year the STB adopted the Action Plan for the Development and Marketing of Culinary Tourism 2019–2023, the objectives of which include the adequate global positioning of Slovenian gastronomy under the Taste Slovenia brand.

The latest in a series of activities of the Ministry and STB aimed at building on the recognisability of our country as a leading and desirable culinary destination is the launch of the Michelin Guide in Slovenia, which will reveal its first selection of top restaurants in March. Furthermore, an important step will also be made this year in the promotion of sustainable gastronomy by amending the Green Scheme of Slovenian Tourism. The STB also continues to carry out activities as part of the Slovenia – European Region of Gastronomy 2021 project, such as the launch of the Taste Slovenia gastronomy portal, participation in projects such as the European Food Summit international culinary event, the Gault & Millau culinary guide, and the Week of Restaurants. The STB also continues to incorporate and update the implementation of gastronomy through a series of activities, projects, and events of the STB in selected target markets of Slovenian tourism and among selected target groups, in particular in the high-value traveller segment.

Maja Pak, Director of the STB

Maja Pak, Director of the STB: "Slovenia is a country with excellent conditions for developing high-quality tourism products based on sustainability that target tourists who are looking for an experience far away from mass tourism. Gastronomy is definitely among these. We have pristine nature enabling the sustainable production of high-quality raw materials and food. We have several excellent renowned master chefs. We have exceptional individuals who impress guests with their genuine hospitality and kindness. We have unique culinary stories and experiences. These are the resources which represent significant potential for Slovenia to become a destination for 5-star culinary experiences. 

Last year, Michelin, the globally most recognisable culinary guide, mentioned Slovenia as a must-go destination. The first results of the Michelin evaluations for Slovenia are going to be published in less than two months. Slovenia and a delegation of selected Slovenian master chefs will also enjoy special attention at the European Star Revelation in Parma, Italy, the most important Michelin event. It is the largest and most globally covered Michelin event, reported on by reputable global culinary media, thus reaching more than ten million people. We will take an important step in incorporating sustainable development in the field of gastronomy by including gastronomy in the Green Scheme of Slovenian Tourism. The Taste Slovenia web portal is under construction, and we are also concluding a project dealing with the renewal of the national pyramid of Slovenian gastronomy, where culinary pyramids with typical dishes, foodstuffs, and drinks for all four macro destinations are introduced."

This year STB also enhanced and upgraded cooperation in key culinary events and projects such as Gault & Millau and the European Food Summit.  Special attention will be dedicated to gastronomy in all major STB promotional and marketing activities abroad. Gastronomy will also be the main topic at key business events of the STB in Slovenia and abroad, such as fairs, conventions, and workshops. 

Results of the first Michelin evaluation to be announced in March

The Michelin Guide announced its arrival in Slovenia in 2019. The results of the first evaluation by the guide is going to be announced on 18 March in Ljubljana. The announcement of the results will be accompanied by the launch of the Slovenian edition of the Michelin Guide, which is, due to its 3.3 million followers and 19 social media profiles all around the world, the most influential brand among culinary guides. The arrival of the renowned and influential guide is an excellent opportunity for Slovenia to increase its recognisability and strengthen its position as a top culinary destination, as well as to raise the quality of its gastronomy. For top Slovenian restaurants, it is a unique opportunity to be awarded Michelin stars.

Michelin will invite selected Slovenian chefs to this year's European Star Revelation, the guide's largest European event, which takes place on 30 and 31 March in Parma, Italy. European Star Revelation is a globally recognised culinary event to which Michelin invites all European 3-star chefs and selected 2-star chefs. As Slovenia is a new destination in the Michelin guides, Slovenian chefs will be able to attend the event regardless of the number of stars they have acquired.

Sustainable gastronomy becomes a vital part of the Green Scheme of Slovenian Tourism this year

Sustainability is the main commitment of Slovenian tourism, and sustainable approaches are also becoming increasingly important in gastronomy. For this reason, the STB will, to promote sustainable gastronomy, make important updates to the Green Scheme of Slovenian Tourism (GSST) by incorporating sustainable gastronomy in the scheme. The Green Scheme, the national certification model which contributes to the comprehensive sustainable development of our country and is recognised as the best model for the promotion of sustainable tourism in Europe, will thus also encourage sustainability in gastronomy, at the levels of destinations and individual providers. For this purpose, the STB is going to carry out a series of activities, including the upgrading of the current system for certification with new criteria related to the sustainable development of gastronomy, introducing the new Slovenia Green Cuisine label, and adjusting the requirements to the objectives of Slovenian tourism. The STB will present the model promoting sustainable gastronomy to representatives of leading tourist destinations at the February meeting as part of the main sustainable tourism event, while the new certification criteria will be presented on 22 May as part of the Green Day of Slovenian Tourism.

A series of activities to be carried out as Slovenia is awarded the ERG 2021 title

In 2018, Slovenia was confirmed as the holder of the European Region of Gastronomy 2021 (ERG 2021) title. The title recognises all persons involved in the project. It is a great acknowledgement of Slovenia, Slovenian tourism, and all who contribute to creating Slovenia's image as a top culinary destination.

The Ministry coordinates the project. The STB has participated in the project by preparing the candidacy for the European Region of Gastronomy 2021 title, which includes the Taste Slovenia candidacy book and a programme for a visit by an expert commission. As part of the project, the STB has also drafted the Action Plan for the Development and Marketing of Culinary Tourism 2019–2023 which, in addition to raising the recognisability of Slovenian gastronomy, also pursues the strengthening of sustainability principles in gastronomy and the creation of added value for all stakeholders.

The STB continues carrying out its activities in this complex project, which associates various stakeholders via the commitment to contribute to integration in food policy, the hospitality sector, tourism, agriculture, health, education, and increasing the overall quality of life and sustainable development in 2020 and 2021. Among other things, the activities include implementing the measures from the Action Plan for the Development and Marketing of Culinary Tourism 2019–2023, the concept and design of the Taste Slovenia website, the presentation of gastronomy in a series of events and in cooperation with key stakeholders, and editing of the Slovenian page on the official website of the International Institute of Gastronomy, Culture, Art and Tourism (IGCAT).

Internationally recognised guides and events of key importance for positioning Slovenia as an excellent culinary destination

Also contributing to the visibility of Slovenian gastronomy is the Gault & Millau guide. This year marks the third time that this renowned culinary guide is going to award white hats to the best Slovenian restaurants. In addition to high-quality restaurants, wineries, and microbreweries, the 2020 Gault & Millau guide, which came out at the end of last year, also presented agritourism farms and recognisable Slovenian food products for the first time, while the Slovenia Unique Experiences label is also a new addition to the guide.

Mira Šemić, Director of Gault & Millau Slovenija: "The Gault & Millau 2020 guide has additionally raised the visibility of Slovenian gastronomy. The guide reveals who we are and what we have achieved in cuisine and wine. We support diversity, which can be recognised in Slovenia at every step. When selecting restaurants, guests trust the guide, and the owners are also pleased, as they report noticeably higher visitor rates. With an even wider selection in all segments, the publication of the 2021 guide is going to support the Slovenia – European Region of Gastronomy 2021 project." 

Mira Šemič also highlights the importance of Knowledge Under the Toque educational project: "We want to bring hospitality professions closer to young people and show how beautiful and creative they are. With the slogan "Not Everybody Can Do It", we wanted to emphasise that these professions require many personal qualities, communication skills, and a lot of knowledge. Slovenia cannot be a five-star destination if it does not provide high quality in the hospitality professions. We think that educating and encouraging young people to choose these professions is very important. This is a task we must take very seriously." 

The second European Food Summit, which is consolidating its position as a leading conference event in the field of sustainable gastronomy in Europe, is going to be held at the end of March. The European Food Summit involves a series of attractive culinary events, including expert lectures featuring exceptional guests. This is also the reason why the STB has decided to be a partner in the project, which will also feature study tours for representatives of foreign media. The project significantly contributes to raising the visibility and recognizability of Slovenian gastronomy abroad and the presentation of Slovenian and foreign best practices in gastronomy.

Martin Jezeršek, Director of the company Jezeršek Gostinstvo and organiser and creator of the European Food Summit project: "The vision of the European Food Summit has never been as clear as today, which is why it will continue to be developed and play an important role. This year's expert symposium will host around 20 speakers, who will tell their stories to teach us and encourage us to think progressively and act towards creating a better and more sustainable future. Some of them come from Slovenia, but the majority are from other European countries. We will also host speakers from Brazil and Canada. Many world-renown names are coming to Slovenia, such as Joan Roca, Lisa Abend, John Lanchester, Maria Canabal, and many others who now share what they have learned all over the world, thus making it a better place. Therefore, the objective is clear – to inspire every individual to think about how to create a better future."

The main part of the European Food Summit will still take place in Ljubljana, where all events intended for the general public will be held. Successful events from last year will be repeated as part of this year's programme, including Saturday's innovative culinary event called Gourmet Ljubljana Crawl, which will host top Slovenian chefs and conclude at the Križanke outdoor theatre in Ljubljana. It will be followed by the unforgettable Experience Dinner, which attracts a great deal of attention every year and is immediately sold out.  Jezeršek adds: "This time we will invite only Slovenian chefs – those who receive the best ratings from the Michelin Guide. We will, therefore, have to wait until 18 March to discover their names. Most of Sunday will be dedicated to learning about Slovenia and its natural and cultural heritage and having a taste of this boutique country. In cooperation with the STB, we will open the doors for as many as 30 invited foreign journalists to hear stories from inspiring individuals who are breaking new ground in gastronomy. The day is going to conclude with a new event called the Ljubljana Collaboration Dinner, which will take place in several restaurants in Ljubljana at the same time."

Partnership for attaining synergy effects in the development and promotion of gastronomy

The Ministry and the STB are boosting cooperation with Slovenian tourism companies and other key stakeholders, in particular with leading destinations, in developing and promoting gastronomy.

Blaž Cvar, President of the Tourism and Catering Section of the Chamber of Craft and Small Business: "This year, the Tourism and Catering Section of the Chamber of Craft and Small Business of Slovenia will encourage the Slovenian hospitality industry to use more locally produced food and to focus on the promotion, cooperation, and integration. What is essential here is to eliminate administrative barriers, thereby helping to shorten the food supply chain from the field to the plate. As part of the preparations for the Slovenia – European Region of Gastronomy 2021 project, we are participating in regional conferences. The first of these took place on 20 January at the Faculty of Agriculture and Life Sciences in Pivola, and we are also participating in and promoting various projects designed to contribute to the supply of locally produced foodstuffs – Inno Rural. In the future, we will also pay more attention to ecology in the form of reduced energy consumption and food waste, which is why we welcome the introduction of the Green Scheme project into gastronomy. We will continue to present to the hospitality sector examples of best practice which prove how important it is to cooperate and be integrated when it comes to encouraging providers to improve their product ranges and promotion. We are also continuing to revitalise the Gostilna Slovenija (Slovenia Inn) brand. After the successful presentation of Gostilna Rajh with the basketball player Luka Dončić, Gostilna Repovž is going to be presented in the US next."

Slovenian tourism boasts an increasing number of recognisable culinary brands, contributing significantly to the development of the local culinary offering. An example of the successful development of a culinary brand at a destination level is the Taste Radol'ca brand.

Nataša Mikelj, Director of the Radovljica Tourist Board: "Gastronomy is one of the key pillars of the Radol'ca destination. This was already realised when the destination brand was created in 2010. Confectionery, particularly honey and chocolate products, and several recognisable inns with a long tradition came into focus. In the destination tourism strategy composed in 2016, gastronomy became one of the destination's four pillars, intending to make Radovljica the culinary capital of the Gorenjska region. The destination currently has two recognisable culinary products. The first is the Chocolate Festival, which will be held for the ninth consecutive time this year, and the second is Taste Radol'ca. In the national culinary narrative and from the perspective of the overall offering, Taste Radol'ca is a project which has produced outstanding results with systematic and gradual effort." 

The director of the Radovljica Tourist Board added that the culinary project had been initiated as a Month of Culinary Arts (in 2013), to attract local guests to restaurants in November, when the guest turnout was at its lowest. Very soon, November became one of the best months in terms of turnout in some of the destination's restaurants.

It was essential for the project's development that the idea came from restaurant owners, with the Radovljica Tourist Board assuming the role of a unifying link, systematic developer, and promoter, and Taste Radol'ca being an important partner in the planning and raising of the quality of the culinary offering. The cooperation as part of the Month of Culinary Arts has expanded to several other events at the destination, mostly in the form of promotional tastings and street food promotion at events. The basis of the association is to create bottom-up integration – both among restaurant owners and among farmers, suppliers, chefs, and the local tourist board. The destination believes that the model could be applied to many Slovenian tourist destinations. What is of key importance is the cooperation and interest of all partners, while the common thread must base on a local story, and high-quality service must be the final goal. 

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