Slovenia is ready to welcome tourists

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Thanks to favourable epidemiological situation in Slovenia, Slovenian Tourist Board (STB), together with the Slovenian tourism industry, has started intensifying promotional activities for tourism restart.

Slovenia is ready to welcome tourists

Favourable epidemiological situation has led to a wider release of anti-Covid measures and resulted in the opening of restaurants, accommodations and other tourist offer across the country. This is a good starting point for the summer tourist season, which will once again highlight green, safe, healthy and authentic experiences based on the Green&Safe label, which communicates national standards for healthy and safe tourism. What is more, the STB, together with many partners, is implementing the central all-Slovenia motivational campaign Now is the Time. My Slovenia. The goal is to inspire Slovenians to have holidays in Slovenia and thus encourage the recovery of the Slovenian tourism industry. In addition, various activities in key foreign markets are also taking place.

Simon Zajc, State Secretary at the Ministry of Economic Development and Technology: "Increasingly favourable epidemiological conditions have enabled the government to release anti-Covid measures and gradually reopen the catering and tourism industry, which fills us with optimism. The epidemic additionally reminded of the importance of Slovenian tourism for the economy, as it affected not only tourism, but also all related activities to the greatest possible extent. At the ministry, we have responded to this in a timely manner and included tourism in all eight governmental packages and thus helped tourism sector to overcome the crisis, which is needed for the restart of the industry. We are preparing an intervention law for the economy and tourism, which will additionally address the challenges of companies in tourism, but we believe that the vaccination of the population and compliance with high hygiene standards will contribute the most to the lively summer tourist season. If ever, then now is the time to explore all those hidden corners of Slovenia. Tourist vouchers are valid until the end of the year, so it would be a sad thing not to use them. We present Slovenia to the world as a green boutique destination for the most demanding guests – those who are looking for diverse active experiences and the opportunity to stop for a moment and pamper themselves. We must not forget that Slovenia also offers all this to us, Slovenians, so let's spend holidays at home as well."

MSc. Maja Pak, Director of the Slovenian Tourist Board (STB): "The latest European Travel Commission report on short-term travel intentions within Europe states that the share of Europeans planning to travel in the next six months is currently at the highest level of all surveys, at 56 %. Europeans want safety, health, peace and relaxation in their travels. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the STB has nourished contact with tourists and business partners and adapted activities accordingly. We are focusing on domestic and nearby markets, we have digitized business events and further strengthened the development of sustainable and unique experiences. With numerous promotional activities, we present attractive safe, green and active tourism products under the Green&Safe label, which communicates responsible travel standards. More than 800 providers already use it. Together with the tourism industry, we have already started implementing the all-Slovenia motivational campaign Now is the Time. My Slovenia., which addresses Slovenians and encourages them to take vacation at home. I am glad that the activities carried out in foreign markets have aroused a lot of interest for holidays in Slovenia and that we can expect a gradual increase in the number of foreign guests. In a few days, we are launching the global I Feel Slovenia – My Way digital campaign in key markets of Slovenian tourism, we participate in international sports events and have established partnerships with sports ambassadors. Also, many virtual as well as the first physical business events are underway. As Slovenia holds the European region of gastronomy title, we put emphasis on gastronomy. This is why also a gastronomic video that presents top chefs and their way of sustainable gastronomy has recently been launched. If compared to 2020, we expect a similar number of tourists also for this year, but the concrete results will depend on a large number of factors, in addition to vaccination of the population, general health situation and the release of restrictions also on safety standards at the destination, accessibility and attractiveness. The competition between providers will be strong, but for many years Slovenia has been developing and upgrading its commitment to sustainable and safe tourism tailored to the modern guests who want authentic boutique experiences far from mass tourism. I am glad that 163 providers already hold the Slovenia Green label showcasing sustainable development. The label is awarded within the national certification program Green Scheme of Slovenian Tourism. This proves that green and safe in Slovenia is not just a promise, but a fact. Therefore, we believe that we will gain the trust of our guests relatively quickly and convince them with an excellent and diverse offer."

Slovenian tourism industry rolled up its sleeves

Iztok Altbauer, Director of the Association of Slovenian Natural spas: “In recent weeks, we have rolled up our sleeves in Slovenian spas and health resorts and thoroughly prepared facilities, both accommodation and swimming pools, and wellness areas. While health picture of Slovenia is improving, some spas have already opened their facilities for individual guests, some will continue to do so in the coming days, until the first days of June. In recent days, we have also noticed an increased interest of guests, numerous calls and e-mails. We hope that with Slovenia's transition to the green phase of epidemic, the measures will also change significantly and be eased. The most important thing for us is to take care of the comfort of our guests and our employees, taking into account all the basic hygiene and health recommendations. We are proud that in the spas and health resorts, thanks to the high hygienic standards we have prepared for guests and employees, no cases of transmission of the infection neither between guests nor between employees has been recorded. This proves that hotels, restaurants, swimming pools, wellness resorts are not sources of infections, and that we work and act very responsibly in these exceptional times.”

Miha Kovačič, Director of the Slovenian Convention Bureau: “Business meetings have been virtually impossible since March last year due to government restrictions. Undoubtedly, this activity is one of the biggest victims of the Covid-19 epidemic. The transition to the green phase, which we are all looking forward to, indicates relaxations that will, to a certain extent and with many limitations, allow events to take place. Hosts and providers are ready to ensure safe and healthy events also on the basis of a standard prepared by the Slovenian Convention Bureau in cooperation with the National Health Institute of Slovenia. Real-life events are a part of every society and as such absolutely necessary. Online meetings cannot replace personal contacts. We believe that after the release of restrictions, interest in live events will return and that Slovenia will also successfully develop on this promising tourist product. However, the recovery of the meetings industry will take many years, which has also been confirmed by international research.”

Fedja Pobegajlo, Director of the Tourism and Hospitality Chamber of Slovenia: “After a long period of banning the operation of the tourism industry, better times are finally on the horizon. Therefore, in accordance with inquiries and reservations, our members have opened capacities and at the same time taken into account and also upgraded the hygiene recommendations by the National Health Institute; according to our members, guests feel safe and carefree this year, just like in the previous years. In the current period, the accommodation facilities are primarily welcoming domestic guests, but a certain proportion of guests are also coming from the surrounding countries. Currently, according to our information, less than half of the capacities are open, most of them will most likely open in June, for the main season. The first guests are extremely thrilled to be able to enjoy Slovenia's offer again. The employees are also looking forward to being able to carry out their mission again – to create unforgettable experiences for their guests. Most providers focus on offering outdoor activities, wellness and health programs, cuisine and learning about the local environment. Unfortunately, the scope of this year's tourist visit is questionable. The success of the business will largely depend on the visit of foreign guests. There is no single EU Covid-19 certificate yet, countries set different conditions for entry and exit to and from countries, which is very confusing. Thus, it is essential to immediately adopt an intervention law for tourism, which has been in preparation for several months. In our opinion, with the improvement of the epidemiological picture, it is necessary to finally release the operation of the industry, ensure business during the main tourist season and also after it, and mitigate the conditions for crossing the Slovenian border. Slovenia has an infinite number of interesting things, many of which we do not know. This is why we also invite Slovenian guests to explore the country and create new experiences.”

Marko Lenarčič, Direktor of Slovenia Outdoor Association: “Promotional and marketing activities, carried out by the Slovenia Outdoor Association together with its members, which include specialized accommodation for cyclists and hikers, agencies and partner destinations, focuses on foreign as well as domestic markets. In both cases, together with the STB, we address business partners from markets within 500 km through digital and video channels with webinars, workshops, digital fairs for the general public, visits by foreign cycling and hiking journalists in Slovenia, and at home with optimistic printed articles in print and digital media. In June, we will conduct a press trip for local journalists and influencers to promote outdoor activities. Currently, 40 % of accommodation facilities are open, in June it will be 60 %. A lot has also been done in terms of development. Numerous accommodation providers have modernizated and upgraded additional facilities, including Ribno Hotel, Koroš Hotel, Bohinj Tourist Association Accommodation, Šport Otočec Hotel, Soča Hotel and Rogla Bungalows. Among the novelties on cycling and hiking trails are the Culiary Hike on Rogla, Juliana Bike, new parts of the Drava cycling trail, a new mini bike park for children on Rogla, 7 new connecting cycling trails on Pohorje, connecting trails on the Juliana Hiking Trail. Most accommodations and agencies have purchased new e-bikes. Among the special features of the offer of active experiences are licensed quality guides within individual products. "

The time is now – for safety, trust, sustainability and authenticity

Researches conducted by the European Travel Commission (ETC), the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and Euromonitor show that in relation to travel, the current period is shaped by trends such as: safety, trust in travel, travel close to home, sustainable management, flexibility and booking time, the fusion of digital and real. The guarantee for such experiences in Slovenia is the content communication platform and the GREEN & SAFE label, which emphasizes high hygiene standards, protocols and sustainable recommendations for tourism providers and destinations with the aim of increasing guests' trust in Slovenia as a safe green tourist destination. Currently, there are already more than 800 users of this label, which is also the reason why Slovenia has obtained the possibility of using the global Safe Travels safety sign from the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC).

Holidays in Slovenia are healthy, safe and above all very green, which is confirmed by the Green Scheme of Slovenian Tourism, the national certification program, which combines all efforts for sustainable tourism development at various levels under the umbrella brand Slovenia Green. Together with the new Slovenia Green certificate holders, which were announced last week on the occasion of the World Bee Day, now 163 destinations, accommodation, travel agencies, nature parks and sights, together with the first announced green restaurants and beach, provide and offer unique sustainable experiences. The Slovenian Green Tourism Scheme also inspires other European tourist providers, which is why the European Travel Commission (ETC) has started to lay the foundations for the establishment of European national models for promoting the sustainable development of tourism.

Slovenian tourism offers many unique authentic stories and experiences that cannot be found anywhere else. Among them are 17 certified experiences that, under the Slovenia Unique Experiences quality brand, inspire and support the story of Slovenia as a green boutique destination and the I feel Slovenia brand.

Key communication activities in the domestic market

In support of the authentic, safe and sustainable offer of Slovenian tourism, the STB is once again combining key communication activities aimed at the domestic market under the central all-Slovenia motivational campaign The time is now. My Slovenia. (Zdaj je čas. Moja Slovenija.) The aim of the campaign is to inspire Slovenians to take vacation in Slovenia and to boost their overnight stays and consumption, which would help the Slovenian tourist economy to recover. The campaign also aims to highlight new, lesser-known, innovative products and activities and less visited destinations, and to raise awareness of the importance of sustainability and providing safe experiences.

The all-Slovenia campaign is carried together with many partners: the tourism industry, leading destinations, key institutions of Slovenian tourism, product associations, ambassadors and influential individuals and others. Through a public tender, the STB financially supports leading tourist destinations in co-finances activities to promote the tourist offer of the leading destinations, with an emphasis on strengthening the promotion of primary products with higher added knowledge. The STB has also partnered up with the Slovenian media, for the content co-production of the articles with an emphasis on sustainability, unique experiences, coverage of various target groups and geographical and seasonal dispersion.

STB intensifies communication activities for the Slovenian target market also on its own digital channels, such as Feel Slovenia social networks, the central tourist portal www.slovenia.info with a special landing page www.slovenia.info/sl/moja-slovenija, news for B2C Slovenian public . Advertising on social networks is underway, and the STB will soon carry out advanced advertising on outdoor areas. As part of the digital campaign The time is now. My Slovenia. tourist providers can promote their tourist packages for free.

Since the launch of the campaign last year, the STB has seen 943,199 posts on social media channels using the #mojaslovenija and #ifeelsLOVEnia hashtags, 180 video invitations from ambassadors and faces of Slovenian tourism and 1,450 posts on the topic My Slovenia on the Feel Slovenia social media channels. The campaign was also awarded 1st place in the Tourism category of WEBSI awards.

In support of gastronomy as the central promotional theme of Slovenian tourism, the STB last week released a new video that presents Slovenia as an excellent choice for gastronomic experiences through the stories of six Michelin starred restaurants and their connection to nature and local producers. The video has already attracted a lot of interest from the foreign professional public: at the FITUR tourism fair in Madrid last week, it won first place in the Best International Video Promoting a Tourism Product.

Live(ly) in foreign markets

Also in foreign markets, the STB together with the Slovenian tourism industry is working on strengthening promotional activities. Here, in addition to numerous virtual exchanges and presentations, live events are already taking place. In May, the STB and the Slovenian tourism industry participated in the FITUR tourism fair in Madrid and the ATM in Dubai, for June, the participation in the WS in Zagreb is planned. From January to June, the STB participated in a total of 41 virtual exchanges and meetings with 2142 participants, 2350 meetings and over 22,000 interactions. As a respond to the restrictions due to the new corona virus, the STB last year developed new business virtual events called Feel Sloveni@ Business Date and Feel Sloveni@ webinars. On 1 June, it will launch a new educational platform, Feel Sloveni@ on-line trainings, on the basis of which it will now certify foreign travel agents and tour operators, who will obtain the title of I feel Slovenia certified expert.

In the coming months, the STB will also represent Slovenian tourism in the context of major international events, such as EXPO 2021 Dubai and the Beijing 2022 Olympics.

In Slovenia, professional business events are planned for the second half of the year, such as the Slovenian Incoming Workshop, which will take place in September in a new, hybrid format. The implementation of a tourism panel within the BSF is also planned, as well as the Days of Slovenian Tourism, the European Tourism Forum and the general meeting of the European Travel Commission (ETC). In May, as part of the European Region of Gastronomy 2021 activities, the international event Spring Into Recovery and the traditional Green Day of Slovenian tourism took place.

In order to promote Slovenia as a country of active experiences and an excellent organizer of major sporting events, the STB has participated in high-profile sporting events, such as the 2021 Biathlon World Championships in Pokljuka, Giro d'Italia, the Tour of Slovenia and Giro d'Italia cycling races, the UEFA European Under-21 Championship and others.

I Feel Slovenia – My Way

From the end of May to November, the STB will carry out intensively targeted advertising as part of the I Feel Slovenia – My Way global digital campaign in 18 key markets of Slovenian tourism (Germany, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, Great Britain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Russia, USA, Canada). Advertising will take place on various digital channels with the greatest reach, with an emphasis on key products of Slovenian tourism. The STB has also carried out a transitional campaign on social networks for nearby markets – in Italy, Austria, Germany and Croatia. In some nearby and key markets, advertising also takes place on the most important TV stations, in general and specialized print media and in outdoor areas.

The STB also participates in the ETC's projects, including in the European Global Campaign, which promotes Europe as a travel destination in remote markets and in the Open up to Europe campaign within  the EU markets.

STB also nourished partnerships with renowned foreign media and influential people, who regularly publish interesting and resounding articles on Slovenian tourism, and conducts press trips and offers support to production media teams for editorial content about Slovenia. Also the partnerships with renowned and influential organizations such as The World's 50 Best Restaurants, Michelin Guide, Lonely Planet and others are still in place. Partnerships with sports ambassadors for the promotion of Slovenia abroad, such as Primož Roglič, Tadej Pogačar, Luka Dončić, Ilka Štuhec, are also extremely important.

The STB also helps promote Slovenian tourism within its own digital platforms. The central Slovenian tourist portal www.slovenia.info records 6.6 million annual visits, while 10 Feel Slovenia social network channels already have 1.7 million followers. There are as many as 76,000 subscribers to the newsletters for the B2C target audience.

To help the Slovenian tourism industry, the STB has also published three public tenders: for leading destinations, receptive tour operators and agents on foreign markets, and licensed tourist guides.

Cautious, but optimistic

The revitalization of domestic and foreign tourism will be influenced by several factors: general vaccination of the population and its health situation, release of restrictions, opening of capacities and safety standards at the destination, travel intentions of guests, flight connections, attractiveness of tourist offer and of course, appropriate promotion.

According to the European Travel Commission (ETC), the share of Europeans planning to travel in the next six months is currently at the highest level of all surveys, at 56%. A good fifth plan to travel from May to June, and additional 36 % are considering traveling in the summer. 41 % plan to travel to another European country and 36 % plan their holidays within their home country. The main motive for travel is leisure activities (66 %), Europeans who planned travel in the spring and summer season show greater interest in holidays at sea (21 %) and in nature (15 %).

For travel planning and booking, digital sources are prefered. A fifth cited health and safety as the most important element for travel this year. A major factor when deciding to travel, however, remains the destination’s success in tackling the pandemic, followed by flexible cancellation policies. As many as 6 7% stated that strict health and safety protocols at the destination are key to a safer and more relaxed travel experience.

The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has prepared two scenarios for 2021, which address the possible re-development of international travel in the second half of the year. The scenario is based on a number of factors, notably the easening of travel restrictions, the success of vaccination programs or the introduction of harmonized protocols, such as the digital green certificate planned by the European Commission.

The first scenario shows a recovery in July, which would lead to a 65 % increase in international arrivals in 2021 compared to 2020. In this case, arrivals would still be 55 % lower than the levels recorded in 2019.

The second scenario envisages a potential recovery in September, which would lead to a 30 % increase in arrivals compared to last year. Nevertheless, this would be as much as 67 % below the 2019 level.

The UNWTO predicts a more visible recovery in world tourism in 2023-2024.

Research by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) shows that, if travel and mobility are restored by June, a significant increase in global GDP and thus new jobs are expected.

ETC data for January show an 85 % decline in international arrivals in Europe. In the observed period, as many as half of the destinations recorded a decline of more than 90 %. UNWTO data for January show an 87 % decrease in international tourist arrivals compared to 2020. In February, as many as 32 % of all world destinations were completely closed to international tourism. Based on current trends, the UNWTO expects that the number of international tourist arrivals in the first quarter of 2021 will decrease by about 85 % compared to the same period in 2019. This would mean a loss of about 260 million international arrivals compared to the pre-pandemic period. According to the WTTC, the sector's contribution to global GDP in 2020 fell to 4.7 trillion US dollars (5.5 % of GDP) from almost 9.2 trillion US dollars in 2019 (the sector accounted for 10.4 % of GDP). Compared to 2019, international travel expenditure decreased by 69.4 %.

From January to April, 87.2 % less tourist arrivals and 80.4 % fewer tourist overnight stays were recorded in Slovenia compared to the same period last year. In the first four months, compared to 2020, a 85.3 % decrease in overnight stays of foreign guests and a 73.5 % decrease in tourist overnight stays of domestic guests were recorded.

In this period, domestic guests generated 48,645 tourist arrivals (57.7 %) and 206,130 tourist overnight stays (56.2%), which represents 81.2 % less tourist arrivals and 73.5 % fewer tourist overnight stays than in the same period last year.

According to the Bank of Slovenia, the value of travel exports in January–March amounted to EUR 76.08 million, which is 80 % less than in the same period in 2020.

The pandemic has strongly influenced changes in the travel habits of tourists, who are now looking for active holidays in unspoiled nature and increasingly show interest in destinations with sustainable development. Slovenia is recognized as an example of good practice and this is also the capital, on which Slovenian tourism has been based before the pandemic and will also continue to be also in the future.

Slovenian tourism is facing another demanding tourist season. Although the forecasts are uncertain, the STB estimates that this year will be similar to 2020 in an optimistic scenario. A slightly lower number of domestic guests is expected compared to last year, but this would still represent approximately 9 % more arrivals and 15.8 % more overnight stays of domestic guests than in 2019. The fact is that last year, an above-average growth in the number of domestic guests was recorded (according to Eurostat Slovenia has recorded the highest growth of domestic guests in 2020), who otherwise like to travel abroad on holiday. Therefore, some Slovenians will travel abroad as soon as the conditions allow. Some will also decide to spend their holidays in Slovenia thanks to high-quality tourist offer. A survey on the assessment of the potential of a domestic guest conducted by the STB in November 2020 showed that domestic guests are fond of the idea of taking vacation at home: in the next 12 months, as many as 83 % of Slovenians who travel intend to choose Slovenia as a holiday destination. The research thus showed that Slovenia ranks among the top destinations for domestic guests, recognizing it as a green destination for relaxation in nature, which offers a rich wellness and spa offer.

An estimate of arrivals for 2021 for Slovenia:

  • In total: 3.5 million; compared to 2020 a 12.8 % growth; compared to 2019 a 44.5% drop
  • Domestic: 1.7 million; compared to 2020 a 10% decline; compared to 2019 a 9% growth
  • Foreign: 1.8 million; compared to 2020 47.4% growth; compared to 2019 a 61.9 % drop

An estimate of overnight stays for 2021 for Slovenia:

  • In total: 10.2 million; compared to 2020 a 10.7% drop; compared to 2019 a 35.4 % drop
  • Domestic: 5.1 million; compared to 2020 a 12.8 % decline; compared to 2019 a 15.8% growth
  • Foreign: 5.1 million; compared to 2020 a 51.8% growth; compared to 2019 a 55.2% drop

 

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