Together and with a clear goal - unlocking Slovenia's sporting potential
Together and with a clear goal - unlocking Slovenia's sporting potential
Last week, the reorganisation of the Government of the Republic of Slovenia brought the field of sport under the Ministry of the Economy, Tourism and Sport, creating the basis for finding greater synergies between these three areas.
The newly appointed Minister of the Economy, Tourism and Sport, Matjaž Han, together with his partners - the Director of the Slovenian Tourist Board (STB), MSc. Maja Pak, Acting Director of the Government Communications Office, Petra Bezjak Cirman, and Acting Director of the Public Agency SPIRIT Slovenia - presented the plans in the field of tourism and sport for 2023, where he stressed the importance of a systematic approach to the planning and financing of major international sport competitions for the country.
"The decision to link sport with the economy and tourism for the first time in the history of Slovenia is a milestone - I see it as a challenge, but at the same time as a great opportunity for the further development and consolidation of Slovenia as one of the most successful countries," said Minister Matjaž Han in his opening remarks. According to the Minister, a quality offer of sport and sport-related products is a great motive for tourist arrivals. The Director of the Slovenian Tourist Board, MSc. Maja Pak, emphasized: "We are successfully forming partnerships with sports ambassadors and other athletes, highlighting tourism and the I Feel Slovenia brand at the most important sporting events, as well as promoting active holidays to enthuse sports and active lifestyle enthusiasts and invite them to Slovenia."
The results of Slovenian tourism last year were close to the record-breaking 2019. The Minister highlighted the fact that "Slovenia has also recovered in terms of the arrivals of foreign guests, even more than Europe and the world, but has not yet reached the pre-covid level." Slovenia is gaining on importance as an intriguing tourist destination, recommended by world-famous tourist guides, and this is excellent for the implementation of the 2022-2028 Slovenian Tourism Strategy. The Director of the Slovenian Tourist Board (STB), MSc. Maja Pak, added: "In 2022, Slovenian tourism has successfully recovered to the pre-pandemic level in terms of tourist arrivals and overnight stays and the volume of inflows from travel exports. Despite the fact that there is no shortage of challenges in tourism, the expectations for 2023 are encouraging, as we count on further moderate growth in tourist flows."
Despite the fact that there is no shortage of challenges in tourism, the expectations for 2023 are encouraging, as we count on further moderate growth in tourist flows." MSc. Maja Pak
Looking back, Minister Han highlighted the 148 million euros worth of calls for tenders, which the Ministry has provided for transforming mountain centres into year-round tourist destinations, increasing the quality and sustainability of accommodation facilities and further developing of the public tourism infrastructure. The Minister recalled that the Ministry had also supported existing air routes of eight airlines with 1.8 million euros and established two new air routes. He went on to announce that the Government would allocate further 16.8 million euros within the next three years under the Aid Act to Ensure Greater Air Connectivity. The Minister also highlighted better human resources management as a key element in improving the quality of tourism and hospitality services and expressed optimism about the contribution of the new annex to the collective agreement for the hospitality and tourism sector.
The Minister announced that the Ministry also intends to amend the Hospitality Act this year, in order to create a modern legal framework for the hospitality sector. It will also bite into the hard nut of tackling the severely outdated cable car infrastructure at Kanin, as well as the reform of the Lipica Stud Farm Act, which aims to establish a unified organisational model, incorporate corporate governance principles and change the model of investment in state-owned assets. The Ministry is preparing a call for tenders for the co-financing of tourist attractions and projects at cultural heritage sites, for which it will allocate 7 million euros by 2024 at the latest. Additionally, in the first quarter of 2023, it will use the funds (300,000 euros) from the call for tenders to support the implementation of eco-labels by tourism operators.
"It is, therefore, time to give back to the sport what sport has always given to Slovenia." Matjaž Han
Minister Han complimented the achievements of Slovenian athletes and said that all citizens identify strongly with them and they are their daily motivation: "It is, therefore, time to give back to the sport what sport has always given to Slovenia." To make this possible, the Minister outlined four key steps: ensuring systematic investment in sports infrastructure and outdoor sports facilities, systematic planning and co-financing of the organisation of major international sporting events, developing new world-class athletes and their coaches, and promoting partnerships between sports, business and tourism to multiply the effects. He highlighted the 2023 World Nordic Ski Championships in Planica as an example of good practice: "More than 450,000,000 people from 90 countries around the world will watch the event. We will simply not miss such opportunities to promote our country and our economy again."
The STB is currently focusing on the Nordic World Ski Championships in Planica, the biggest sporting event in Slovenia's history, says Maja Pak. "We will take an active role in Planica with intensive promotion and the organisation of a number of side events. We will highlight the I Feel Slovenia brand, among other things, on the start numbers and in the most prominent places of the competition venues, such as the start and finish installations, at the medal ceremonies and at press conferences." She added that there a number of other sports events with a major impact on tourism will take place this year, such as the European Youth Olympic Festival, the European Women's Basketball Championships and the Tour of Slovenia. In early February, the STB will also launch a new open call for organisers of international sports competitions in Slovenia to promote Slovenian tourism and the I Feel Slovenia brand."
Sports tourism is also the main theme of the STB's communication activities in 2022 and 2023. The STB highlights sports tourism in a global digital campaign in 20 foreign markets and in the Moja Slovenija (My Slovenia) campaign for the domestic market, in partnerships with global brands such as Eurosport, National Geographic and Lonely Planet, and in more than 120 business events per year. The STB raises the profile of Slovenia by forming partnerships with sports ambassadors Luka Dončić, Tadej Pogačar, Primož Roglič, Janja Garnbret and Ilka Štuhec, as well as Jumbo Visma and the Dallas Mavericks, and produces more than 250 social media posts a year on the topic of sport and the successes of Slovenian athletes. This year, a dedicated web page for sports tourism is expected to be launched on slovenia.info.
Petra Bezjak Cirman, Acting Director of the Government Communications Office, pinpointed: "We are a nation of outstanding athletes, both in individual sports and team sports." She added that Slovenia is probably one of the smallest nations to have achieved such results, which is why the athletes should be considered as the first ambassadors of Slovenia, as they are the first to take the country's name to the world: "Athletes connect us all to their successes - those of us cheering for them at home and the fans cheering for them around the world. They have also shown their heart and enthusiasm many times in the past, providing an incredible backdrop at sporting events and making the world aware of us." Rok Capl, Acting Director of SPIRIT Slovenia, also highlighted the ambassadors of the Slovenian economy, which were identified by SPIRIT among 41 breakthrough Slovenian companies: "These are storytellers about our country's advanced technological solutions, high product quality and cutting-edge innovations."
In order to achieve synergies between the economy, tourism and sport, SPIRIT Slovenia will upgrade its activities by advertising at seven major international winter sports events in Slovenia. "At all seven winter-sport events we will provide a comprehensive presentation of the Slovenian business environment, business networking and promotional material, and at some of them business events will be organised," said Capl. He also highlighted the 59th Golden Fox, where SPIRIT Slovenia used an innovative promotional approach, which was seen by more than 167 million spectators on 18 television stations on five continents. "To increase the visibility of the I feel Slovenia brand and its economy, the Green. Creative. Smart. slogan on the LED starting gate was installed. The starting gates were equipped with selected icons of Slovenian tourism, which were displayed before the start of each competitor," says Capl, adding that the installation received a great wave of enthusiasm and praise. "We will use the same approach at the Vitranc Cup in Kranjska Gora in March this year," Capl announced, while also listing the business events that SPIRIT Slovenia will organise on the sidelines of the most prominent international winter sports events.