Investing in people, planet and prosperity: Celebrating World Tourism Day 2023
Investing in people, planet and prosperity: Celebrating World Tourism Day 2023
World Tourism Day, celebrated every year on September 27, spotlights the 2023 theme "Tourism and Green Investments". In anticipation of World Tourism Day, the Ministry of the Economy, Tourism, and Sport, in partnership with the Slovenian Tourist Board and Kamnik, hosted a press conference, where the representatives from key industry institutions provided insights into the current state of Slovenian tourism.
World Tourism Day 2023 urges the international community, governments, international financial institutions, development partners, and private investors to unite in a new tourism investment strategy. This year's theme "Tourism and Green Investments" underscores the need to secure investments for projects that serve people, the planet, and prosperity.
According to the Statistical Office of the Republic of Slovenia, July witnessed a remarkable surge in tourist visits, nearly 10% better than the previous year. August maintained strong performance, with one million tourists contributing nearly 2.9 million overnight stays. Although this marked a 2% drop from August 2019 and a 6% dip from the previous year, the overall 2023 summer season was highly successful, experiencing just a 2.5% reduction in overnight stays compared to the record-breaking summer season of 2022. These results are notable given the decline in domestic guests and varying weather conditions.
The overall results for the first eight months of this year are also positive. More than 12 million overnight stays were recorded, reflecting a 3% increase from the same period in 2022 and 3% higher than in 2019. Domestic tourists contributed over 3.2 million overnight stays, while foreign tourists accounted for nearly 8.8 million. Notably, domestic tourists decreased by 23%, whereas foreign tourists increased by 17% compared to the same period last year. Among foreign markets, guests from Italy (14% decrease) and Austria (3% decrease) in terms of overnight stays haven't yet reached the 2019 levels for the first eight months of this year. Meanwhile, the strongest surge in overnight stays compared to the same period in 2019 was observed in the markets of Germany (30% increase), the Czech Republic (30% increase), France (28% increase), and Poland (32% increase).
The Slovenian Tourist Board (STB) anticipates a 5% increase in arrivals and overnight stays for 2023 compared to the previous year. Data from the Bank of Slovenia highlights a 14% rise in the value of travel exports for the period from January to July 2023, totaling 1.75 billion euros.
At a press conference in Kamnik today, Minister of the Economy, Tourism, and Sport, Matjaž Han, underscored the importance of tourism in Slovenia, identifying it as a strategic activity: "In Slovenia, we follow sustainable development and are even among the first green destinations in the world to commit to green transformations. Sustainable tourism is not just a choice or a sales slogan; it also carries a responsibility - concrete actions must follow." Han continued by emphasizing the substantial investments made in Slovenian tourism over the last two years. He highlighted the investment principle: "without major negative impacts on the environment" and further underlined the significance of investing in employees. "In tourism, genuine human relations with our guests are still the most important thing. Top services and our traditional hospitality will keep guests returning to our beautiful land. On the occasion of today's World Tourism Day, I sincerely thank and congratulate everyone who contributes to the successful story of Slovenian tourism. I wish you all unwavering determination and energy, and let's stay connected."
Barbara Zmrzlikar, the head of the research and development sector at the Slovenian Tourist Board (STB), emphasized that Slovenia is globally recognized as one of the most sustainable destinations, in large part thanks to the innovative Green Scheme of Slovenian tourism, which stands as a shining global example of best practices. She added: "Severe floods in August serve as yet another reminder that the industry must, on one hand, persistently reduce its adverse impacts on the climate and nature, and on the other hand, streghten its resilience." Zmrzlikar outlined STB's commitment to supporting the industry by establishing a National Information Centre. This initiative, funded by the Recovery and Resilience Plan, aims to provide comprehensive data, comparisons, and indicators for tourism stakeholders at all levels in Slovenia, facilitating more effective development and decision-making. She highlighted that the centre's establishment will accelerate the green and digital transformation of Slovenian tourism while enhancing the Green Scheme. The National Information Centre is expected to be fully operational by the end of 2025."
Fedja Pobegajlo, the Director of the Tourism Chamber of Slovenia (TGZS), underscored the chamber's endorsement of the sustainable direction of Slovenian tourism. He stated: "In our opinion, the image of green Slovenia plays a pivotal role in tourists' decisions to visit the country, a factor that is steadily growing in significance. Our members anticipate a successful year in terms of income, but they are dealing with a rise in operating costs, notably energy, materials, and labour costs. In light of this, we anticipate that the state will provide competitive business conditions on par with other European countries. The shortage of personnel remains a challenge in the Slovenian catering and tourism sector, which is why we are actively promoting careers in these fields. Additionally, we will emphasize the significance of staff and employees during the 70th Hospitality and Tourism Assembly in Nova Gorica this November."
Janez Bratovž, Vice President of the Catering and Tourism Section of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Slovenia (OZS), emphasized the power of tourism in creating meaningful connections and fostering personal growth. He advocated responsible tourism that prioritizes people, environmental care, and economic prosperity. He recognized that sustainability and collaborative efforts to increase the industry's added value have been defining recent times. He also emphasized the importance of putting people first: "Our common task is to make this industry more attractive for guests, caterers and new generations of employees in the hospitality and tourism industry. We must be aware that in our industry people, their emotions and interpersonal relationships still come first. They should not be forgotten in the flood of new technologies. In the light of ensuring a quality offer and mitigating the consequences of staff issues, we count on the cooperation and help of the authorities as always. Together, we must provide additional incentives for those establishments that have joined sustainable projects, such as Green Cuisine. Therefore, the section for catering and tourism at OZS suggests that those who will join the sustainability commitments should receive additional incentives, and not only at the time of joining. In this way, the tourism industry will become green and sustainable even faster."
Jože Prah, Vice President of the Tourist Association of Slovenia (TZS), highlighted the vital role of volunteers in the tourism sector and reaffirmed the significance of the TZS's motto: "'Tourism is people' is not just a slogan of the TZS. For decades, our organization, supported by its extensive base of tourist volunteers, has been ensuring that Slovenia remains a beautiful and hospitable destination. We've even named a competition 'My country - beautiful and hospitable,' which evaluates the cleanliness and hospitality of Slovenian places. In this competition, TZS places particular emphasis on green tourism and sustainable development. This year, finding the best green destinations was particularly challenging due to the weather cataclysm. The areas affected by the catastrophe had participated in the campaign, and fortunately, their evaluations had taken place before the cataclysmic events. Being ranked among the finalists provides some consolation and is proof that we will continue to support these areas. This truly demonstrates that 'Slovenia is their people' holds true, especially after this year's challenging times. During the crisis, thousands of volunteers from near and far joined hands in acts of solidarity in the flood-affected regions, and among them were dedicated 'tourist volunteers'."
Kamnik Municipality Deputy Mayor Romana Učakar also addressed the gathering on behalf of the host.
Substantial EUR 142 million investment in tourism
The Ministry of the Economy, Tourism, and Sport allocated 142 million euros to the industry in a year. It initiated one of the largest investment cycles in Slovenian tourism during the past year and the current year. In line with EU guidelines, all tenders adhered to the principle of "no major negative impacts on the environment."
The Ministry supported the conversion of mountain centres into year-round tourist destinations and the development of tourist accommodations with higher added value, with a total investment of 69 million euros in grants. These grants were sourced from European funds and the state budget. Additionally, it provided positive decisions for co-financing public tourist infrastructure projects to municipalities and tourist destinations, amounting to 15.5 million euros. Some of these beneficiaries were municipalities severely affected by the August floods.
The ministry also co-financed the renovation and development of new tourist accommodations with higher added value, totaling 58 million euros.
A total of 142 million euros, sourced from both European and national funds, were allocated to support 136 investment projects in tourism with a combined value of 359 million euros.
In the aftermath of the disastrous floods in August, the government is providing aid to affected companies, including those in the tourism sector. Minister Han has already signed decisions to provide 10 percent advance payments for estimated damages to companies that have requested such support. These payments are expected to be disbursed in the coming days.
The Ministry of the Economy, Tourism and Sport highlights the substantial contribution of Slovenian tourism to the national economy, constituting approximately nine percent of the gross domestic product (GDP). It employs over 58,000 people, representing just over six percent of the working population and is a vital export sector. In the previous year, travel exports generated nearly three billion euros for the state treasury, a 4.5 percent increase compared to the record year in 2019.
Slovenian Tourist Board commits to the Glasgow Declaration
Slovenia is globally recognized for its commitment to sustainability and is often regarded as one of the greenest tourist destinations. This is facilitated through the innovative and multi-awarded Green Scheme of Slovenian Tourism, which has around 290 Slovenia Green members.
An essential ongoing project in the realm of green and digital transformation is the National Information Centre (NIS). This unique data and information hub will collect and process both local and global data relevant to tourism. Its primary goal is to conduct basic and advanced analyses, supporting data-driven decision-making, and enhancing sustainability across all aspects of tourism.
The NIS initiative is designed to expedite the transition to green and digital practices while upgrading the Green Scheme of Slovenian tourism. The project, developed within the framework of the Recovery and Resilience Plan, comprises two phases:
- Implementing a modern digital analytical tool for assessing tourism effects in key Slovenian destinations, aiming for sustainable tourism transformation.
- Measuring tourist flows in primary destinations, determining their carrying capacity, and fostering the geographically distributed development of sustainable tourism.
The establishment of the centre will occur in stages. A prototype was introduced this autumn, with the project anticipated to be completed by the end of 2025.
The Slovenian Tourist Board is deeply committed to sustainability and climate action. As a signatory to the Glasgow Declaration - Climate Agenda for Tourism, it actively contributes to the fight against climate change and works towards achieving the climate goals by 2050.
About World Tourism Day:
World Tourism Day, observed annually on September 27, is a global event dedicated to increasing awareness of the importance of tourism and its significant social, cultural, political, and economic value. This day serves as an opportunity to emphasize the role of tourism in sustainable development and advocate for responsible practices within the global tourism industry. Each year, World Tourism Day is celebrated with a specific theme that addresses current challenges in the tourism sector.
In the cover photo (from left): General Director of the Directorate for Tourism at the Ministry of the Economy, Tourism and Sport Dubravka Kalin, Deputy Mayor of Kamnik Municipality Romana Učakar, Minister of the Economy, Tourism and Sport Matjaž Han, Head of the Research and Development Sector at the Slovenian Tourist Board Barbara Zmrzlikar, Director of the Tourist and Hospitality Chamber of Slovenia Fedja Pobegajlo, Vice President of the Tourist Association of Slovenia Jože Prah, and Vice President of the Section for Hospitality and Tourism at the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Slovenia Janez Bratovž.
Photo: Jošt Gantar for STB.