DST 2023 Plenary Day: Highlighting the significance, opportunities and challenges of AI and emerging business models in Slovenian tourism

Published: 14.11.2023 More info

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DST 2023 Plenary Day: Highlighting the significance, opportunities and challenges of AI and emerging business models in Slovenian tourism

The flagship event of Slovenian tourism, Days of Slovenian Tourism (DST), focused on AI and new tourism models this year. Key challenges and opportunities were discussed at the Plenary Day, highlighting AI's pivotal role in the digital transformation of Slovenian tourism. The gala evening will also feature the presentation of prestigious tourism awards.

DST 2023 Plenary Day: Highlighting the significance, opportunities and challenges of AI and emerging business models in Slovenian tourism

The 13th Days of Slovenian Tourism (DST), Slovenia's premier tourism event, started on 13 November in Nova Gorica. Organized in partnership by the Slovenian Tourist Organization (STB), the Ministry of the Economy, Tourism, and Sport, and key partners, the event spans three days, featuring various professional events and competitions, including the 70th Hospitality and Tourism Association organized by the Tourist Association of Slovenia (TGZS) and the event "Moja dežela - lepa in gostoljubna (My Country - Beautiful and Hospitable)" by the Tourist Association of Slovenia (TZS). The gala evening event will also honour outstanding contributors to tourism in 2023, and on November 15, the IT Tour, organized by the STB, will take place for the second consecutive year.

Despite challenges, Slovenian tourism remains focused on achieving the goal of strengthening resilience and increasing added value, guided by the vision of a green boutique country, smaller footprint, and enhanced value for all. Recognized globally for sustainable development, Slovenia aims for a successful digital breakthrough, leveraging advanced technologies and new business models. "AI and New Business Models in Tourism" take centre stage at this year's DST, influencing all facets of tourism operations.

At the Plenary Day, hosting over 200 participants today (November 14), discussions emphasized the pivotal role of artificial intelligence and digital transformation in fortifying Slovenian tourism. Participants unanimously acknowledged the importance of people as the key element in tourism, underscoring that while technology plays a crucial role, it can never replace the foundation of hospitality and warm relationships.

Prominent figures in Slovenian tourism and experts addressed the challenges faced by Slovenian tourism in its green transition and digital evolution.

Matjaž Han, Minister of the Economy, Tourism and Sport, highlighted the positive development of Slovenian tourism and acknowledged the role of digitalization and artificial intelligence in future goals. He also emphasized the importance of hospitality, friendly smiles, and warm relationships as the foundation of tourism: "We have had a great tourist year, because in the first nine months we exceeded the results of the same period in the record year 2019 - we recorded more than five million guests and over 13 million overnight stays. I am glad that the added value in catering and tourism also grew by 45% last year. In 2023, European and national funds allocated as much as 142 million euros to tourism and thus supported 136 investment projects with a total value of 359 million euros. Slovenian tourism has high goals for the future, and digitalization and artificial intelligence will certainly play an important role in achieving them. That is why I am glad that Slovenian tourism service providers are increasingly using modern technological approaches, but technology will never replace hospitality, friendly smiles and warm mutual relationships. They remain the foundation of hospitality and tourism."

MSc. Maja Pak, Director of the STB, stressed the transformative impact of artificial intelligence on tourism, urging industry players to be prepared. In her words, "Global and Slovenian tourism navigate a storm of interconnected geopolitical, social, security, health, economic, and environmental challenges. Despite these, the desire to travel remains strong, with the travel industry regaining its share in GDP, witnessing increased visits, and attracting responsible travelers seeking authentic experiences. The industry is ripe for technological innovation, notably in artificial intelligence. Tourism stands as one of the most vital and promising sectors in the Slovenian economy, guided by a vision of a green boutique, a smaller footprint, and enhanced value for all. I believe that new technologies can help us realize this vision and strategically allocate human resources for maximum added value. Considering the numerous challenges and risks, the introduction of artificial intelligence requires an intelligent approach. We'll explore how to navigate this at this year's Days of Slovenian Tourism. I extend my gratitude to all partner institutions working on this event for the 13th year, collectively supporting the ongoing development and growth of our remarkable industry. We also had the progress of Slovenian tourism in mind when we were preparing the STB's activities for 2024 and 2025. I am convinced that with them we will make the most of the opportunities and respond to the challenges ahead."​

Andrej Prebil, Chair of the Slovenian Hospitality Association, presented the challenges and opportunities of the tourism industry in light of artificial intelligence: "The crucial aspect is not to associate artificial intelligence, the current hot topic, with the fear of the unknown and job loss. This fear, essentially primal, echoes the anxieties of the 18th century. The Industrial Revolution, however, didn't lead to job loss but rather created new opportunities and streamlined processes. We must leverage AI to enhance task efficiency and process improvement. The key is involving employees in accepting and introducing technological innovations, taking the advantage of the benefits for more successful work. With bravery, speed, flexibility, and harnessing AI advantages, success is achievable for both employees and the entire company. AI adds value and will significantly elevate tourism, focusing on the core values of friendliness, comfort, excellent cuisine, and authentic experiences. Employees, freed from routine tasks, can enhance guest relationships, service quality, and promote responsible sustainable behaviour. In any case, we must not forget that tourism is people and not artificial intelligence, not robots, not avatars and not humanoids."

Blaž Cvar, Chair of the Chamber of Crafts and Enterprises of Slovenia, emphasized the importance of AI in returning to the roots and the importance of keeping the traditional Slovenian gostilna (inn), where knowledge, experience, values and the culinary identity of Slovenian tourism come from: "In an era where jobs are being automated, and AI aids us at work, tradition gains even more importance. And we must give it even greater validity." He went on adding: "We have already embarked on a mission of reviving the Gostilna Slovenija brand together with the STB, defending this very tradition of Slovenian inns."

Dominik S. Černjak, Chair of the Tourist Association of Slovenia, also addressed the participants and highlighted that their association will continue to focus on two key advantages of Slovenian tourism; five-star nature and five-star people.

Hosts of this year's DST, Samo Turel, Mayor of Nova Gorica, and Tomaž Repinc, President of the Board of HIT Nova Gorica, also welcomed participants.

Following this, Maarten Verschuere, founder of Cleverland.io, delivered a presentation titled "How AI Will Transform Tourism." He stated: "The fact is that artificial intelligence is changing our lives, including the landscape of tourism and the travel industry. It evolves into a trusted guide throughout the entire journey, steering us from discovering ideas and inspiration to completing reservations. It's evident that companies must adapt and seek suitable solutions to stay updated with these transformative changes."

Artificial intelligence revolutionizes travel and hospitality

Simone Puorto, a visionary and futurist, and founder of Travel Singularity, a company specializing in innovative and sustainable business solutions for tourism, delivered an impactful lecture titled "Travel Odyssey with UI in the Main Role." Serving as a messenger of the metaverse - VR, he shared insights on his travel odyssey, showcasing how the tourism industry, through the adoption of new technologies, can provide guests with personalized and enriched trips, thereby opening new frontiers of research and innovation.

Sascha Dalig, a seasoned expert in hotel management, presented participants with insightful examples of best practices in the hotel sector. Summarizing his vision in a lecture titled "Advanced Technology in Hospitality and Hotel Industry - Terminator or Innovator," he highlighted the profound impact of technological innovations on the interaction between guests and hosts. Dalig emphasized that technology, serving as the cornerstone of seamless and comprehensive travel experiences, enables hosts to reclaim their authentic role. The integration of technological solutions fosters less formal yet more interactive communication, thereby deepening connections in interpersonal relationships.

The plenary day concluded with a thought-provoking discussion titled "Introduction of New Technologies - Evolution or Revolution", featuring distinguished participants such as Dr. Aida Kamišalić Latifić, State Secretary for Information Society and Development of Digital Solutions, Zenel Batagelj from research agency VALICON, Mitja Trampuž, Chair of the AI4SI Association at the Chamber of Commerce of Slovenia, Simon Cetin, partner and founder of iPROM, Tomaž Repinc, chair of the board of Hit, Ana Praprotnik, Marketing Director of Sava Turizem and Ana Savšek, Head of Content Digital Marketing at the STB.

The discussion, skillfully moderated by Jaka Repanšek, President of the Slovenian Advertising Tribunal, emphasized the pivotal role of digitalization and the need for new business models to enhance the resilience and competitiveness of Slovenian tourism. In the context of the European Digital Decade, Slovenia stands out among EU countries prioritizing UI development in the digital transformation agenda. The participants unanimously recognized that digital transformation presents both opportunities and challenges for tourism.

To navigate this landscape successfully, tourist providers and destinations must align with administrative, developmental, and regulatory aspects of digital transformation. Ethical and legal considerations need to be incorporated into the adoption of digitalization solutions, with a focus on placing the individual at the core of digital development.

Acknowledging the significant impact of AI on tourism and the travel industry, participants stressed the importance of staying updated with the developments. Effective utilization is crucial for operating profitably, competing globally, and reaching target groups vital for Slovenian tourism's success. The participants delved into the forthcoming Artificial Intelligence Act, set to regulate AI use in the European Union. Subsequently, they explored the corporate perspective, outlining fundamental guidelines for introducing new technologies and incorporating artificial intelligence into company operations.

Emphasizing the marketing aspect, the speakers highlighted how advanced analytics with AI enhances customer understanding, improves user experiences, and fosters greater customer loyalty. Finally, the discussion touched on the advantages of AI for promoting Slovenian destinations and individual companies in the tourism sector.

Key summaries from the discussion participants will be added shortly.

In addition, the gala evening event will feature the presentation of the highest awards in tourism, with the list of winners to be published.

The Days of Slovenian Tourism (DST) serve as a platform to connect key players in Slovenian tourism. This annual event highlights current global and Slovenian tourism topics through presentations and discussions led by industry experts. The DST Plenary Day includes numerous presentations, expert discussions, and showcases of good practices by prominent domestic and foreign experts. The central goal is to promote the development of Slovenian tourism and stay updated with the latest industry trends and challenges. It has been organized for the 13th consecutive year by the Slovenian Tourist Board together with the Ministry of the Economy, Tourism and Sport and other key partners from major institutions within the tourism sector.

The event recording will be available on the Slovenia.info YouTube channel.  

In the cover photo (from left): Blaž Cvar, Chair of the Chamber of Crafts and Enterprises of Slovenia (OZS), Andrej Prebil, Chair of the Tourist Association of Slovenia (TGZS), Matjaž Han, Minister of the Economy, Tourism and Sport, MSc. Maja Pak, Director of the Slovenian Tourist Board (STB), Samo Turel, Mayor of the Municipality of Nova Gorica, and Tomaž Repinc, President of the Board of Hit.

Photo: Jošt Gantar

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e-mail address: press(at)slovenia.info

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