Slovenian tourism stages remarkable post-pandemic comeback in 2023

Published: 25.1.2024

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Slovenian tourism stages remarkable post-pandemic comeback in 2023

2023 marks a success for Slovenian tourism, as affirmed by Matjaž Han, Minister of the Economy, Tourism and Sport, and MSc. Maja Pak Olaj, Director of the Slovenian Tourist Board, during a press conference in Ljubljana today. Despite global challenges, including an unfavourable economic situation, high transport costs, travel restrictions and severe floods in August, Slovenia's tourism rebounded at a pace surpassing the European and global average. The number of tourist arrivals and overnight stays has now returned to pre-COVID-19 pandemic levels.

 

Slovenian tourism stages remarkable post-pandemic comeback in 2023

According to the Statistical Office of the Republic of Slovenia, there were nearly 6.2 million tourist arrivals in Slovenia last year, resulting in just over 16.1 million overnight stays – a record high.

In comparison to 2022, arrivals increased by 5.5 percent, and overnight stays rose by 3.5 percent. Contrasting with the pre-coronavirus year 2019, tourist arrivals saw a slight decrease of 0.6 percent, while the number of overnight stays increased by 2.2 percent.

Minister of the Economy, Tourism and Sports, Matjaž Han, expressed pride in these accomplishments, highlighting the industry's resilience despite August's catastrophic floods during the peak summer season. Additionally, the stressed that “the value of travel exports strengthened, reaching 3.08 billion euros from January to November 2023 – a 10% increase compared to the same period the previous year. These results underscore the resilience of Slovenian tourism and its ability to overcome significant challenges. The collaboration between the state, municipalities, tourist companies, organizations, employees and volunteers is crucial in creating higher quality and recognition for Slovenian tourist destinations. I believe that Slovenia is well on its way to realizing the vision of "green boutique" tourism, characterized by a smaller ecological footprint and greater value for all.”

Simultaneously, Minister Han underscored that, aligned with the Slovenian tourism strategy until 2028, the ministry is dedicated to enhancing the quality of tourist services and increasing added value on a national scale. "This initiative will not only benefit tourist companies but also their employees and, last but not least, the local population. Going forward, it is imperative to continually elevate the quality of tourist products. Strengthening management and integration at the regional-destination level will be pivotal, as our aim is to foster tourism development evenly across the country throughout the year. All these efforts align with the 'Something more and much better' strategy, emphasizing a measured increase in capacity and, above all, ensuring higher quality and added value for all," clarified Minister Han.

Director of the Slovenian Tourist Board (STB), MSc. Maja Pak Olaj, expressed satisfaction with Slovenian tourism's performance in 2023, stating: "Despite numerous challenges, we recovered at a pace faster than both Europe and the world. Achieving near-full recovery post-pandemic highlights Slovenia's strong position as one of the most desirable tourist destinations. As we entered 2024, the STB embarked on an ambitious plan comprising extensive promotional and communication activities, targeting both foreign and domestic markets. The focus for 2024 and 2025 is especially on art and culture. Our goal is to showcase Slovenia as a sustainable, modern and creative destination, characterized by top creators, artistic production, festivals, events and preserved cultural heritage. Ongoing breakthrough development projects, including the establishment of the National Information CentrE and the upgrade and digitalization of the Green Scheme of Slovenian Tourism, align with our main goal—to contribute to the continued quality growth and higher added value of Slovenian tourism."

Remarkable annual performance: 18% growth in international tourist arrivals

Compared to 2022, there was an 18.4 percent increase in foreign tourist arrivals last year, while domestic tourists decreased by 20.6 percent. Simultaneously, foreign tourists saw a 14.7 percent rise in overnight stays annually, while domestic overnight stays dropped by 17 percent.

In comparison to 2019, the pre-pandemic year, domestic tourist arrivals grew by 0.4 percent, whereas foreign tourist arrivals declined by 0.9 percent.

According to the latest data from UNWTO, international arrivals at the global level in 2023 were still behind 2019 by 12 percent, and in Europe by 6 percent. Slovenia therefore recovered faster than the European and world average.

Slovenia therefore recovered faster than the European and world average

Compared to 2019, Slovenia experienced a 2.2 percent increase in tourist overnight stays in 2023. Foreign tourist overnight stays rose by 1.6 percent, while domestic tourist overnight stays increased by 3.8 percent. The ratio between overnight stays by domestic and foreign tourists has nearly equalized compared to the period before the pandemic.

Strong growth in arrivals from the German and Visegrad markets

Germany, Italy and Austria remain the most crucial foreign markets, followed by the Czech, Dutch, Croatian, Hungarian, French, Polish and UK markets.

Overnight stays by German tourists increased by 24.4 percent compared to 2019. Markets in the Visegrad Group, including the Czech Republic (+28.8 percent), Hungary (+14.1 percent), Poland (+31.4 percent), and Slovakia (+36.5 percent), showed significant growth. The Netherlands (+9.9 percent), Belgium (+7.1 percent), France (+28.9 percent) and Croatia (+15.5 percent) also saw positive trends. However, tourists from Italy (-15.6 percent), the United Kingdom (-13.6 percent), and Austria (-3.3 percent) are returning more slowly post-pandemic. Multi-year trends in these markets indicate a gradual recovery.

For more information on tourist arrivals and overnight stays last year, visit the STB website.

Ministry's proactive initiatives: two public tenders and an ambitious action plan

Aligned with the Slovenian tourism strategy, the Ministry of the Economy, Tourism and Sport (MGTŠ) is committed to enhancing the quality of tourist services and increasing added value in the ongoing year. The ministry also places a strong emphasis on adapting tourism to climate change. This is evident in the extensive investment cycle initiated by the Ministry over the last two years, encompassing support for investments in sustainable and high-quality tourist accommodation, the transformation of ski resorts into year-round mountain resorts and investments in renovating facilities and areas of public tourist infrastructure in key tourist destinations. This year, together with investors, the Ministry will continue implementing supported projects from last year's public tenders. These projects include 58 investment projects for renovating or constructing tourist accommodations and 58 projects for enhancing public and shared tourist infrastructure or natural attractions.

The Ministry's plans for this year feature two significant public tenders. The first, anticipated in February, involves a public tender to promote the introduction of environmental signs for providers in the hospitality and tourism industry, with a budget of 300,000 euros. The second tender focuses on the development of tourism in tourist destinations within the European Cohesion Policy framework, with an estimated worth of seven million euros.

In the ongoing implementation of the Slovenian Tourism Strategy 2022-2028, the Ministry, with some measures already underway, is set to formulate an action plan this year. This plan will encompass a range of measures and activities across various ministries. On the legislative front, a promise stands for an amendment to the Hospitality Act, aiming to enhance the working conditions of tourism providers.

STB's focus on art and culture in 2024

As we step into 2024, the Slovenian Tourist Board (STB) remains committed to an array of promotional and communication endeavours. These include an expansive global digital campaign in 21 foreign markets, partnerships with top athletes as ambassadors of Slovenian tourism, partnerships at major international sports events, participation in global fairs, stock exchanges, workshops and other business events. Not to be overlooked is the continuation of the "Moja Slovenija" campaign on the domestic market and ongoing collaboration with esteemed foreign associations, brands, and media outlets.

In terms of development, STB’s efforts persist with the implementation of crucial projects. These involve establishing the National Information Centre, upgrading and digitalizing the Green Scheme of Slovenian Tourism and organizing various educational and professional events.

Simultaneously, the STB introduces the main promotional theme for 2024 and 2025: art and culture. This thematic shift aligns with the Slovenian Tourist Board's central vision to portray Slovenia as a sustainable, modern and creative destination, distinguished by eminent creators, artistic productions, festivals, events and a rich cultural heritage. The focus lies on modern art forms such as fine arts, literature, photography, music, film, dance, theatre, as well as a celebration of tradition and cultural heritage.

In line with the main communication theme, a fresh concept emerges within STB’s strategy—the inclusion of storytellers from the world of culture, art and creativity. These are prominent Slovenian artists and creators, recognized internationally, who will work with us to enhance Slovenia's visibility as a destination for art and culture.

The first partnership of this kind featured the young artists' group, Joker Out. Together with them, the STB is creating engaging posts on social networks and captivating visual stories, designed especially to resonate with the preferences of new generations of travellers. In the weeks and months ahead, the STB will unveil more personalities from the fields of art and culture, each contributing to the compelling stories of Slovenian art, culture and tourism.

In the cover photo from left to right: Dubravka Kalin, General Director of the Directorate of Tourism; Matjaž Han, Minister of the Economy, Tourism and Sport and MSc. Maja Pak Olaj, Director of the Slovenian Tourist Board.

Photo: Siniša Kanižaj for STB

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