The Slovenia Times

Come and feel carefree...



Mr Meden, you and your organisation are doing your best to promote a diverse country with great potential. What are the current priorities of the STO? Our mission is to present, promote and create interest in Slovenia as a tourist destination on foreign markets. A major part of our activities therefore are set abroad and these activities are designed to have both immediate and long-term effects. Besides the network of offices in the main markets, we have now enhanced our activities on the internet, which we consider to be an ideal channel for promoting and emphasizing Slovenia's comparative strengths: great diversity in a small territory, its proximity, safety and a sense of being "home" within the European Union. Last year, 72 % of our foreign guests were from EU countries and our membership in the European Union serves to reinforce the feeling of "closeness" with our most frequent guests. Why did you decide on "Slovenia Invigorates" as a slogan? There were two basic threads that led us towards that approach. Fundamentally, we looked at the main characteristics of what Slovenia can and does offer tourists as well as the reactions of tourists to these offerings. We surveyed both foreign and domestic tourists and found that more than 90% of them were surprised and delighted with their experience here, which they described as being well above their expectations. As well as the magnificent displays of our natural and cultural heritage, Slovenia offers tourists a growing choice of high quality oenological, gastronomic and "active vacation" options at competitive prices. These are elements that in any case assure a certain level of invigoration: come, feel carefree and get into any number of available activities. Current trends indicate that more people are looking for short and intense experiences. This is also the spirit of this campaign. ...and the effects so far? This is a long-term campaign that was launched this year in most European countries through the fifty or so events that accompanied Slovenia's entry into the EU. We expect to be able to build upon the feedback from a three-month advertising campaign concentrated in Austria, Germany and Italy. It began in May and its effects are now being measured and will be known by the end of summer. The initial feedback suggests that it is stimulating a lot of interest in these markets. There are a number of critics of this campaign. Some emphasize that it deals with something so general that it cannot be linked to anything concrete that would simplify recognition of Slovenia. Others have said that another slogan is being used rather than icons and that slogans change so quickly that they cannot be remembered... The decision was not an easy one. Experts from various fields, tourism, marketing, etc., were involved in the development of the campaign and as every day passes, I'm becoming increasingly confident that we made the right decision. We kept the visuals from the previous campaign and incorporated them with the new slogan. It is not just a matter of presenting Slovenia's tourist destinations, but the country as a whole, which truly invigorates. Every slogan or statement should have a certain level of credibility behind it. Experience shows that not only tourism, but also sports and culture reflect that - after all, Slovenia was the most developed EU candidate. We also wanted to incorporate a certain level of self-confidence. With all its attributes and in spite of its small size, Slovenia shows that it not only invigorates its guests but also strives to offer something to its neighbours and the EU. Slovenia is not just a country on "the sunny side of the Alps" or "by the Mediterranean" and we should highlight that with a more sophisticated and advanced slogan - such is the "product". There are critics of the campaign, which is normal. It draws attention. But we should keep in mind that the campaign is being targeted towards foreign markets, actually it is the first one that incorporates all aspects of the country. Other campaigns like "Tourism is people" were internally oriented and designed to tweak the awareness of Slovenes, to teach them how to be pro-active. Tourist centres like Portotoz need additional events, additional offerings and "invigoration" also applies to them. France has the Eiffel tower and Holland its windmills, if you had to choose a symbol, an icon to identify Slovenia, what would you propose... It is essential that Slovenia promotes its trademarks and icons and our campaigns incorporate these elements. There's Bled, Piran, Postojna.... However, Slovenia needs to be presented not only as a traditional country but as a combination of both our excellently preserved heritage and our modern attributes, including stability, that will guarantee an unforgettable experience. What kind of challenges or advantages does being a part of the European Union offer? We began analyzing the situation in earnest two years ago and it became clear that joining the EU would mean neither one thing nor another if we remained passive. We see the EU as a new opportunity that we should take; something that can give us further impetus. As I mentioned previously, Slovenia already welcomes three quarters of its guests from EU countries and we are well positioned to exploit all this knowledge and experience. We've entered a phase where it no longer makes sense to only compare ourselves with other candidate countries, alongside which we are very successful, but to compare ourselves with the best countries in the expanded Union. This is the major challenge and a philosophy that will pave our way forward. The Guardian proclaimed Slovenia a "top destination". Does this kind of publicity bring notable results in terms of demand? Naturally - every rating from an objective source such as this affects demand - one way or another. We can't say what the immediate reaction has been to this article, but it is very compelling and we use it widely for promotion, particularly when we are targeting potential guests who know little or nothing about Slovenia. We view each market separately and approach them individually with specific techniques tailored to that market or market sector. Do we have the facilities, in accommodation for instance, to cope with the demand? Slovenia constantly invests in new and better facilities. They are being upgraded and expanded to include things such as golf courses, swimming pools, recreation areas, etc. There is enough accommodation for our guests; last year the hotels were only fifty per cent full on average, although this is slowly changing. What specific things can you determine about the guests coming here with low-budget airlines like Easy Jet? Easy Jet is a welcomed new access channel to Slovenia. The analyses of these guests show that they represent not only backpackers who seek shelter in youth hostels but also a significant number are people who lodge in either four or five-star hotels and travel the country in different ways. However, Ljubljana does seem to lack low-budget accommodation compared to other European cities. I think this additional flow of guests will encourage the expansion of such facilities. However, our strategy is based on quality not quantity of service, and is targeted toward customers who spend, on average, more than 80 euros per day based on last year's measurements. Last year you initiated the "Byways are more attractive than highways" campaign. How did it effect demand in the Slovenian countryside? Significantly. Surveys and our own research have shown that everyone who was involved in that campaign benefited and as a result the demand for advertising space in our brochures has grown significantly. The symbiosis between "great players" and the smaller tourist services is essential to all. But let's not be under any illusion that it couldn't be better - we estimate that 8 million tourists transit through Slovenia every year and of course we were unable to print that many leaflets and catalogues - therefore we could not make it available for everyone. The feedback from that campaign was relatively good and tourist numbers are up in these areas. This is also the only advertising campaign targeting both foreign and domestic tourists. To conclude, what do you see as the future of Slovene tourism? It is clear now that both the public and investors have begun to realise the potential of tourism for Slovenia and its share of GDP will continue to rise. The area with the most potential is the wellness and well-being sector. A third of all overnight stays are recorded in spas and thermal resorts. The congress sector is another area with great potential. Short, diverse and intensive "active" holidays are also set for a boom. These are the major areas where the future of Slovenian tourism lies.


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