The quality of life in Ljubljana is the essence of sustainable tourism
What would you highlight from Ljubljana's tourism strategy - the milestones and your future vision?
In general, what we are really focusing on is the actual management of tourism flows, such that tourists come through all year round and that they stay longer, that they spend more and that they come back. In addition, we are creating a quality tourism offer in the city centre, the outskirts and in the region because, primarily we lead the tourists to the city centre, so that they have a quality experience while they are here. Also, because the city centre has its limits and the citizens also love the city centre, that means there are periods when there can be too many people at the same time. This is why we give tourists the highlights, how to spend time out of the centre, and in the future we will establish so-called cultural quarters in other parts of Ljubljana encourage event organisers to hold their events in the other parts of Ljubljana and if necessary, we can advise them with the infrastructure development. Another highlight is the citizen's satisfaction, so they are happy with tourism in Ljubljana and they work with it, which is why we invite them to cooperate with us.
What are the profiles of the tourists who visit our capital during the different seasons?
There is not a typical seasonal profile of tourists. We know when it is the season for business tourism - i.e. September, October, the end of March and April, but this has also changed, in fact, prolonged. July and August are typically leisure tourism. However, for us, it is important that a person could be any type of a tourist; once a business tourist, another a family tourist, etc. In addition, we are still focusing on those markets where we have a direct airline connection, those within a 500km radius of Ljubljana and the overseas markets where we have already been focusing for a decade.
When is the peak tourist season in Ljubljana?
It is hard to say when the peak of the season is. For the past three years, the average occupancy rate of overnight capacity in Ljubljana has been 79%, however we know that the numbers are rising all year long and it is important to say that the period is extending. We are also happy that, in the last year, the number of tourists that visit outside the seasonal months has increased 10%.
How much does tourism bring into Ljubljana's budget?
We estimate based on a survey for foreign tourists that we do every year that their average spending per day is approximately EUR 150 and so multiplied by 1.5 million overnight stays (based on 2017) this means EUR 225m.
According to your statistics (www.visitljubljana.com) it is mostly Europeans that visit the city, followed by visitors from the Asian countries and then the United States. What about other parts of the world? Have you already thought about them and how will you cater for them?
I do not believe in having too many promotions, all over the world, at the same time and besides, every destination has limited capacity and we have to decide which markets we focus on. We started to pick up the trend from Australia, for whom Ljubljana and Slovenia is really interesting. This year, for the first time, we more strongly promoted Ljubljana in Australia and tourist numbers from there are now really rising.
Many times, Ljubljana has been awarded for sustainable tourism, a green soul and a high level of environmental awareness. From this perspective, what attracts visitors the most and can you share some green facts and figures?
Tourism is about storytelling. If you tell a regular tourist that we are a very sustainable destination, that will not tell him or her much. But if you tell him or her that Ljubljana has a city centre that is completely closed to traffic, no cars are allowed to go in except for electrical cars which transport people for free, that the atmosphere without cars is really relaxed - bars and restaurants have their gardens outside all year around, we have more than 10,000 events a year and a lot of them happen on the streets, free of charge, and venues are expanding because the city is closed to traffic, etc. Furthermore, we have drinking water in fountains that are clearly marked and so you will never be thirsty in Ljubljana, and we even have an app with the locations of the drinking fountains clearly marked. So, when you give tourists this type of information then they start to realise that "that is what sustainability means to them" and "wow, they even have a market in the middle of the city centre where you can talk to the traders selling the fruit and vegetable, grown in the region, and they speak English!" Part of sustainability is also that the local people are included in the tourist offer. There are also milk machines with fresh milk, so-called "Mlekomats", and then everyone starts to realise how much progress Ljubljana has made, in just a decade, toward the quality of life for locals and tourists, and then sustainability comes as a story with a base.
Do you think that tourists will appreciate the sustainability trend more and more in the future?
Yes, I think so! In general, people are more and more aware that we only have one planet and people are starting to appreciate it. There are destinations that are too hot for the majority of the year, which is not the case here. Destinations where it is really windy are also not a pleasant experience, but that doesn't happen here. People are starting to realise that we are the creators of all these changes and that it will be more and more reflected also in the tourism.
What is the largest, recent investment in Ljubljana tourism?
Apart from re-facing the city centre, which is a big investment and is ongoing, obviously the new hotels and renovation of places such as Cukrarna and Ljubljana Castle, which is constantly under renovation, etc. We are also going to invest in the suburbs, promote some attractions that come from our heritage such as the Kolišče Ig area which has already got EU funds and so they will start very soon. In addition, Ljubljana's ongoing investments are also in new tourism offers such as the new experiential guiding, we are producing tours that are not only about getting facts and figures, but also to experience the city or event, to co-create the actual tour, such as the Moustache tour. We had the Emona tour and we even put a sort of a street theatre into the tour and people really got the feeling of how it was 2,000 years ago. These experiences cost but they are unique, they are ours and that is what drives people to come back.
Do you also invest in the digital infrastructure of tourism?
Yes, we are at the start of focusing on the 'Smart City' concept and the Ljubljana Municipality has even opened a new working space called "Smart City Manager". Together, we are working on future development in tourism and we are developing new strategies, based on big data, which can be done with smart city platforms. In a year we will be able to talk concretely about it.
What can you say about Ljubljana's visibility in the area of its digital presence and the viral buzz?
We do all the digital advertising and use the tools, not to mention that we are on nine platforms daily and we have two-way conversations, not only one-way, we listen to what people say! But, I strongly believe that the most important ambassadors of every destination and in our case Ljubljana, are its citizens. We have to listen to them, what they are saying through social media, what they say about the city, what their wishes are, and then the tourists come because they are on a vacation and they are happy with a lot of things, because they are relaxed and expect to see something new and beautiful. And, of course, they are also pooling that positive buzz about Ljubljana and that is why we repost and reuse these. However, when we are talk about creation, it needs to come from us.