Luxury is Multi-dimensional: Slovenian Individuality and Rarity as Luxury
In an interview years ago, you told me that "luxury tourism is a perfect combination of ambiance, service and destination attractions. It is the ultimate tourist experience. " Do you agree? Can Slovenia offer our guests a five-star experience?
I still agree with my statement. Luxury in tourism is a combination of a superb ambiance, service, and exceptional destination attractions. Luxury is rare amenity or experience. Rare because of their limitations and difficult access to the wider population. Luxury is not just going to an ultra-expensive restaurant that ordinary human beings cannot afford, luxury can also be a hard-to-reach natural attraction, where people do not go because it is far or hardly accessible. Luxury is so multi-dimensional that it cannot be described in one sentence.
Does Slovenia have luxury tourism? Would you call it a five-star destination?
The Slovenian Tourist Board has a very refined and appealing promise: a five-star destination for five-star experiences. It's a good idea because they know that Slovenia does not have a five-star infrastructure.
What about tourism and travel-related services?
Slovenia has high quality cuisine: we have a five-star culinary chefs with skills, it is luxurious, top quality yet rare and very special. It is rare, because our top chefs use local and seasonal ingredients. Well renowned chef Ana Roš is picking wild plants and herbs for food by herself. This is very rare; you cannot have a meal like that in New York. There are many culinary experiences in Slovenia that are luxurious. Not like other services, for example transport.
By that you mean public transport in Slovenia, airports or taxis?
Luxury means comfort. How does a tourist come to Slovenia? The comfort is to fly with a direct flight from New York to Ljubljana. Unfortunately, we cannot offer this and this is the first drawback. You have to fly to Frankfurt and then with a smaller plane with no first nor business class to Ljubljana. And this is the first inconvenience for a jet set that wants to come to Ljubljana. If I think of a banker in London who has five million British pounds of annual salary and would like to spend a weekend break in an undiscovered European city like Ljubljana. Will he fly with Easyjet? Probably not. The next problem is public transport in Slovenia, from and to Brnik, from Ljubljana to the coast and other touristic attractions and destinations.
Despite the negatives, the image of Slovenia as touristic destination is rising.
Yes, the image is rising, not just visibility. The image of Slovenia as a high-quality destination is now known in other countries.
In what sense?
We can offer some unique luxury experiences to our guests. There are already a couple of agencies in Slovenia that are preparing very innovative luxury packages with rare and unique experiences, for example, tasting a special cheese on the farm, driving a tractor . . .
What would you highlight as the best example of luxury tourism in Slovenia?
Again, I would say gastronomy. I would like to point out the top six chefs and restaurants in Slovenia were also mentioned in the world-renowned French gastronomic guide Gault & Millau. These are Ana Roš (Hiša Franko), Tomaž Kavčič (Pri Lojzetu - Zemono), Igor Jagodic (Strelec), Hiša Denk, Restavracija Mak and Oštarija Debeluh. This is a complete service and all-inclusive experience. Everything else in our tourism has elements, but is not as complete.
What about hotels in Slovenia?
We have a luxury five-star hotel Intercontinental in Ljubljana and elements of luxury in our established four-star hotels in the capital, offering services of a five-star hotel. Like Hotel Slon that didn't decide to become a five-star hotel but has, for example, luxury bedding concept, luxury cosmetics, marble bathrooms, 24-hour room service, and exceptional massages. These are elements of comfort and also luxury. And when all this is put together, it is one truly amazing experience.
What about other hotels in Slovenia?
Guests can enjoy superior five-star services at the Kempinski Palace Hotel at the coast and at the Hotel Aleksander with a modern Spa Centre in Rogaška Slatina, in those two for sure.
And unique boutique Hotel Planinka in the tranquil landscape of Jezersko that opened this year?
This one is a very special story and unique luxury, especially from the point of view of the rarity of the location and the very concept of the hotel. Everything is organic, they use only natural cosmetics, all materials, even wood is coated with the smell of honey. The culinary service is superb. In the mini bar there is so called "alive water", natural juices, etc . . .Their service is very personalized. Another example of unique luxury is also Nebesa (Heaven) with its spectacular views, which are certainly rare. The manager, the Roš family (mother of chef Ana Roš), makes sure all the services are higher standard.
Besides gastronomy, the luxurious Rogaška Crystal is a whole luxury experience, the store is luxurious, the products are luxurious, materials and design are luxury. Of course, we have more beautiful examples of luxury in Slovenia, but tourism experts say-and I agree with them-Slovenia is still not participating fully as a luxury destination.
Because mainstream luxury, practiced by most rich populations, is a five-star destination with a five-star hotel and its outstanding services, luxury shopping, luxury clubbing, and fine dining in restaurants with Michelin stars.
Definitely events. And not just any event, but Placido Domingo singing on the main square in the old city centre, international film festivals, Picasso and other special exhibitions in galleries, the best clubbing in the world, and so on. Slovenia doesn't have that and never will. We don't have amazing palaces, fine collections in galleries, and museums. We have always been a province of a larger country. We never had a fine bourgeoise and tradition. But we can offer something else -a variety of things in such a small country. If our guest sleeps in Ljubljana, he can have daily trips to the sea, mountains, caves, etc. and yet enjoy urban life in the evening. This is our advantage. In addition to our chefs and natural beauty. And with this we can be the best in global terms. We have to be innovative enough to transform our uniqueness into luxury like the Four Seasons hotels in the rest of Europe.
So, if guests like famous celebrities Kim Kardashian, Madonna or Christiano Ronaldo want the whole hotel just for themselves for three days you can close it down?
Money can buy everything. It would be difficult to shut down the whole hotel due to such demand and annual contracts we have for some of the rooms. But without any hesitation we could give him or her the whole floor or two, arrange to dine alone in a renowned restaurant, as we have done it before.
Where is the best luxury city- break in Europe for you?
In Germany it is definitely Hamburg, one of the wealthiest cities in Europe, besides Paris and London. The local population has money and extremely high purchasing power, and this combined with the wealthy tourists makes the whole city luxurious. There only fine stores and excellent shopping, restaurants with superb cuisine, all the hotels are renovated with no three-star hotel in the city center, only few four and mostly five-star hotels. Big capitals are not very luxurious, only some tourists go to luxury hotels. In a way, Milan is also luxury, because it is blended with fashion on every step and the whole city center is dedicated to fashion. It has the best shopping in the world, therefore spectacular restaurants, hotels and other buildings around it.