The Slovenia Times

Interview: Renata BalaĹžic, Sava Turizem

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How important are meetings for Sava Turizem's hotels and spas?
The MICE segment [meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions] is one of our key segments and will definitely be our strategic focus in the upcoming years. However its importance varies from destination to destination. Some of our destinations with health and spa programmes predominately target leisure guests, while at our Sava Hotels Bled and Terme Ptuj the meetings segment represents an important, constantly growing part of our business.

Which of your venues are most popular for meetings?
At Terme Ptuj, which is a thermal spa resort, the number of MICE events is growing. But Sava Hotels Bled remains our main MICE destination, boasting all the attributes needed for a successful MICE venue.

How big is the share of MICE compared to regular tourism?
At our Sava Hotels Bled the MICE revenues represent approximately eleven percent of total revenues. Taking into account all the indirect revenues generated by MICE guests at the destination the actual share is higher than that but very difficult to estimate.

Are there differences between the business tourist and the regular tourist?
Business guests are much more demanding than leisure guests. They are usually well-travelled, they often stay at hotels, and therefore expect superior service and outstanding facilities. Usually, our hotel staff have to put much more effort in to satisfy business guests and meet their expectations than is the case with leisure guests. However, this extra effort is worth it as business guests usually generate higher turnover than leisure guests. Their travel expenses are usually covered by an event organiser or employer and therefore they spend more for extra services at the hotel or at the destination.

Last year saw a positive trend in business tourism in Slovenia compared to 2010. Do you expect that this trend will continue?
Yes, but some conditions must be fulfilled to achieve this. The domestic Slovenian market is too small to ensure long-time growth. Therefore we are greatly dependent on foreign markets. Slovenia is still a rather undiscovered meetings destination so there is certainly growth potential for the upcoming years. However, we need strong support from the state as well as from other industries, like the airlines, to ensure this growth.

Do you cooperate with other organisations in the industry?
We are actively cooperating with the Slovenian Convention Bureau and we strongly support the development of the new Bled Convention Bureau which we believe will greatly benefit the development of the MICE industry at this destination. We also cooperate with other tourism companies because we are aware that we can only attract big international events if we work as a whole destination and not as independent providers.
But it's not just cooperation between the key players in the meeting industry that is required for success. What we lack is strong support from the state. The state needs to recognise the MICE industry as one with extremely high development potential and higher than average multiplier effect. As a consequence, the state needs to ensure long-term, reliable funding of the national convention bureau as the only independent professional intermediary between meeting planners and suppliers.

What recent changes have you seen in the meetings industry?
Just like individual leisure travellers, meeting and conference organisers have become much more cost-conscious than they were before. The downward pricing pressure continues, especially in the corporate segment. Clients are extremely aware of competition and are trying to achieve better value for money when negotiating with hotels. The association meetings segment is more stable but is also facing budgeting problems caused by withdrawal of sponsors and lower attendance numbers.

Do you see positive trends as well?
We see several new trends gaining importance. One is the trend towards greener, sustainable events. Clients are trying to add value to their events through sustainability or corporate social responsibility.

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