The Slovenia Times

Ljubljana, green capital and boutique tourist destination



The mayor highlighted that the main criteria for the award was the realisation of the sustainability principles in all areas of urban policy. Annually, Ljubljana generates one million overnight stays and has a long-term aim to increase the number to three million, the mayor also referred to the individual treatment of tourists, as well as the strengthening of congress tourism in the capital. In the spirit of European Green Capital 2016, which the European Commission granted to Ljubljana, there are a set of "green" measures such as restricting motor traffic in the city centre, measures to ensure minimal pollution from public transport and a strategy to implement the concept of reducing waste at its source.

The City of Ljubljana received the WTTC award as a tourist destination for implementing the principles of sustainable tourism. How does Ljubljana implement sustainable tourism and therefore encourage tourist operators?

During the eight years of my leadership of the capital we have moved to living sustainably in all areas, not only in tourism, dnjee. We always encourage our citizens to be even more sustainable, particularly in terms of our relationship to the environment in which we live. It also helps a lot if one citizen to another becomes the best neighbour. The ceremony for the WTTC Tourism award was held in Madrid and was attended by many leading people from large companies such as Ryanair, Turkish Airlines, Japan Airlines, etc., who have more revenue than the entire Slovenian budget and, in such company, Ljubljana was rewarded as a tourist destination of the future. From the very beginning I believed in victory, since I am sure no one could be better just because of their origin. However, the truth is that Slovenia, as a young country, confronts the problem of recognition, which also applies to tourism. Such promotion therefore requires some time, however the media itself and the wider public in Slovenia are not aware of what we are actually capable of, what has already been done and what else we can do. Annually, Ljubljana has one million stays and the long-term goal is to have three million, which means a million visitors per year that stay in the city for up to three days. It is important to treat every tourist individually, since the worst thing that could happen is to arrive at a destination with higher expectations than what is on offer. For now, tourists in Ljubljana get more than they expect, but at the same time, the awards we receive also raise tourist expectations.

Do you intend to allocate funds for the promotion of Ljubljana as a tourist destination?

The biggest promotion is all the awards we have already received: the WTTC Award; the European Green Capital 2016; the European Mobility Week award which we received twice... We promote Ljubljana by participating in international exhibitions in Rome, Milan, Berlin, Moscow, London, Vienna and we have even received an invitation from Brazil to participate in promoting Ljubljana as a tourist destination. Ljubljana is becoming an important destination on the world tourist map, which brings many benefits for all the suppliers and workers in tourism.

What is the story of Ljubljana as a tourist town?

Ljubljana has an excellent geographical location in the centre of Europe, which is accessible to all. Unfortunately, we still lack optimal airline and railway infrastructure. What we have is that Ljubljana is a green city, with 75 percent green space, a clean city as we are the first European Capital undertaking the Project Zero Waste. Additionally, Ljubljana ranks among the 20 safest cities in the world and is a town of friendly people who speak foreign languages extremely well. There are challenges still ahead such as a higher category hotel in Ljubljana and strengthening the city for congress tourism. Otherwise, the best advertisement for the city continues to be the praise that is spread by word of mouth. I have always said that Ljubljana is the most beautiful city in the world and there are more and more people at home and abroad using this slogan.

As you have already said, the European Commission granted Ljubljana the title of European Green Capital 2016. What kind of commitment does that brings for a city, perhaps also in numbers?

I believe we received the title based on the Vision of Ljubljana 2025 strategy adopted nine years ago in which we committed to sustainable development and which we have now realised. As stated by the Commission, Ljubljana is a city that has achieved the greatest change in the quality of life in the shortest time. We have restricted motor traffic in the city centre, we are proud of our clean drinking water from the tap which must remain a public good accessible to all, we care for biodiversity, air quality and we introduced eco-innovation, etc.

Very important are also the future measures which we have promised will be realised: for example, newly planted trees - in April the employees of the City of Ljubljana administration have, together with our colleagues from public institutions and companies, planted 4,050 trees. By the end of next year, we will have planted a total of 12,089 trees - one for each employee. In addition, I would like to mention our environmentally friendly public transport and the urban bicycle system, Bicikelj, used by the citizens of Ljubljana. An even greater commitment is that we must spread our good practices to other European capitals. In the near future we plan to visit Ankara; we have already visited Paris, Sarajevo, Berlin and Madrid and attended the meeting of Mayors of Southeast Europe in Belgrade. Therefore, it is a commitment that must be fulfilled and then expanded elsewhere. In addition, rarely can any European capital ensure an equal quality of life for future generations. For the highest award that the city could ever get - the Green Capital of Europe - I am grateful to all my colleagues and the Project Manager, Deputy Mayor Tjaša Ficko.

In May, the renovation of Slovenska cesta, also known as one of the "green" measures in the city, was finished. What are the "green" characteristics of this street renovation and what was the investment in the project?

The investment into the renovation of Slovenska cesta, starting at Šubičeva and ending at Gosposvetska was EUR 3.8m. In addition, we will also renovate Cankarjeva cesta. With regard to the traffic regulation on this part of Slovenska, we had thorough, in-depth discussions regarding whether to have a common transport zone or not. After careful consideration, we decided for a limited speed zone (30 km/h), since it is important that the public transport go through the city centre if our long-term goal is to get the largest possible number of people using it. Overall, 63 small ash trees on the road are already green and after the change in traffic regime, we measured a 44 percent lower carbon footprint and I believe we will maintain the quality even when the zone will be opened for public transport, environmentally friendly taxis and the guests of Hotel Slon.

What is the planned structure of European funds for 2015 and what specific areas and projects have your support as mayor?

The majority of funds are allocated to the Regional Centre for Waste Management project, which we started to implement in 2008 and is worth EUR 144.5m. This year we must realise the rest of the funds amounting to EUR 77m. The centre will then start to function with the purpose of processing the waste generated by a third of the Slovenian population. The second largest project, amounting to EUR 70m, is the construction of a connecting channel in Ljubljana together with an upgrade of the discharge of urban waste water system in the municipalities of Medvode and Vodice and an increase in the Central Waste Water Treatment Plan for which we expect a decision from the European Commission. We also expect further European funding for the renovation of the Cukrarna and Rog buildings. We are hoping that Europe will contribute 85 percent as the main reasons for the renovation of the buildings are energy restructuring, regulation of the pedestrian zone and the preservation of cultural heritage.

This year a prominent sports facility in Ljubljana, Hala Tivoli, celebrates half a century. Over 50 years the hall has hosted over 30 million visitors and a number of events; from world championships to world-renowned musicians. Do you perhaps, at this point, think about renovating or upgrading the building?

Over 50 years there have been many tears in Hala Tivoli, both of happiness and sadness. Hala Tivoli has hosted world names in both sport and music. The renovation of the building is scheduled for 2018, to carry out energy sanitation, increase the ice hall to eight thousand seats and alter the basketball hall to host smaller matches. In the lower part there will be a room for curling established. The net financial value of the works is approximately EUR 8m, entirely funded by the municipality.


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