European Region of Gastronomy title gives hope to tourism sector

Ljubljana – After a very rough year that saw the coronavirus pandemic halve tourist arrivals, Slovenia’s tourism sector is in for another demanding year in 2021. However, the country holds the title the European Region of Gastronomy this year, bringing hope that the sector will once again be able to open.

This year, the Slovenian Tourism Board (STO) included restaurateurs in its scheme with the sign Slovenia Green Cuisine.

Being the European Region of Gastronomy, Slovenia has great potential due to its quality local ingredients, tradition and creativity, an online press conference on Monday heard.

But in 2020, Slovenia’s tourism sector found itself at the same level as it was 10 years ago, Maja Pak, the director of the STO said.

Recovery will take a long time, she said, estimating that the figures recorded in 2019 could be reached only around 2024.

The situation is not expected to improve much this year, albeit more foreign guests are expected, whereas their numbers plummeted in 2020, while the number of domestic guests increased by about 20% over 2019.

Data by the European Travel Commission show that Slovenian and Denmark were the only two European destinations that recorded an increase in the overnight stays of domestic guests in 2020.

Vaccination inspires hope for the future, however it is still key that tourism businesses survive until guests return, said Simon Zajc, state secretary at the Economy Ministry.

“True recovery will only be possible when international transport is relaunched and restrictive measures are lifted both in Slovenia and abroad,” he added.

He believes that the mitigation measures by the government aimed at helping companies survive had gone a long way in helping to preserve jobs in the sector. Among others, he highlighted the extension of the tourism voucher scheme.

Expressing hope that accommodation facilities will be able to open soon, he did however not wish to speculate when this could be.