Spa Resorts Want Better Tourism promotion

"We continue to believe that tourism represents an opportunity for Slovenia's growth and development," Roman Matek of the Slovenian Natural Spa Association said in Ljubljana on Thursday.

To achieve this the country needs to take measures to become a recognised tourist destination, he said, adding that too little has been done in this area and that indiscriminate cost-cutting is hurting this aim.

While rebounding from a slow start to the tourism season in the summer months, Slovenian spa resorts fear that a lack of recognised brand for the country's tourism sector will prevent development.

"The lack of recognisability has reached a critical point," director of the association Iztok Altbauer said.

Matek assessed that this was due to a lack of proper strategy. "First we build extensive tourism infrastructure but then we fail to promote Slovenia as a tourist destination – this is madness," Matek said.

He said this was reflected in the fact that lodging capacity has risen by 27% in recent years, whereas tourist numbers have not risen at the same pace.

In a bid to improve the trends in tourism, Matek said that the state must act more like a business-oriented organisation.

The country collects more than EUR 200m in VAT from tourists each year and around 10% of this should be set aside for tourism promotion, he suggested.

Moreover, he said receipts from tourist tax should be reinvested into tourism. Currently these are proceeds for municipalities that can be used for any purpose.

The need for greater funding of tourism promotion was also raised by Karmen Novarlič of the SPIRIT tourism and investment promotion agency.

SPIRIT's budget for tourism promotion stood at EUR 7.3m this year, while this will fall to EUR 5.5m next year, which limits the possibility for reaching key markets.

Matek stressed that another priority for Slovenia should be maintaining functional airports and air connections. There is a fear that airports in neighbouring countries will take over all our tourists, he said.