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Tourism Could Soon Bring EUR 5BN, Govt Official Says (interview)

Ljubljana, 12 October (STA) - Having a potential to grow, Slovenia's annual tourism revenue could well rise to EUR 5bn by the end of 2016, of which EUR 3bn would come from foreign visitors, Marjan Hribar of the Economy Ministry told the STA ahead of the Days of Slovenian Tourism, an annual event which starts on Monday.

"Slovenia's tourism revenue as measured by the WTTC method currently stands at around EUR 4bn, with revenue generated by foreign visitors at over EUR 2bn, but there is definitely still more potential for growth," the head of the directorate for tourism and internationalisation at the Economic Development and Technology Ministry says.

Assessing this year's season in terms of visitor numbers and revenue, Hribar says it is pretty much similar to last year's [record] season. "The revenue generated by inbound tourism was better until the situation slightly worsened in the summer, so I think we have had a 1% drop."

He agrees the bad weather this summer affected some segments of the Slovenian tourism and travel industry, particularly camping and accommodation services, both being closely connected to the tourists who spend "active holidays in nature".

Hribar believes that ownership consolidation is one of the main challenges that should be tackled as soon as possible now that many of the indebted tourist companies have ended up at the bad bank.

Another challenge would be a new management model for winter ski centres, where Hribar sees a solution in public-private partnership. "Given the low profitability of ski lifts, it is hard to speak about business opportunities for companies [operating them]."

A third challenge would be an efficient promotion of Slovenian tourism, which generates almost 13% of Slovenia's GDP and employs more than 30,000 people.

Hribar explains that in Slovenia more than 90% of funds for tourism promotion come from the national budget, whereas in neighbouring Croatia the share is at just 40%.

He says the government will try to negotiate a new model with local communities and businesses. "We see part of the solution in strictly respecting gaming legislation, which sets aside a certain share of concession fees for tourism promotion at the national level."

On a more positive note, Hribar says Slovenia is in the middle of carrying out a digital promotion campaign, a EUR 2.5m-worth project which was co-financed with EU funds. "I believe we will have one of the strongest digital campaigns."

He is meanwhile disappointed with cooperation between local authorities and local businesses, but says Ljubljana is one of the exceptions with a clear vision, strong support from mayor and excellent cooperation with businesses, which can be seen in upbeat figures.

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