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Tourism Picking Up, But Still Impacted

Ljubljana, 17 August (STA) - Slovenia's tourism industry has begun to pick up, but it continues to feel the impact of the crisis, the Slovenian Tourism Board (STO) said on Tuesday, indicating end-year results will be on a par or possibly slightly below last year's.

After visitor numbers dropped by 2% and overnight stays by 1% in 2009, they rose by 4% and 2% respectively in the first half of the year compared to the same period last year.

STO held a press conference today to present the results of its work in the past four years as the term of its boss Dimitrij Piciga is coming to an end. Looking back, Piciga said Slovenian tourism was now much more offensive-oriented.

"In this period Slovenia's tourism grew at a rate above the average global and regional rates and we still have a lot of potential. The winners of 2009 are alpine resorts, while spas and cities have dominated in the past three years."

Tourism has become one of the most important industries in Slovenia, head of the Economy Ministry's Tourism Directorate Marjan Hribar said, adding that it already accounted for over 10% of the economy according to satellite accounts method.

"Our vision is clear - Slovenia will become the safest, healthiest and most accessible destination in Europe," Hribar said, noting that net tourism income increased by 5% this year, which meant the industry was nearing the record year of 2008.

STO officials believe the biggest achievement of the past four years is the success of the "I feel Slovenia" brand. One of the main goals is the plan to set up, in cooperation with the Foreign Ministry, Slovenian houses in all major target markets.

The most important promotional activity of these houses will be to present Slovenia with culinary offerings of 24 gastronomic regions through 140 traditional dishes that have been selected in a project called Taste Slovenia, Piciga said.

In the past four years, visitor arrivals rose by 10% to 2.72 million, while overnights were up 8% to 8.3 million. Most foreign visitors still come from Italy, Austria and Germany, followed by Croatia. Owing to visa liberalisation last year, Slovenia saw a surge in visitors from Serbia, who rank 10th among foreign visitors.

The STO also expects an increase in visitor numbers from Asia, especially after new charter flight routes to Japan are launched shortly.

Piciga has applied for another term at the helm of the board, but his reappointment is subject to the results of an audit initiated by previous Economy Minister Matej Lahovnik. The audit has been completed and the results are to be made public soon.

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