Ljubljana, 03 January (STA) - Senior officials in charge of tourism promotion have told the STA that Slovenia needs a long-term refocusing on emerging eastern markets, coupled with good branding and cooperation between tourism stakeholders.
Slovenia will maintain ties with traditional Western European markets, in particular Italy. "But we have to refocus on the east in the long term," said Boštjan Skalar, director of the SPIRIT tourism and FDI promotion agency.
He noted that guests from countries such as Turkey, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan were increasingly important, in particular for spas, so the task now is to make sure they do not stay for only two or three nights but for ten days or more.
In order to achieve that, Slovenia needs to step up investments in tourism infrastructure. But since companies in the sector are over-indebted, they spend the bulk of their cash flow on loan repayments.
"SPIRIT is trying to attract tourism investments at investment conferences. We've picked specific projects in need of fresh capital," said Skalar.
As he noted, Slovenia has attracted foreign investments to the tune of EUR 12bn in the last ten years, but only 0.67% of that went into tourism, "practically nothing".
In addition to infrastructure, opportunities need to be created for tourists to spend.
"Guests who seek luxury tourism also need innovative products and luxury stores. Guests from Azerbaijan and Arab countries spend huge amounts of money shopping...There are huge opportunities in this field."
The sector also needs to pool resources, according to Skalar. "There are lots of small providers each protecting their turf. We need a serious analysis on a long-term tourism strategy so that Slovenia is marketed as a single destination."
This will require creating a positive story and promoting a positive attitude in general. "We have to raise national awareness. We have to approach what Croats or Turks have...a kind of energy that is missing in this country."
Similarly, Karmen Novarlič, the head of the tourism department at the agency, said Slovenia must be marketed as "a single big story". In 2014 the story will revolve around ski champion Tina Maze.
Based on the now established slogan "I Feel Slovenia", Slovenia will be marketed as an "active, healthy and green destination", according to Novarlič. The green aspect in particular will be highlighted. "Green is our foundation."
EUR 5.5m in budget funds is earmarked for tourism promotion for 2014, with an additional EUR 4m available in EU funding for 2012-2014. The bulk of that money will be spent this year, according to Novarlič.