This year sees Slovenia as the official partner of the ITB Berlin Convention. Added to this, numerous participants from Slovenia will participate in the event. We asked Zdravko Počivalšek, Slovenia’s Minister of Economic Development and Technology, why he decided to partner with ITB Berlin…
Cooperation of Slovenian Government at the ITB Berlin was never brought into question. We just needed to decide on the scope of our involvement. Since ITB Berlin has a worldwide reputation and has become a respectful brand in the field of tourism we have decided to become a “Convention & Culture” partner. This gives us an opportunity to present Slovenia as an attractive destination with a developed model for systematic implementation of sustainable tourism.
Your country has made huge leaps and bounds over the past decade in becoming a true “green” destination. How has this been possible, and why was it so important?
First and foremost, we had to make a conscious decision to commit to the so called “green path”. The official strategy for Slovenian tourism states that our tourism is based on sustainable development. During the past decade, we became aware that this sector represents a very successful industry of the national economy and importantly contributes to our country’s social welfare and reputation in the world. But it will only stay this way if we continue to develop it in a sustainable manner and follow the green model closely. For the implementation of the principles of sustainable development in tourism, it was of crucial importance that decision-makers and key holders in other areas, such as agriculture, transport, and environment also pursue the achievement of sustainability principles. Our efforts didn’t go by unnoticed. In 2016 Slovenia was declared the first Global Green Destination (Slovenia Green Destination) at the international Global Green Destinations Day conference. Ljubljana, our capital, was European Green Capital, and Slovenia was ranked the fifth greenest country in the world according to the Environmental Performance Index (EPI).
How important is tourism to Slovenia’s economy, and what is your “roadmap” for tourism?
Tourism is an increasingly important economic sector for Slovenia. Tourism currently contributes close to 13% to Slovenia’s GDP and represents 8% of total exports and 37% of exports of services. But our goals go far beyond statistic. We want quality of life for everyone, excellent experience for guests and good examples in development and promotion of sustainable models.
What are the main themes of your nation’s presence at the show?
Our mission is to present Slovenia as an attractive, green, active and healthy destination with the emphasis on sustainable development and rich culture. Slovenia is also a land of healthy water. Our thermal and mineral springs are the backbone of our tourism and that is another theme that we want to emphasise and promote. For the professional public we are preparing a panel called “Slovenia Makes You Green” that will offer interesting discussion with highly renowned experts and scientists. In short – we want to make sure that visitors will leave ITB Berlin a little bit greener.
Your portfolio also covers technology. Are you also able to bring technology into play in the tourism sector?
Without a doubt. Even in the field of tourism we strive to support and encourage the development of new and innovative products and services. Just to give you one example. Slovenia is the first country with a beer fountain in the city centre. If that isn’t the best combination of technology and tourism I don’t know what is.
What could you say are the three main “USP’s” of Slovenia as a destination?
The first and most important selling point of Slovenian tourism is our determination to become a green destination with a highly developed sustainable model. Slovenia is a green, active and safe destination also capable of developing products with great added value. When talking about our selling points I have to mention our most visited icons: Piran with saltpans, Postojna Cave, Bled, Ljubljana, Lipica with beautiful horses and our spas. Come and experience it yourself, why don’t you?