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Together and with a clear goal – unlocking Slovenia's sporting potential

The newly appointed Minister of Economy, Tourism and Sport Matjaž Han and his partners - the Director of the Slovenian Tourist Board (STO), mag. Maja Pak, Acting Director of the Government Communications Office Petra Bezjak Cirman and Acting Director of the Public Agency SPIRIT Slovenia - presented the plans in the field of tourism and sport for the current year, where he stressed the importance of a systematic approach to the planning and financing of major international sport competitions for the country.

Sport linked to the economy and tourism

"The decision to link sport with the economy and tourism for the first time in the history of our country is a landmark - I see it as a challenge, but also as a great opportunity to further develop and consolidate Slovenia among the most successful countries," he said. According to the Minister, a quality offer of sport and sport-related products is a great incentive for tourists to come to Slovenia.

Director mag. Pak added that the great potential of sports tourism was recognised by the WTO several years ago and a series of promotional activities were launched: "Today, we are successfully cooperating with sports ambassadors and other athletes, highlighting tourism and the I Feel Slovenia brand at the most important sporting events, as well as promoting active holidays to enthuse sports and active lifestyle enthusiasts and invite them to Slovenia. The results of Slovenian tourism last year were almost close to the record-breaking 2019, where the Minister particularly highlights the fact that "we have also recovered in terms of the arrival of foreign guests, even more than Europe and the world, but in this respect we are not yet at a pre-season level." Slovenia is increasingly appreciated as an interesting tourist destination, recommended by world-famous tourist guides, and this is an excellent stepping stone for the implementation of the Slovenian Tourism Strategy 2022-2028. The Director of the Slovenian Tourist Board (STO) also agreed.

Raising the quality of the tourism offer

Looking back, Minister Han highlighted the €148 million worth of calls for tenders, which the Ministry is focusing on improving the quality of the tourism offer by transforming mountain centres into year-round tourist centres, improving the quality and sustainability of accommodation facilities and further developing public tourism infrastructure. The Minister recalled that the Ministry had also supported existing air routes of eight airlines with EUR 1.8 million and had established two new air routes, and announced that the Government would allocate a further EUR 16.8 million to this end over the next three years under the Aid Act to Ensure Greater Air Connectivity. The Minister also highlighted better human resources management as a key element in improving the quality of tourism and hospitality services and expressed optimism about the contribution of the new annex to the collective agreement for the hospitality and tourism sector.

The Minister announced that the Ministry also intends to amend the Hospitality Act this year, with a view to creating a more modern legal framework for the hospitality sector. It will also bite into the hard nut of tackling the severely outdated cable car infrastructure at Kanin and the reform of the Lipica Kobilarna Act, which aims to establish a unified organisational model, incorporate corporate governance principles and change the model of investment in state-owned assets. The Ministry is preparing a call for tenders for the co-financing of tourist attractions and projects at cultural heritage sites, for which it will allocate €7 million by the beginning of 2024 at the latest, and in the first quarter of 2023, it will use the funds from the call for tenders to support the implementation of eco-labels by tourism operators, for which it will allocate €300,000.

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Let's give back to sport what sport has always given to Slovenia

Minister Han paid tribute to the achievements of all Slovenian athletes and said that all citizens strongly identify with them and they are their daily motivation: "It is therefore time to give back to sport what sport has always given to Slovenia." To make this possible, the Minister outlined four key steps, namely ensuring systematic investment in sports infrastructure and outdoor sports facilities, systematic planning and co-financing of the organisation of major international sporting events, developing new world-class athletes and their coaches, and promoting cooperation between sport, business and tourism to multiply the effects. As an example of the latter, he cited the 2023 Nordic World Ski Championships in Planica: "More than 450,000,000 people from 90 countries around the world will be watching the event through the media. We will simply not miss such opportunities to promote our country and our economy again," the Minister was clear.

We are a nation of outstanding athletes

As Petra Bezjak Cirman, Acting Director of the Government Communications Office, pointed out, "We are a nation of outstanding athletes, both in individual sports and team sports." She says that we are probably one of the smallest nations to have achieved such results, so we are aware that it is the athletes who are the first to take our country's name to the world, so they are the first ambassadors of our country. "Athletes connect us all to their successes - those of us cheering them on at home and the fans cheering them on around the world. They have also shown their heart and enthusiasm many times in the past, providing an incredible backdrop at sporting events and making the world aware of us," Bezjak Cirmanova was clear.

In addition to the top athletes who are ambassadors of our country, Rok Capl, Acting Director of SPIRIT Slovenia, also highlighted the ambassadors of the Slovenian economy, identified by the agency among 41 breakthrough Slovenian companies. "These are testimony to our country's advanced technological solutions, high product quality and cutting-edge innovations," said Capl.

Author: Vesna Žarkovič

Date: 31. January 2023

Time to read: 6 min