EUROPEAN CAPITAL OF CULTURE
Maribor has everything bigger ones have (only in a smaller format). Compared to other Slovenian Meetings destinations like Ljubljana, Portorož and Bled it possibly has a bit less experience in the field of meetings industry, which it compensates with friendly attitude of suppliers, that give the client a feeling that he or she is wanted.
Being a former student of the Styrian capital, I am able to confirm that Styrians are always willing to help and have greater cordiality and positivism than residents of other parts of Slovenia. The other side of the coin is a great sense of belonging to the hometown, the European Capital of Culture this year and otherwise a nice and friendly place to stay. Years of dominance of Maribor Football Team over ‘froggies’ (as they like to call footballers from Ljubljana) have further strengthened their local feelings of self-worth. And something else like this on the first ball: Styrian women are extremely nice and true beauties.
Blend of urbanity and ruralism
The University City of Maribor is the second largest city in Slovenia and represents the business, scientific, educational, cultural and political centre of Eastern Slovenia. I read somewhere that Maribor is a unique blend of urbanity and ruralism. This is true, as suggested by the geography of the city itself. I guess that the constant search for identity of the city stems from this, as it is generally accepted that Maribor lost its identity three times – after the First World War, with the departure of Germans after the Second World War and with the collapse of the middle class, and after independence from the decline of industry. In any case, Maribor is the only Slovenian city comparable to Ljubljana, which makes the whole folklore of relations even more interesting.
The city is defined by the Drava River
Geographically the city is defined by the Drava River basin and the green Pohorje, which is one of Slovenia’s largest forested areas. Impervious Pohorje rocks are the cause of a phenomena so dear to me – a dense network of surface streams, lakes and moors, which give a special character to Pohorje. The climate is also favourable, although the winters are becoming increasingly unfriendly with regards snow and are causing occasional problems to local tourism providers. The contrast between the flat Dravsko fields and the forested Pohorje Mountain creates a lot of variety, both in terms of landscape and adventure. If we add to this the rich cultural history and the soft vineyard slopes, this is one of the best known Slovenian tourist destinations, especially given the fact that beautiful nature is already encountered right at the end of the streets of Maribor. Styria, together with the city of Maribor, is considered to be one of the sunniest Slovenian Regions. If there is fog in Ljubljana, Maribor will probably be having sunshine.
In the past, Maribor was an important industrial centre of the former Yugoslavia, however the transition to a post-industrial society was not the most successful. Many factories stopped working and the city was spatially and spiritually devastated, something of a ‘Yugoslavian Manchester’. A stroll today, however through the old part of town will not disclose this – the city gives the impression of safety and tidiness. Access to the city is extremely simple, since it is situated at the motorway junction of the fifth and tenth Pan-European transport corridor. In the immediate vicinity (from 50 to 130 km away) are three international airports. Maribor is a small and friendly city, especially friendly and easy to use for conference and congress guests.
The wealth and variety of its cuisine and quality wines
In the period following the collapse of heavy industry tourism was recognised as one of the most promising industries. This is also shown by the growth of many tourist facilities. A great boost to tourism, apart from the city itself, was offered by skiing in Pohorje, the annual peak being the Golden Fox event. Maribor is probably the most developed Slovenian cultural tourism destination: the Lent Festival has legendary status and the pinnacle of cultural tourism was ECC. An indispensable part of the Maribor tourist offer is the wealth and variety of its cuisine and quality wines.
Tourists are attracted by many attractions in the city – in the city centre there is the Gothic style Maribor castle, also unique is the Jewish Quarter with its synagogue. At Lent there is probably the largest urban landmark, the oldest vine in the world. Also well developed is the segment of sports tourism. The offer is constantly evolving and in recent years products related to cycling and walking have been developed.
Catalyst of the meeting industry is Terme Maribor
In Maribor the catalyst of the meeting industry is Terme Maribor, where they see annual growth of some 20 – 30 % in the number of events. Probably the biggest drawback is a lack of specialised agencies and PCOs.
Over the last decade, Maribor’s 5* Hotel Habakkuk certainly became synonymous with meeting industry tourism. The hotel, at the foot of Pohorje, is distinguished by a conference centre that still appears fresh and bright today. The largest hall can accommodate up to 500 participants, with a few flexible rooms that can be opened up and used as additional space for receptions and exhibitions.
Conference guests can be accommodated in the hotel’s 101 hotel rooms. For conferences where rooms of different categories are needed, perhaps a strange option at first sight can be offered, which is a proven combination of the Hotel Bellevue (4*), at an altitude of 1050m, giving an additional 42 rooms. With the renewed cable car the Hotel Bellevue has a more elegant access, and the morning view over Maribor certainly outweighs its distance from the valley. The offer at the bottom of Pohorje is complemented by Hotel Arena, renovated to a high standard in details both in equipment as well as cuisine and a sense of familiarity. The Hotel Arena also has its own seminar rooms for groups of up to 60 participants.
In the vicinity of the Hotel Habakuk there are a few smaller, private hotels and pensions that fill up nicely during bigger events. One of the largest of these is the sports-oriented Hotel Draš, also offering conference facilities.
Maribor has no shortage of special venues for events
On the other side of the meetings industry in Maribor are the so-called ‘city hotels’. Hotel Best Western Piramida, a traditional city hotel, offers a limited number of meeting rooms, the largest accommodating up to 95 participants. Having renovated its rooms it is becoming interesting for smaller international meetings again.
New on the hotel scene is the Hotel City. A modern design, its own garage, 66 rooms, a conference centre with the largest hall accommodating up to 300 participants and an emphasis on culinary offer are part of its attractions. In addition, the centre of the city certainly offers more options for evening social and cultural activities and culinary experiences beyond the hotels.
Maribor has no shortage of special venues for events. Lent, the former Drava River harbour, with its numerous bars and restaurants make it an excellent choice for ‘wining & dining around’. A special event can be organised in the Vinago Cellar in the city centre. Underground there are tunnels spreading over 20,000 m2. Your guests will also no doubt be thrilled by Maribor Castle, where the Regional Museum Maribor can be found. You can rent the Knights Hall for a standing reception for up to 150 guests. When you have savoured all the special venues, I can also recommend the Ptuj Castle with its idyllic courtyard, calling out for romantic candlelit receptions….
WHAT'S HOT IN 2016
Maribor will be the organizer of the European timber-rafting congress in 2017.
After three successful years of offering an “open kitchen” concept in Ljubljana, Maribor followed in May 2016. The “open kitchen” offering different culinary delights is available to visitors of the city every Friday on the main market.
Maribor airport will welcome new connections to Düsseldorf and Split with Express Airways.
QUALITY MEETING DESTINATION
5 – excellent meetings destination
4 – quality meetings destination
3 – reccommendable meetings destination
2 – average meetings destination
1 – so so
BEST INCENTIVE IDEA
COMPARISION WITH THE REGION
Maribor is one of the most promising meetings destinations in Slovenia. The city is historically, ethnically and culturally extremely interesting. It gives an impression of familiarity and warmth. Unfortunately the city lacks an attractive story that would also attract foreign event organisers. I have a feeling that the lack of knowledge in the field of meetings industry stems from the influence of the past and industrial thinking. Maribor has everything that is necessary for development. On the other hand people are not fully aware of the potential the meetings industry could have.
Maribor has for some time had its own convention bureau and is firmly on the meetings industry map, but unfortunately the crisis hit them the hardest in all of Slovenia, with the consequence that they had to reduce their promotional budget. The destination is making every effort to maintain its presence and given this hard work the promotional part of the Maribor story will soon improve.
POHORJE POT – Before downing the “Pohorje blue berries” liquor, try the “Pohorje pot”. It is a traditional dish that can be found in huts all over Pohorje; on special request it will also be prepared for your guests at Hotel Habakuk!