Are you happy with the results of your company this year and what do you predict for the future?
I assumed my position as director of the Exhibition Centre on November 2nd 2010, so I am still getting acquainted with the work of the company. The fact is the Exhibition Centre has had negative business results in the past few years. The main goal is to make those results positive. In the future the Exhibition Centre needs to increase the number of exhibitors and visitors at fairs, congresses and other events and increase the recognition of the Exhibition Centre brand.
What kind of business challenges did you face in the past and what kind do you face now?
I come from the enterprise sector. Companies have different goals, opportunities and face different obstacles, but they have one thing in common – to achieve positive results they need a properly motivated team. This is extremely important for the industry the exhibition centre is in, maybe even more than for others.
An important factor in the success of a fair is in growth and development of the offer. How are you upgrading your fair?
In the current economic environment we are mostly trying to upgrade the existing fairs and give them more content, activities and make them more lucrative for the exhibitors and visitors. Of course, we are constantly searching for new ideas, new projects and plan to realize them at the opportune moment.
Which industries in Slovenia are most interested in trade fairs?
If we assess the activities at the Exhibition Centre these are mostly products and services from the areas of construction and interior design. Slovenia has a strong industry in these areas and it seems Slovenians are very attached to the spaces we live and function in, namely our homes. It is no coincidence Ambient Ljubljana – furniture fair and Dom (Home) are our largest and most visited events. In the recent years demand increased for products and serviced in the area of eco-awareness, healthy living and sustainable development, topics showcased at the Nature–Health fair held at the Exhibition Centre. There’s another fair on the rise: this is a fair featuring holidays and leisure time, the tourism fair. This event has been placed in a broader international context – the region Alps–Adriatic, its offer has been segmented by product to make the presentation of exhibitors more efficient and recognizable by the visitors.
In what way do you try to make the fair attractive to a younger public?
The fair Nature-Health is endorsed by the Ministry of Education and Sport, so many primary and high schools choose it as a field day. This fair has the most educational contents, from alternative admission fees, encouraging the collecting of old batteries and mobile phones, to interdisciplinary computer games, eco-themed movies and lectures on healthy living. This is the first year the furniture fair Ambient Ljubljana contained a workshop entitled Playful architecture and held by renowned architects. The workshop aims to increase the living culture in Slovenia, which is overlooked by educational programmes. The contents of the furniture and construction fair attract a professional public of young students of architecture and industrial design and high school students from the area of wood economy, construction and geodesy. At the furniture fair a competition and display titled Top ideas – 1. exhibition of design, 40 young architects and designers with their ideas took part. At Alpe–Adria fair: Tourism and leisure show we always consider topics aimed at the younger generation. They will probably most identify with the offer for active visitors, where adrenalin sports, mountain biking, snowboarding, surfing, kiting, etc. will be introduced. We wish to introduce educational trails along the region of Alps–Adriatic and attract the interest of schools. In other instances the Exhibition Centre is known to the young for events such as the Graduation parade, freshmen party and a growing number of electronic music concerts.
What do you think about cooperation and connection of European fair destinations?
Cooperation in this area is always useful and means sharing experience, information, knowledge as well as multiculturalism and with it a better understanding of each other. It’s about being present in the international context and following current trends. And presence always leads to new business opportunities.
The Exhibition Centre as the largest convention centre in Slovenia is promoted by Tourism Ljubljana and the Slovenian Convention Bureau. We are the only convention centre in Slovenia, besides Cankarjev dom, with the certificate E, awarded by the Convention Bureau. As co-organizer of the Conventa trade show, held each year in January at the Exhibition Centre, we encourage the flow of information between supply and demand in this part of Europe.
By being a member of the Convention bureau we take part at world’s largest trade shows like EIBTM in Barcelona and IMEX in Frankfurt. This is where we introduce our congress capacities.
The Exhibition Centre is also a member of the ICCA (International Congress and Convention Association) the international association of congress organizers and ITTFA, International Tourism Trade Fair Association, which always seeks new way to encourage and promote travel and tourism industry. Through these world networks and its members we promote our event Alpe–Adria: Tourism and leisure show.
What is the role of national tourist organisations in promoting fairs and what is the role of the private sector?
I’ll list concrete examples: At Alpe–Adria: Tourism and leisure show we cooperate with the national tourist organisation (STB), take advantage of their means of promotion, look for common ground, synergy, rely on the knowledge of the STB. Undoubtedly fairs with a regional or international attendance have a broader significance, since they attract desirable business guest from abroad, who then use hotel facilities, shopping centres, restaurants etc.
What do you miss most in tourist capacities and infrastructure in this region?
If I star at our doorstep – since the Exhibition Centre is a part of Ljubljana’s infrastructure – we are missing space. We have 13,139 square meters of covered area, which is not enough for a capital city. We often have to put up temporary halls, which cannot be a long term solution.
We would prefer better accessibility to our centre. We already have an excellent position in the centre of the city, near the railway and bus station and right next to a local bus stop. The Jože Pučnik Airport is also only half an hour away, yet it has a limited number of international connections. Hotel facilities are limited in Ljubljana, especially when we’re look for a larger number of rooms in a similar category.
What is crucial to ensure a good turnout at a fair?
It’s very important to maintain the level of quality and offer attractive contents, which the visitors find interesting. This is the most important tool to making a successful event. Of course, a well planed marketing campaign, which generates interest in the event, is also very important.