“Business events are one of the three main tourism products of Slovenia”
Q: What was your biggest challenge in developing Slovenia as a premier congress destination?
The Slovenian Convention Bureau was established 14 years ago with the aim to make Slovenia more successful on the international congress, meetings and incentive travel market (Business Events). In cooperation with the Slovenian Tourist Board and our members we have developed considerably during this time. About the biggest challenge … I would say there was a mix of several challenges that were interconnected. On the one side, there was the government’s understanding of the opportunities for Slovenia on that market. On the other side, the supply side was not developed enough on a national level. Most of the destinations did not understand the needs of this industry. There was only a small number of players who were very active on that market.
Things are changing positively on both sides. Business Events are well placed in the latest national strategy for tourism drawn up by the Ministry of Economy. Business Events are one of the three main tourism products of Slovenia. Also, the number of members has grown and more and more destinations are eager to host more business events in their destinations. They are increasingly aware of the differences, needs and expectations of meeting planners but also participants. New properties and refurbished hotels and venues are also looking strategically at this lucrative market.
Q: What has excited you most this year?
I understand that working in our industry is like endurance sport. You have to be focused, persistent, patient but also proactive.
To name the exciting things, I would mention this year’s great success of the ICCA Association Meetings Programme held in Ljubljana this Summer. It was a great proof of the amazing cooperation of different stakeholders all with the aim of presenting our country through knowledge, innovation, cooperation, and professionalism.
Q: What is your plan for the development of Slovenia as a MICE destination in the coming 5–10 years?
I would say that the meetings industry is developing at quite a speed with constant changes in the market influenced by economical, political, social, environmental and other factors. Slovenia is still perceived as an emerging destination.
I believe there will be many positive changes in the coming 5–10 years. Slovenia will further develop its product for all the segments of MICE. New players will come onto the market, either green field or brown field investments but also refurbished properties throughout the country. Many destinations will learn and develop the MICE product in their destinations and promote it internationally too. There will also be development in the human resources sector where the level of knowledge will increase. Last but not least, the national Government will also realise the economic impact of the meetings industry. All that will help us to become stronger and more successful on the international market.
Q: How do you capture the essence of Slovenia through your actual marketing campaign?
We are very proud that in close cooperation with its members back in 2009 the Slovenian Convention Bureau defined the essence of MICE Slovenia. These were and are the People. We have started to promote Slovenia through Slovenian Energy. We have been quite innovative in the marketing since then. Later we added two more pillars: Place and Purpose. The aim of the three pillars People, Place, Purpose was to present all of the advantages of Slovenia for the MICE market.
Q: What can event delegates expect to experience in Slovenia?
We can think ourselves fortunate that Slovenia has so much to offer on such a small piece of land. These are words of our clients! Four experiences of the region that can actually be enjoyed in one day is amazing. The project “Imagine Slovenia” has not only three different climate regions and three geographic regions but also three wine regions. Not to mention the gastronomy that amazes even the most demanding people.
Slovenia is not just a fantastic country for exploring the great outdoors and outstanding gastronomy. Slovenia is also strong in science and business. We understand that participants at today’s meetings and events are seeking local knowledge and business opportunities.
Q: What are Slovenia’s advantages compared to the wider region?
I started working in the leisure tourism industry more than two decades ago. I soon realized that I prefer the meetings industry. In the meetings industry you are building long-lasting relationships with business partners from all over the world but also very strong ties with the national suppliers in order to a create strong product.
In the meetings industry your product or the whole country is actually competing with the whole world. On the other hand, the whole world is also your potential market. I see that as a big opportunity for Slovenia. Although other countries are our competitors, we have great relationships and cooperation. I believe that in our business we are not competitors at all. Each product is a destination, congress centre, hotel, DMC, PCO, or incentive provider that differs from the others so much. Of course, you can compare prices and services. It is more difficult to compare complete programmes and business solutions if they are based on professional and respectful relationships.
As I stated earlier, Slovenia’s advantages are, in particular, the diversity of its geography, good food and wine, and strong business and scientific communities.
Q: Conventa is a huge success. What is the legacy and the impact of the event?
I believe that as creators of Conventa we were not aware of how big the impact of the event would be for Slovenia but also for the region of South East and Central Europe. A decade ago our aim was to invite clients to the region and present to them the New Europe. Ten years later the region was visited by more than 2000 meeting professionals because of Conventa. What’s more, Conventa is not just a two-day show. It is actually the marketing machine of the New Europe, as promotional activities go on for the whole year. Additionally, clients that have attended Conventa are positively surprised by the quality of the experience and become ambassadors of the show and the New Europe region.
Q: How can we break down cultural barriers in the region?
If used smartly, the cultural barriers in the region could also be the countries’ unique selling points. Take Conventa, for example. I believe we have still not realized the true potential of regional cooperation. I hope this changes in the near future. There will be some new actions at the forthcoming Conventa experience.
Q: Your favourite incentive idea in Slovenia?
This is a tough question. It would definitely consist of an outdoor activity, combined with local cultural heritage and people, topped off with authentic gastronomy.
“Listen, learn, be curious, be active, engage internationally, but also be patient,
focused, persistent. Keep promises. “
Q: What would be your ideal event to host in your country?
My ideal event to host in my country would be where global meeting professionals meet with all the members of Slovenian Convention Bureau. It would be an educational but also a networking event where lots of great ideas and new relationships could be built.
Q: What is your advice to younger generations starting out in your field?
Listen, learn, be curious, be active, engage internationally but also be patient, focused, persistent. Keep your promises.
Q: What makes you smile?
Q: What is your best recipe for your days off?
Disconnect from business. To do some sport, read a book, have a good meal with great wine and great company.
Q: What are the 3 things you cannot live without?
Business: smartphone, smart people, smart ideas.
Private: family, sport, selfness.