Kongres Magazine talked to Mitja Špes, CEO of Factumevent, about the gastronomic scene in Maribor and how organising a Street Food Market fosters the city’s development. Mitja also discussed what Maribor is missing to become a leading regional destination.
Q1: You have organised the street food market several times. How did you team up with the main organiser from Austria?
This year marks the third time we are organising the event n Maribor. We also organised the KRK Music Festival STREET FOOD MARKET in 2019 with our Austrian partner. The cooperation started when they themselves contacted us with interest in cooperation based on our past references of providing services for various festivals.
Q2: Both Austrian providers and local Slovenian providers participate in the event. How many are expected to attend?
Various providers from Austria and other EU countries will participate, alongside local providers. The ratio is 60% Slovenian providers and 40% foreign providers. From past editions, we have made a commitment within the framework of our cooperation to enable our Slovenian providers to enter festivals in Austria. We have thus arranged that more than 12 providers are regularly present at SFM festivals in Austria.
Q3: How does the municipality aid you in organising the event? Is acquiring permits challenging?
It depends on the destination. In Maribor, in the beginning, we cooperated with the municipality extensively, and there was a strong awareness of the contribution of the multi-day culinary festival and its impact on the local environment (tourism as part of the economy). In recent years, we still cooperated with the municipality, albeit to a lesser extent. Bureaucracy varies from destination to destination. Luckily, we have no problems with bureaucracy in Maribor. However, the organisational costs (infrastructure, space, entrance to the pedestrian zone, etc.) are higher compared to other cities.
Q4: How do you see the development of gastronomy in Maribor? Can cuisine become the main incentive behind tourist and business guests visiting?
I think that the culinary scene in Maribor is sought-after and our events are always very well attended. In fact, we have an excellent reputation for good attendance at any destination. Thus, it is no surprise there is tremendous interest in attending the event in Maribor. Regarding the impact on tourism, I can provide information that in 2019, before the pandemic, more than 40% of visitors were foreigners. The event positively affected the tourism sector (overnight stays, number of visitors) and the local economy.
Q5: Are there other events you are preparing, and which are you most proud of?
We organise various events and are involved in organising cultural events (Opera Night, ELZ EK Festival, exhibitions, productions, etc.), culinary events (Chili and Chocolate Festival, Gin festival, Wine festivals, City Picnic), career and education (Career Fairs, and virtual career fairs, where we have our own platform for virtual fairs), sports (World and European championships). We are also the proud holder of the Champions League license SOCCA football. In addition, we organise business meetings, conferences, and business events. We are actively involved in organising the accompanying event and activities of the European Youth Olympic Festival 2023 in Maribor. We also look forward to organising the Velvet Dinner event with our partners. Find out more about our events and references at: https://www.factumevent.com/dogodki/.
Q6: What is the difference between organising an established event, which has been hosted at various locations, and developing a brand new event that can stay in the city for numerous years? What are the effects of the former and the latter?
An event with a developed franchise has an elaborate plan, an advertising network and recognisability. An event at the start of its journey has a longer path to recognition but has more possibilities for its own creativity. Both types have a positive impact on the city. A developing event develops with the city if the local community supports it.
Q7: Which events and festivals would you like to bring to Maribor? What type of event is yet to be organised?
I believe there is room to organise boutique culinary events and cultural events (opera, ballet) in boutique venues. Given Maribor’s geographical location, we are an ideal destination for European and world sports events. There is interest in bringing EURO SKILLS to Slovenia, and there are still countless possibilities, as long as the meetings industry is recognised and supported. It is clear that every investment results in multiplicative effects on a local and national level.
Q8: A decade ago, Maribor was a recognised destination for organising international conferences, alongside Ljubljana and Portorož. What does Maribor need to return to the premier league of event organising?
What is missing is a five-star hotel, more connectivity between hoteliers, and a large congress centre. Maribor also lost its fairground, which in the past placed it at the very top of the tradeshow industry.