Ljubljana, 25 September (STA) - The Slovenian Tourist Board (STO) marked its 25th anniversary today, coinciding with the worst year for global tourism industry due to the coronavirus pandemic and coming two days before World Tourism Day.
When the Centre for the Promotion of Tourism, the STO's predecessor, was set up in 1995 nobody knew Slovenia, so the main goal was to put it on the tourism map, STO director Maja Pak said at an event with the press in Ljubljana on Friday.
She said that "much has changed in the 25 years, including strategies, tools of communication and organisation, but what has not changed is the values of cooperation with the tourism industry and the team's outstanding dedication".
The STO has all along been building the image of Slovenia as a sustainable destination, which Pak believes will help the country in its post-coronavirus recovery.
Similarly, Economy Ministry State Secretary Simon Zajc praised the STO for acting fast during the pandemic to bring together all vital stakeholders.
The STO had conceived Now Is the Time - My Slovenia, a campaign to motivate Slovenians to spend holidays around their homeland, which on Thursday received the first Websi prize for digital achievements.
Zajc noted not only the great importance of tourism for Slovenia, but also of having an independent national agency for the tourism industry to thrive.
He said the ministry was aware of the grave situation the Slovenian tourism industry is in, so "our efforts focus on cushioning the impact".
The idea is that once people again travel more when a medicine or a vaccine is available, "our tourism is ready and as fit as possible".
He announced measures to support the industry such as encouraging air flights as well as assistance for promotion and tenders.
Slovenia was visited by over 1.4 million tourists in 1991 and by 6.2 million in 2019. But in independent Slovenia, the industry was hit by three major crisis.
The number of tourists plummeted 73% in 1991 over 1990 as a result of the country's gaining independence and a short war in June-July.
A 10% drop was then recorded in 1999, the year with NATO attacked Serbia, while a 7% fall came in 2009 during the recession.
However, the coronavirus-driven crisis is according to Pak "the worst in history" of this industry.
"Two hundred million jobs are at stake globally, Europe is facing a 54% drop in international arrivals, Slovenia seven million fewer tourist nights," she cited some of the figures.
While economic damage is considerable, the crisis also has a social impact, with Pak stressing tourism contributed to bridging regional differences, "and last but not least to peace".
She said the World Tourism Organisation focuses one some of these topics as part of the upcoming World Tourism Day, held under the slogan Tourism & Rural Development.
In his Tourism Day message, Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek said the topic of the Tourism Day was very pertinent, as discovering the attractions of rural areas comes to the foreground when tourist are avoiding mass visits to popular tourist sites amid the pandemic.
The minister also stressed in a release that tourism was one of the main forces behind the drive to preserve natural and cultural heritage in the countryside.
He admitted the Tourism Day comes with mixed feelings, but pointed to the determination that Slovenia will be up to the challenge of the pandemic, so he is convinced that Slovenian tourism has a bright future.