Ljubljana’s Hotel Park Gains Green Certification for the Second Time

By , 14 Mar 2018, 11:01 AM Made in Slovenia
Ljubljana’s Hotel Park Gains Green Certification for the Second Time All images from Hotel Park, unless otherwise noted

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Taking sustainability to the next level, without compromising quality. 

March 14, 2018

A few years ago Hotel Park was just another budget hotel in Ljubljana, not far from the museums, galleries, and nightlife of Metelkova, but hardly on anyone’s radar unless they were looking for a cheap room for the night. But all that started to change when the hotel decided to commit to become a green exemplar in the city, with the move nicely timed to coincide with Ljubljana’s year as the European Green Capital of 2016.

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One of the hotel's electric cars

Since then, the hotel has become known for its environmental efforts, as seen in more public activities like its electric cars and rooftop beehives, as well as its work in the local community to promote sustainable lifestyles and business practices, while also raising the standards of its services and satisfying guests who are more interested in the hospitality side of things than saving the planet when on vacation.

I sat down with Enej Vitrih, the Marketing Manager, to hear about the story so far and the latest developments at the hotel.

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A man happy in his work. Photo: JL Flanner

What’s new for 2018?

Well, for this year the most visible change is we redid the restaurant, lobby and conference room. It’s all recycled, from old pallets, but behind the scenes we just found out yesterday that Travelife renewed our certificate for another two years.

What’s that?

Travelife’s a UK organisation, with EU support, and they work to help make the travel and tourism industry greener and more sustainable. They have set of criteria, and if you meet these you can get their certificate. We got it first in 2015, but then every two years they check again. This time they checked 163 criteria in the hotel, 30 more than before, and it’s a really hard certificate to get. [A PDF of the full checklist is here.]

At first I think the management didn’t know what they were getting into, and when Travelife came here we needed to make some investments in the water delivery system, the electricity. But this time the biggest focus was on the community and the employees. So this is the next stage for us, as you always need to improve.

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Working on the roof

What changes are you making?

Well, the first time it was just making some investments, spending money on the inside of the hotel. But this time it was more about reaching out to our first customers, the people who work with us, and spreading the philosophy that way. For example, if we work with a farmer who brings us, say, potatoes, then we need to change his mind so as not to use pesticides.

But I’d say the biggest change in the last two years has been with the staff here, their mindset with regard to the whole idea of being a green hotel, and the way they share that story with our guests. Perhaps the most obvious thing, which everyone who stays here would notice, is what we’ve done with cleaning.

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And what’s that?

It’s default no cleaning. Usually in a hotel you have to ask not to have your room cleaned, but here you ask to have it cleaned. It’s the same idea, but a different way of thinking about it, and hopefully it’s something that people will take away and consider when they stay in another place.

What else is new?

Something that’s very new, it doesn’t actually start until April 1, is a package called “Go‘n’Act Green”. With this you can use an app and see the carbon footprint of your trip. It’s an all-inclusive deal, so you get breakfast, lunch and dinner, plus trips and activities. It’s a three-night package, including using an electric car to go to Bled, and if you can’t drive or don’t have your papers then we organise a driver for you. The idea is that you travel with the lowest carbon emissions as possible, so, for example, you can get a discount if you come here by train. We also have a deal with Avant Car, where you can rent an electric car, a Tesla, or get one with a driver for the airport. It’s a way of getting people to try something new, and maybe change how they travel in future.

What’s been the reaction from guests?

The hotel is huge, 205 rooms, and we don’t expect to change everyone’s mind, or for everyone to come because we’re green, so the most important thing in all this is we don’t disturb people’s stay.

Before we started doing this Hotel Park was known as a budget hotel, and we even had two floors for a hostel. So it was really aimed at people just looking for a cheap place to stay, a bed for 15 euros. Then everything changed. We renewed the rooms, there were more amenities, breakfast was better, and we raised the prices.

We lost some really low-budget customers, but we also gained a lot of fans, which was a surprise. Now it’s the third year, and it’s really paid off. The structure of the guests has changed. We’re a three-star hotel, and we’re green, of course, but we try our best to not to seem like we’re greenwashing.

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Fresh, healthy and locally-sourced food

Is that a problem?

Sure, anyone can get certificate from someone, you just pay two thousand euros and you get something to hang on the wall. But we did it the real way, with a lot more work. We’re now the only place in Ljubljana with the Travelife certificate. Hostel Celica in Metelkova had it, but now they’re closed. Seven other hotels actually applied for the Travelife certification, then when they found out what they had to do they didn’t go through with it, because it’s a big process.

But with us we decided to go all in, all or nothing.

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A conference room

Do you get any government support?

No, not really. We have some for the Go’n’Act Green package, but in general the government doesn’t have a pro-business attitude here. At first we needed to convince the city about what were doing, but then of course Ljubljana was the Green Capital in 2016, and they started sending us visitors and tours, especially to see the beehives.

Beehives?

We have four beehives up on the roof, and so we get about 60 kg of honey a year, and that’s another way to connect with guests. The view is amazing, too. We also connected with schools, and they come here and see the bees. We tell them how important they are, because they pollinate everything. You can’t have pizza without bees, for example. And we also try and change their minds about plastic bags, carbon emissions, and so on.

 

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The hardest working members of the team

And this part of your work reaching out beyond the hotel and its guests?

Yes, and the local community is very important for us, because people often don’t like hotels, as they can cause problems for those living nearby.

But we invite people to come and visit, have a coffee, look around. It doesn’t translate directly into better business, but it’s a feeling that helps. So, for example, if they see a Hotel Park bus parking in front of their home they won’t feel so bad about it. Now we even have people coming to see us and asking for advice, how they can be more ecological, or what they can do to help bees, because other people want to have hives too.

It’s a lot of work, but it pays off.

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A space for locals to chill out and organise events

So what are you working on now?

The next big thing is launching the Go’n’Act Green package in April, and then there’ll be something for Earth Day, April 22. Last year we had Siddharta playing an acoustic concert on the roof. Which was a big thing, because we had to move the bees, and you can’t just move them into a hotel room or put them in the basement. No, you have to move them at least 3 km away, otherwise they just fly straight home.

At the time we only two hives, so we moved those and picked up two more when we brought them back, but this year we don’t want to disturb them. So we won’t have a concert, but there’ll be something. It’ll be chilled and open to the local community, and probably on the roof, so you get a good view.

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How far can you take this green thing without hurting business?

We have to make compromises, it’s true. For example, for breakfast we have milk and other dairy products, and so people tell us about the impact that cows have on the environment. And yes, we know that, but if we remove all the milk and salami then we’d lose 200 guests a day. That’s why we have to change the mindset.

And things like breakfast are very important, a must-have part of the business. This year we’ll be offering the standard American breakfast, but also something more Slovene, and we’re planning on having an Indian breakfast for the Indian food week, because that makes sense in terms of the ingredients and so on. We have a chef from India, not just a cook, and that’s why we offer an Indian menu, from Monday to Saturday, and 3 o’clock on.

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And how’s business been with the changes?

The last three years have been very good, and some of that is of course the general growth Ljubljana’s seen, with a lot more tourists every year. But we also have a story to tell, and we’re not just a hotel in the city. When we go to trade shows and so on we have something interesting and memorable to say, and that helps. We’re something more than the usual hotel.

 You can learn more about Hotel Park’s environmental work, or make a reservation, at the related website.

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Slovenia Traffic Info

  • The first significant increase in foreign vehicles driving on Slovenian roads before the main summer tourist season is during the Easter holidays.

    We are therefore expecting increased traffic at the end of this week from Austria and Italy in the direction of the border crossings with Croatia and from Italy to Hungary.

    Holidays in certain parts of Europe start on Thursday, 29 March; therefore, we may expect increased traffic from Austria in the direction of Croatia. On Thursday, we also expect heavy freight traffic and long waiting lines at the border crossings with Croatia.
     

    Roads will be heavily burdened on Friday, 30 March. Heavy congestions can be expected on the Lower Carniola motorway at Dobruška vas due to construction works.
     

    Due to the end of the holidays in most European countries, traffic will be significantly increased in the opposite direction on Monday, 2 April, and Tuesday, 3 April. 


    The electronic tolling system is being implemented on 1 April and short road closures are to be expected during the night.

    When and where there will be the most traffic based on data from previous years: info.


    You can view the travel times on certain sections live on the website of the Traffic Information Centre at www.promet.si.

    Limitations for freight traffic

    Please note that limitations for freight traffic in Slovenia also apply on Easter Friday and later on Sunday and Monday. There will be no limitations in Slovenia on Saturday.

    You can view limitations in Slovenia and in neighbouring countries here.

    Expected construction works and road closures


    A2, Ljubljana - Obrežje

    A full road closure is expected in the Dobruška vas - Drnovo section until 21 May, which will be carried out in five stages. Traffic shall run on the other half of the motorway in both directions. Due to the full closure of the section, the Smednik junction will host temporary passage. Due to the closure of junction sections A and B at the Smednik junction (the expected start of the construction works is at the beginning of April), a detour will run on state-owned roads. The Zaloke jug rest area will be closed for the duration of the closure.

    A2, Ljubljana - Karavanke

    From Monday, 16 April to Thursday, 19 April from 8am to 4pm there will be maintenance works in the Karavanke tunnel.
    Traffic will run at intervals with waiting times at each end of the tunnel of up to 30 minutes. The maximum transport width is 3.5m.   à

    A1. Ljubljana - Koper, H4, Vipavska dolina

    As part of adjusting the toll booths for the DarsGo system, there will be a full half hour closure of the Divača - Kozina section on Monday, 2 April between 12am and 1am due to the removal of the signalisation at the CP Videž gantry. There will be a short closure of the Gabrk - Sežana vzhod section on Tuesday, 3 April between 4am and 6am due to the removal of the signalisation at the CP Dane gantry. Traffic will also occasionally be hindered outside the listed dates.

    Within the next phase of a more extensive renovation of the Vipava expressway, the worn roads in certain sections of the Vipava-Ajdovščina and Ajdovščina-Selo expressway in the total length of 7.7km will be renewed in each direction. The contractor will begin the renovation works as soon as the weather allows for it or after the end of the winter service on the motorways and expressways at the latest, most probably in the last third of March.

    A1 Maribor - Ljubljana, A5 Maribor - Lendava

    On the night of 1 April, traffic will be hindered at toll booths on the A1 at CP Vransko, CP Kompolje and CP Pesnica, on the A5 at CP Dragotinci, and on the A4 at CP Prepolje due to the implementation of the new traffic signalisation. CP Vransko will also have a half hour full closure in both directions at around midnight.

    Due to road patching works, traffic will be hindered at CP Vransko on Saturday, 31 March. 

    From Tuesday, 3 April to Saturday, 7 April, road patching works will commence on the A5 motorway at Vučja vas, Murska Sobota.
    On Saturday, 7 April, lines will be painted for the toll booths on the Styria motorway, while road patching works at CP Tepanje will commence on Sunday, 8 April.

    Prevention

    We are already seeing bikers on our roads and numerous national prevention initiatives to increase the safety of bikers are already taking place. The purpose of the initiatives is to make bikers aware of the importance of preparing appropriately at the start of the biker season, of wearing protective gear, of unexpected situations on the roads and of other participants in road traffic. More can be found at the link bikers.

    Speed as a risk factor remains one of the main reasons for traffic accidents and is an important contributor to the severity of consequences and the number of people severely or mortally injured in these accidents. Therefore we urge you to be attentive and to adjust your speed to the conditions on the road!

    Traffic information

    We suggest that you check the status of the roads using:
    - the website www.promet.si,
    - the PIC operator by dialling 1970 (the number is not free of charge) or the responder 080 22 44 (free of charge),
    - the mobile application DarsPromet+,
    - the social media (Twitter @promet_si and www.facebook.com/Vozimo.pametno),
    - the traffic information on radio stations.

    The Traffic Information Centre for Public Roadswishes you a pleasant and prudent drive.

     

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