News

21 Dec 2018, 17:15 PM

If you're looking for a massage in Ljubljana and would like the service in your home, office or hotel, the a new mobile app and website could be just the thing to help you relax as you order you treatment. Sense Mobile Massage (Sense mobilna masaža) is the latest project from Andreja Medvedic, whose varied career has taken her from a young architect associated with NSK in the late 80s (and as seen in Laibach’s video for Sympathy for the Devil), to running the Vision Factory  advertising agency with Iztok Abersek during the industry’s boom years post-Slovene independence, to her latest venture, an app that puts tired, stressed or comfort-loving customers in touch with top quality massage therapists who can come to their hotel, office or home, letting people enjoy spa treatments wherever they are in Ljubljana.

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The business is a new one, but has a solid foundation, as Medvedic has been running the Sense Wellness brand for over ten years. It started in 2004 with a spa in the basement of Austria Trend, and it’s here that her background in architecture and interior design can be seen to great effect. Yes, the wellness centre is underground, but it turns out this is ideal for giving the feeling of stepping into another world, with the high ceilings, jacuzzi, giant beds and so on creating a womb-like sense of comfort that’s hard to leave, and over the last 14 years many thousands of visitors and residents have come here to enjoy a sauna, treatment and massage in Ljubljana.

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Still, a basement lacks a view, and so the next step for Sense Wellness was to look for a second location above ground. This was found in 2016 with the penthouse of Ljubljana’s fanciest old hotel, the Grand Hotel Union. Here you can enjoy a full range of spa treatments, including massages and saunas, as well as a swimming with a terrace that offers a fantastic view of the city, looking over the old town and up at the Castle.

Related: Meet the People - Blaž Sok, concierge at the Grand Hotel Union

A varied range of massages in Ljubljana from a company you can trust

With a growing number of people coming to Ljubljana for business and pleasure both wellness centres have kept busy catering to the needs of visitors and locals who want to relax and feel pampered with a gentle Asian treatment, or get their muscles worked on with a deeper sports massage.

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Andreja Medvedic at work

“But unless you’re staying in Austria Trend or the Grand Union you still have travel to one the centres,” Medvedic says when we meet for a coffee. “You get all relaxed, maybe stay longer and chill out, but then you still need to get dressed and drive home. This isn’t ideal. So I had the idea of a mobile wellness centre, where we’d send a therapist to your location, and after the treatment you can really relax, maybe even fall asleep.”

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And thus was born the idea for the Sense Wellness Mobile Massage App, developed in cooperation with a UK-based firm that specialises in such technology and makes it easy to use for an international audience. The soft-launch was a month ago, and the system is running smoothly and already serving customers at home, in hotels and at work. People simply use the app or website to choose a therapist, treatment, time and place, with a massage bed or chair, along with any oils or lotions needed, being brought to the set location. Customers can then relax in confidence that they’re working with an organisation that has both a long history and associations with two of the best hotels in town, with professional, certified masseuses and masseurs who know the services they offer and take pride in their work. (As a side note, and to clear up any confusion, both the app and centres offer only therapeutic massages, and any attempt to lead an appointment in a sexual direction will result in its immediate termination. The company respects and values both its customers and staff, with professionalism the key word at all times.)

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Related: Drop-in yoga classes in Ljubljana for tourists, visitors and the uncommitted

In the interests of research I recently had a Royal Thai Massage to learn more than I ever could by reading about the service, albeit at the Grand Union Hotel’s Sense Wellness Centre rather than at home or in the office. It was, as advertised, a long and relaxing experience that saw my cares and concerns melt away along with any tension in my muscles, and after the first few minutes or so of thinking about what was happening I surrendered to the skilled fingers, knuckles and elbows of my masseuse and thought nothing, felt nothing, just a gentle pleasure that left my body feeling renewed, refreshed and reinvigorated..

The one thing that could have improved things? If I didn’t have to get dressed and leave, so the next time perhaps I’ll be making a booking at home, which also happens to be my office.

If you’d like to learn more about the range of treatments on offer by Sense Wellness, then you can visit the website for more details on all their services in the Grand Union Hotel and Austria Trend, or the website for the mobile massage service, download the related app for Android or Apple. And for a limited time there’s a 20% discount with the code MEGA20SENSE – that’s “two zero”, while referring another customer to the service will also get you a discount.

21 Dec 2018, 17:00 PM

STA, 21 December 2018 - The opposition parties the Democrats (SDS) and the National Party (SNS) launched an impeachment motion against Prime Minister Marjan Šarec on Friday. The parties decided for the move after the SDS's latest attempt to secure more funds for private schools failed in parliament yesterday.

MPs defeated in a 44 to 31 vote yesterday legislative amendment designed to implement full government funding of publicly-approved curricula at private primary schools as mandated by the Constitutional Court in 2014 in what was the fifth time that the party attempted to get the motion through.

The Constitutional Court ruled in December 2014 that the current 85% state financing of publicly-approved curricula at private schools was not in compliance with the Constitution.

The issue is an ideological one considering that two primaries in the country are operated by the Catholic Church. The previous government sought to enact the ruling, but the legislative process was stalled by the Social Democrat-led initiative to amend the Constitution, which eventually failed.

Šarec's government opposes the SDS-sponsored legislative changes, arguing that they tackle the issue of financing of private schools only partially.

This was repeated by Education Minister Jernej Pikalo in parliament yesterday. He announced a comprehensive solution would be sought at the beginning of next year and definitely before the start of the next school year.

The SDS, New Slovenia (NSi) and the SNS deputy groups were considering impeaching Šarec over the government's failure to implement the 2014 Constitutional Court ruling already at the beginning of the month, but decided to wait for the parliamentary session.

The SDS announced the move yesterday and the NSi was also to join the campaign but eventually opted out.

The party explained its decision on Twitter. "After Minister Jernej Pikalo announced the Constitutional Court's decision will be implemented by the beginning of next school year, the impeachment motion no longer enjoys the support of the necessary 46 MPs."

Noting that impeachment was a "strong tool of the opposition", the NSi said that if it were to stay this way it should only be used on sufficient support.

The initiators of the motion claim that Šarec as prime minister insists on discriminating children who attend the obligatory primary school programme at private schools. Thus, inequality is being created and the Constitution violated, the SDS and SNS claim.

The two parties are accusing the prime minister of failure to act, which caused "irreparable damage and the loss of trust in the institutions of the rule of law and welfare state."

They also claim Šarec is guilty of negligence at work, violation of several articles of the Constitution and the government act.

During yesterday's debate on the school funding, MPs of the coalition pointed to the different interpretations of the Constitutional Court's decision and labelled the impeachment motion a "populist gesture".

This is the fourth impeachment motion against a prime minister in Slovenia's history. In order for the Constitutional Court to decide on the motion, it would need to be backed by 46 of the 90 MPs, which seems very unlikely.

So far, all impeachment motions have been filed by the SDS and none of them even made it to the Constitutional Court.

21 Dec 2018, 15:00 PM

STA, 21 December 2018 - Prices of residential properties in Slovenia kept rising in the third quarter of the year but transactions were few and prices of newly built homes fell, data from the Statistics Office show.

Prices of all residential properties in the third quarter increased by 1.9% on the quarter before and by 15.1% year-on-year.

Prices of newly built homes fell by 15.8% over the previous quarter and only 63 newly built residential properties were sold in the third quarter.

Prices of new flats dropped by as much as 19% quarter-on-quarter and prices of new family houses decreased by 1.5%.

However, year-on-year, prices of newly built flats were up 10.1% and prices of newly built family houses were 9.4% higher.

With 1,951 existing residential properties sold in the third quarter, prices of existing homes increased by 4.1% over the previous quarter.

Prices of existing flats in Ljubljana decreased by 1.8% in the third quarter, but were still 8.9% higher year-on-year.

Prices of existing flats in the rest of the country went up by 1.9% quarter-on-quarter, rising by 10.6% year-on-year.

Prices of existing family houses rose by 11.4% from the quarter before and by as much as 26.3% year-on-year.

All out stories on the real estate market in Slovenia are here, while our “properties of the week” are here

 A report by the Surveying and Mapping Authority, also issued today, showed that the number and value of real estate transactions in the first half of the year fell from record figures in 2017 but were still high.

The prices were still below the record levels of 2008, but inched very close after strong growth in the past year.

Around 17,500 real estate transactions were recorded between January and June, up from 17,400 in the second half of 2017 but down from 19,300 in the first half of 2017.

The combined value of real estate transactions in the first half of the year was EUR 1.16bn, up from EUR 1.19bn in the second half of 2017 but down from the record EUR 1.21bn in H1 2017.

Two-thirds of the transactions involved residential properties, flats (38%) and houses (26.5%). Commercial and industrial real estate represented 15% and building plots 10%.

Transactions in farmland and forests accounted for 3% of all transactions, while other types of real estate represented 7%.

Average price of a second-hand flats in the first half of this year was 6% up from the previous six months and 11% higher from the first half of 2017.

Compared to 2015 when prices bottomed out, apartment prices were up by 22%, while average prices were still 4% bellow all time highs of 2008. Prices of houses were 10% below the peak.

High demand has been driving up prices of residential properties in Ljubljana and on the coast with the average price of existing flats in Ljubljana rising above 2008 levels to EUR 2,770 per square metre.

High prices in the capital city, which accounts for one out of four apartments sold in the country, also drove up average prices of second-hand apartments in Slovenia, which rose to EUR 1,750 per square metre.

Trading in commercial properties has begun to stagnate and prices have been stagnating for the past three years.

Most transactions involved office space, with existing office space transactions accounting for two-thirds of all transactions in commercial properties.

Trading in building land has stabilised but prices are up. Most of the plots were bought for family houses. More than 20% of the plots were sold in Ljubljana and its surroundings.

More data on this topic can be seen at SURS

21 Dec 2018, 13:20 PM

STA, 21 December 2018 - Fraport Slovenija, the operator of the country's biggest airport, will log a record number of passengers this year, managing director Zmago Skobir told the STA in an interview.

When German airport operator Fraport acquired the state-owned Aerodrom Ljubljana in 2015, it promised to invest in infrastructure, development and jobs, and it has been delivering on its promise ever since, Skobir said.

"Ever since Fraport's arrival, the company's development and operations have skyrocketed. In 2014, we recorded 1.34 million passengers and EUR 32m in operating revenue. By the end of this year, we will have served 1.82 million passengers."

The number of passengers travelling through the Ljubljana Jože Pučnik Airport increased by 8.5% compared to 2017, but the increase was even higher in the previous two years, said Skobir.

Moreover, the number of employees went from 400 at the time of the takeover to 482 at the moment. The company also additionally hires temps when the need occurs, he said.

Fast growth also brings a variety of challenges, with Skobir saying that the company faced lack of staff, which was also overburdened.

Related: How to get to and from Ljubljana airport

"But we are aware that people are the key element in the services sector. A beautiful new terminal means nothing if the staff is unkind and unprofessional."

"We invest a lot to make our staff happy. This year, we will set up a pay system, also raising salaries by 15%. We are also looking for new staff. We are an attractive employer but the training takes a while and we aim to keep the staff, we want them to feel good here."

When asked about the reasons for strong growth, Skobir said that there were several, the main one being Slovenia becoming an increasingly popular destination.

Moreover, the airport has sufficient infrastructure to handle the increase in traffic and can respond with a good quality service at a competitive price. This is important because it is competing for travellers and airlines with six other airports nearby.

Adria Airways has made a considerable contribution to this because it is trying to restructure its flight network since it got a new owner, according to Skobir. He also expressed satisfaction that the airline has been doing well after ten years of struggles.

"But we'll see what will happen in the future. So far, cooperation has been exemplary and we expect the planned recapitalisation and other plans to go well."

"But it would not be the end of the world for the airport and Slovenia's connectivity in case of a different scenario."

When asked about the trends in aviation and expectations for the Ljubljana airport, Skobir said the airport will likely follow the upward trends expected throughout the industry. However, the strong growth will taper off and become more stable.

When asked whether the company was prepared to face the next economic crisis, which is expectedly around the corner, Skobir said the key was to invest in infrastructure, equipment, organisation and employees when the going is good.

"Fortunately, we have a strategic owner who operates more than 30 airports and understands investment cycles. All of the profits and accumulated assets... go into infrastructure, ensuring stable and steady returns over a longer period."

The airport operator is currently getting ready to start construct a new terminal. If everything goes according to plan, construction will start in the spring and be completed by the end of 2020, about half a year before Slovenia will assume the EU presidency in the second half of the EU.

Skobir is moreover happy with the development of the airport city, saying that a lot had happened in the past two years, since the local authorities gave the go-ahead to develop some of the land near the airport. He expects the airport city to be completed in the next three to five years.

21 Dec 2018, 12:00 PM

STA, 20 December 2018 - The National Assembly formed on Thursday a parliamentary inquiry into financing of political parties from abroad on an initiative from the coalition and the opposition Left. It will focus on the allegedly suspicious financing of the centre-right opposition Democrats (SDS), which believes it is an attempt to hamper its work.

The commission is to determine possible violations of the law prohibiting financing of parties from abroad and the role of the media in the financing.

The parties based their request on a report by the Court of Audit with the SDS, the only implicated party for the moment, but Jani Möderndorfer of the Modern Centre Party (SMC), who is to be appointed commission chair at its next session, said that the inquiry could be expanded if there were indications of other parties' questionable actions.

According to Möderndorfer, there was controversy about the financial support that companies with alleged ties to Hungarian ruling parties provide to some Slovenian media and its effect on the election campaign.

Möderndorfer mentioned the media house Nova24TV, magazine Škandal24 and the weekly Demokracija, whose ownership is linked to the SDS and Hungarian investors.

Related: New York Times examines Orban’s media allies in Slovenia

The commission will focus on the events between 2012 and 3 June 2017. The provisions on the financing of political parties stepped into force in 2012.

Robert Pavšič of the Marjan Šarec List (MLŠ) said on behalf of the initiators that the potential result of the inquiry could be thorough changes of legislation regulating money laundering prevention, financing of parties and election campaign and issuing and financing of media during election campaign.

Möderndorfer said that the inquiry had been endorsed because the issue had been dealt with already in the previous term and that the findings of the inquiry on suspected money laundering in the NKBM bank would also be included in the investigation.

He said that the SMC would propose at the first session of the commission that the Court of Audit be called to inform the MPs whether any party other than the SDS had "problems with financing".

Marko Koprivc of the Social Democrats (SD) said that it should be established what was wrong with the system which allows for suspicious financing of parties.

Koprivc added that the loan given to the SDS by Bosnian citizen Dijana Đuđić, who appears to have used NKBM accounts to extend millions in suspicions loans in Slovenia, and the suspicious manner of financing of the media owned by the SDS should be finally investigated.

Related: Politico on Janša and Orban

Franc Jurša of the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) said that the inquiry could indirectly help strengthen the system of prevention of money laundering, financing of terrorism and tax evasion.

Nataša Sukić said that the law and supervision of transparency and lawfulness of financing of parties and election campaigns cannot keep up with the increasingly innovative and complicated financial flows, with the SDS being a leader in this department.

"The funds being transferred between foreign countries and the party are increasing. We are talking about a propaganda machine financed from Orban's Hungary, about money laundering suspicion, illegal transactions and interference in Slovenia's internal matters."

The SDS meanwhile believes that it is about the left-leaning coalition attacking the SDS. "It is more than obvious that the purpose of the inquiry is to get insight in the guts of the SDS, discredit it maliciously, try to paralyse it and hamper its work," deputy Dejan Kaloh said.

Kaloh added that the subject of the inquiry should be expanded with the question of how much foreign capital was involved in the promotion of the five coalition parties and the Left and "what share of the commission the leading officials in the LMŠ received from the EUR 1bn laundered for Iranian terrorists through the state-owned NLB bank."

21 Dec 2018, 10:20 AM

STA, 20 December - The construction of a northern expressway connecting the northern Koroška region to Slovenia's main motorway network and Austria's Carinthia is facing new delays, according to the latest timeline presented by the motorway company DARS on Wednesday.

Under the latest plans, an expressway between Velenje and Slovenj Gradec is to be built by 2026, which is a three-year delay compared to a protocol on the construction of the northern part of the Third Development Axis, signed by former Infrastructure Minister Peter Gašperšič last year.

In line with the protocol, work on the Velenje-Slovenj Gradec segment of the northern part of the major infrastructure project, whose goal is to connect to the national motorway network parts of the country without good links to motorways, was to start by the end of next year, but DARS's latest plans delay that by a year.

The segment connecting Slovenj Gradec to the Austrian border at Holmec was to be zoned by June 2020 but has now been delayed by another two years and a half, while the future of the segment connecting Velenje to the motorway remains unclear due to a constitutional review of the project.

"Such delays are unacceptable to us," said Aljaž Verhovnik, a member of a board overseeing the Third Development Axis project. He said that the board had rejected the new timeline.

"Apparently somebody has been misleading the public and the 100,000 people who depend on the project," he said and added that DARS was tasked with coming up with an acceptable timeline by 10 January. Otherwise, he and his initiative could call for civil disobedience.

Infrastructure Ministry State Secretary Nina Mauhler said that the ministry had tasked DARS with drafting "a new, more realistic" timeline by mid-January, because "we can hardly accept arguments for a three-year delay".

The delay has also been criticised by Infrastructure Minister Alenka Bratušek, who said that Gašperšič had signed the protocol, which "sadly appears not to have been harmonised with the investor, DARS".

On the other hand, Gašperšič told the STA that the protocol had been harmonised with DARS, which however did not want to sign it, and that he was shocked to hear of the delays. "I believe the deadlines agreed in the protocol were realistic although approximate."

"But I certainly cannot imagine that a three-year delay could occur. It is the task of the ministry to carefully examine what has changed to allow such changes in deadlines," he added.

Similarly, the chair of the Third Development Axis board, Prevalje Mayor Matic Tasič, said that while DARS did not sign the protocol, it was the entity that "prepares proposals for the ministry".

However, DARS pointed out for the STA that it had not signed the protocol and that the deadlines set down in the document were unrealistic.

"Preparations for the construction and the construction itself is far more demanding than it had been imagined by non-experts at first. We have informed the ministry about it, which is why we did not want to sign the protocol," the company said.

It also said that the EUR 800m Šentrupert-Slovenj Gradec segment was treated as a whole. If the Constitutional Court decides on the Šentrupert-Velenje part in the first quarter of next year, the entire segment could be finished in 2026, it added.

In the meantime, activities for the construction of the Velenje-Slovenj Gradec part are under way and DARS said it was trying to follow the timeline from the protocol as much as possible. According to DARS, the 17.5km segment between Velenje and Slovenj Gradec is highly complex and includes the construction of several tunnels and 16 viaducts.

21 Dec 2018, 08:43 AM

Below is a review of today’s news in Slovenia, summarised by the headlines in the daily newspapers for Friday, December 21, 2018, as prepared by the STA:

DELO

Holidays
"Spending time with someone is the best gift": The paper runs a feature about shopping habits of Slovenians in December. Last year, retail in the last month of the year exceeded that in other months by 14%. (front page, 3)

Russia
"Fragile nuclear balance": Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke about his views on Russia and the world to around 1,700 reporters at his annual press conference. According to him, the world could again come to the brink of a nuclear war. (front page, 6)

Public sector
"Wages in public sector discouraging": There are 1,873 public sector entities in Slovenia and they all have directors, but their wages do not reflect the scope of business or the number of employees at their institution. The head of Slovenia's largest hospital UKC Ljubljana last year earned EUR 450 gross more than for instance the head of the Ljubljana Zoo operator. (front page, 2)

DNEVNIK

Public finance
"Most funds for social affairs and education": The budget framework for 2019 envisages higher funds for all ministries but the Finance Ministry, which will receive 5% less than this year. The biggest piece of the pie will go to the education and labour ministries. (front page, 2, 3)

Third Development Axis
"Who lied to people of Koroška?": The Third Development Axis, a planned expressway that would connect the northern Koroška region to the national motorway network, has been delayed again, but people from the region have had enough after nearly two decades of delays. (front page, 10)

FINANCE

Real estate
"New construction: At least 1,500 new flats to hit the Ljubljana market": The paper runs an overview of housing developments in Ljubljana that will be completed within a year or two. (front page, 2, 3)

Company takeover
"Banana baron Rastoder moving into waste management - Gorenje sells Surovina after all": A company controlled by Izet Rastoder, the owner of Slovenia's biggest tropical fruit importer, has bought Gorenje Surovina, the waste processing subsidiary of household appliances maker Gorenje. (front page, 8, 9)

Exports
"Will Radgonske Gorice hit record high sales of golden and silver sparkling wine? It will, with Chinese help": Winemaker Radgonske Gorice, the biggest producer of sparkling wine in Slovenia, will increase the sale of bubbly by 5% this year to 1.8 million litres, mostly on account of higher sales in China. (front page, 7)

VEČER

Healthcare
"Paediatricians concerned, children suffering": Paediatricians at the primary care level are overworked, they have to examine at least 40 children a day, the paediatrics section at the Slovenian Doctors' Association says in an open letter. (front page, 3)

Maribor
"Skating rink in white": The skating rink in the centre of Maribor has finally opened after several complications. (front page, 11)

Maribor
"New mayor sworn in": The new mayor of Maribor, Saša Aresnovič was sworn in at the maiden session of the Maribor City Council. There was a complication with the swearing in of Arsenovič's councillors, but it was quickly resolved. (front page, 9)

20 Dec 2018, 13:46 PM

December 20, 2018

In 1861 the painter Ivana Kobilica, one of the most famous Slovenian artists of all time, was born in Ljubljana.

Ivana Kobilica managed to achieve what her male colleagues only dreamt of: she had several exhibitions at the prestigious Paris Salon and became an associate member of the French National Association of Fine Arts. She lived and worked in many of the European capitals, including Vienna, Munich, Paris, Sarajevo, and Berlin, but returned to Ljubljana at the beginning of the WWI.

After the so-called Munich period during which brownish colours prevailed in her paintings, purple, blue and green took over during her Paris period, which were joined by white during her Berlin phase. Her opus is characterised by depictions of family members and children, portraits of bourgeoisie of Ljubljana and, above all, flowers.

Many of her most iconic paintings are part of the permanent exhibition of Slovenian National Gallery.

Ivana Kobilica was also the only woman depicted on a 5,000 Slovenian Tolar bill before Slovenia switched to the euro.

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Ivana Kobilica: Kofetarica (Coffee drinker), oil on canvas; 100 x 70cm
 
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Ivana Kobilica: Summer (Poletje), Oil on canvas, 180 x 140cm
 
 
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20 Dec 2018, 18:00 PM

STA, 20 December 2018 - Ljubljana Stock Exchange has had a diverse year as several companies, including household appliances maker Gorenje, were delisted. On the other hand, Slovenia's largest bank NLB went public in November. The overall trend has been somewhat bullish, as the SBI TOP index added 3.52% by the end of November.

The delisting of Gorenje, the blue chip that was acquired by Chinese Hisense earlier this year, as well as those of companies Mlinotest, Sivent, Zdravilišče Rogaška and Tovarna Olja Gea, was decried as bad news for the Slovenian capital market due to limited choice.

"We want more listings with every passing year, not fewer. It is key for the further development of the Slovenian capital market," said Aleš Ipavec, the chairman of the stock market operator LJSE.

"Development should be in the interest of all business and political stakeholders, because a developed capital market addresses many issues, including those in public finances and social affairs. These are indisputable facts in a modern market economy," he added.

Nevertheless, "trading at the Ljubljana Stock Exchange can be assessed as successful, and November IPO of NLB has certainly livened up the atmosphere".

Related: Slovenian blue chips – the most liquid shares on Ljubljana Stock Market

The inclusion of NLB shares in the SBI TOP blue chip on 12 December will certainly "contribute to further growth in trading and to the interest in the stock of Slovenian public companies," Ipavec added.

NLB shares were listed on the stock market on 14 November, with turnover nearly hitting EUR 3m on the first day, but it has slowed down since. The share, which was privatised through the initial public offering (IPO) at EUR 51.50 per share, has traded at between EUR 53.10 and EUR 59.90 between 14 November and 12 December.

Looking at the price range, Urban Belič, a board member at brokerage Ilirika, said that a realistic price of the share "will depend on the bank's performance and the situation on financial markets".

Overall, Belič says that trends on the stock market can be divided into two periods this year. "At first we witnessed optimism of stock market players and gradual growth in share prices and turnover at the Ljubljana Stock Exchange.

"Then, after contentious statements by the Left and a deterioration on foreign stock markets we witnessed a decline in share prices and a significant drop in turnover," he said in reference to the Left's wishes to include capital and rent gains in personal income tax calculations.

"Recently, turnover has significantly dropped and has been below figures from previous years. Above all, we see a decline in major domestic and foreign institutional buyers," he added.

Turnover topped EUR 307.4m by the end of November, which compares to EUR 347.4m in the entire 2017. Market capitalisation of listed companies stood at EUR 6.3bn at the end of November, up from EUR 5.27bn at the end of 2017.

20 Dec 2018, 16:00 PM

Ascent Resources, the UK-based firm involved in a four-year and sometimes heated dispute over permits for a fracking and gas-processing plant in Petišovci, Prekmurje, is about to raise the stakes with the threat of legal action against the Slovenian government. One recent issue in the case was a number of abusive emails that were sent by people claiming to be Ascent Resources investors to ARSO and the Environment Minister, a matter that is now receiving police attention in Slovenia.

Related: Slovenia’s environment vs foreign capital, corrupt officials and internet trolls

Speaking to London South East, CEO Colin Hutchinson said that while Slovenia remained a high risk environment for foreign investors he was hopeful that the two permits needed for the project to go ahead would eventually be granted by the Slovenian Environment Agency (Agencija Republike Slovenije za okolje, ARSO).

You can see London South East’s interview with Mr Hutchinson below in which he discusses the emails, fracking, the possible legal action the firm may take, and his hopes for the future

Related: Investors claim fracking in Prekmurje would benefit Slovenian gas consumers

20 Dec 2018, 14:20 PM

STA, 19 December 2018 - Slovenia's tourism industry has had another record year, with tourist nights expected to top 15.2 million by the end of 2018, up from last year's 12.6 million. Still, some challenges remain to be addressed, including the shortage of staff and low pay as well as the consolidation of state-owned tourism companies.

 

Slovenia now a trendy destination

Slovenia has regularly made it to various lists of destinations worth exploring which are compiled by specialist media abroad, and the country's promotional campaigns have regularly won awards at major international tourism events.

"Slovenia is not only a recognisable destination, it is now a trendy destination," is how Slovenian Tourist Board (STO) director Maja Pak has recently summed the country's position in global tourism.

Tourism revenue, a key indicator of tourism performance, is growing, rising by 11.6% to EUR 2.12m in the first nine months of the year.

While the 2017 tourist nights figures were exceeded already in October, Slovenia expects to record over 5.6 million tourist arrivals in 2018, up from 4.95 million last year.

The number of foreign guests is to reach 4.2 million by the end of the year, and they are expected to generate almost 11 million tourist nights, STO data shows.

The growth is thus considerably more robust that in the EU or in the world.

Hotels in the black, differences in ownership

Following the crisis, hotels are back in the black, yet Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek, whose ministry is in charge of tourism, is not entirely happy yet.

He believes the relatively low value added should be blamed on the fact that as many as 40% of hotels are in state ownership.

He thus insists on their restructuring as envisaged in the 2017-2021 strategy on sustainable development of Slovenian tourism.

Once they are brought under one roof, preferably under Slovenian Sovereign Holding, they should be consolidated to secure a higher value added and then gradually sold.

He believes there is room for no more than two to three major groups in the sector, and is confident the incumbent government will complete the restructuring process.

However, Počivalšek has admitted on several occasions that this will not be easy since not all stakeholders have the same view on the issue.

That even state stakeholders have different interests in the sector has been recently proven by the fact that several different state companies and funds bid for six hotels on the coast which are being sold by Istrabenz Turizem.

To achieve a higher value added, Slovenian tourism also needs to develop new innovative products, which implies investment into infrastructure.

To encourage the investment cycle, the ministry and SID Bank have launched a EUR 160m loan scheme for new accommodation facilities. Počivalšek has said there is much interest.

Higher tourist tax, further legislative changes in the making

By passing changes to the law on encouraging tourism development, the government enabled municipalities to raise tourist fee and introduce a new tax to secure more funds for tourism promotion.

The tourist free was capped at EUR 2.5 per person a night, but is still set by individual municipalities.

The new tax meanwhile amounts to 25% of the tourist fee and will be charged as of 2019 as a a new source of STO funds, bringing it an estimated EUR 4.7m a year.

Many municipalities have opted to raise the tourist fee, with several popular destinations such as Ljubljana, Piran and Bled raising it to the maximum.

The ministry has assessed the measure will annually bring all Slovenian municipalities additional EUR 6.9m.

For 2019, the ministry is planning further legislative changes to relax the rules on the hospitality sector and mountain guides.

New rules will also be introduced governing tourist accommodation facilities which introduce internationally-comparable Hotelstars standards.

Owners of accommodation facilities have until 1 April to adjust to a unified set of criteria to classify accommodation facilities.

New collective bargaining agreement, pay still low

Staff is one of the most burning issues in hospitality and tourism, with employers having a hard time finding quality staff in Slovenia or in the broader region.

This is mainly due to difficult working conditions and low pay.

A new collective bargaining agreement was signed in August, bringing higher wages for workers receiving the lowest pay, a higher annual holiday allowance of EUR 1,000 and changes to overtime work.

Nevertheless, hospitality and tourism trade unions have already announced their plan to push for fresh pay talks.

Feel Slovenia your way

This year was one of the most intensive and successful years for Slovenia in terms of marketing as well. The STO continued with its digital campaign Slovenia - Make New Memories this time on 17 markets, including in the US and Canada for the first time.

Its main promotional slogan "Slovenia - Green. Active. Healthy." will be replaced with "I Feel Slovenia. My Way." in 2019.

However, just like in 2018, culture will remain in the focus of the STO's promotional campaigns, to be replaced by gastronomy in 2020 and 2021.

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