STA, 7 July 2021 - The National Assembly passed on Wednesday an emergency bill worth EUR 243.5 million to help the embattled tourism sector. The short-time work scheme has been extended and new holiday vouchers introduced. The opposition warned that the measures, which are this time aimed at the most affected sectors, came too late and were insufficient.
The stimulus package for tourism and other sectors most affected by the Covid-19 epidemic brings new vouchers for a wide range of services that can be used in accommodation facilities, restaurants, and even bookshops, theatres, for concerts or various sports and other activities.
Adults will receive vouchers worth EUR 100 and those under 18 EUR 50. The total value of the vouchers is EUR 192 million.
Previous vouchers, worth EUR 200 for adults and EUR 50 for those under 18, could only be used for accommodation. They were introduced on 19 June last year, and according to data by the Financial Administration, EUR 146 million has been redeemed so far, some 41% of the total value.
Both the old and the new vouchers can be spent until the end of the year.
The new emergency bill also brings a series of measures to help companies in tourism, convention industry, restaurants, sports and culture.
This includes the EUR 20 million extension of the short-time work scheme for all sectors at least until the end of September with the possibility of extending it until the end of the year.
For tourism, hospitality, the events industry, sports and culture, subsidies for 2021 holiday allowance will also be available.
The legislation also delivers an 80% or 60% cost refund for event organisers from August until the end of the year, waiver of fees for water rights for swimming pools for the first half of this year, and a 25% refund for the cost of production of audiovisual works until the end of the year. Ski lift operators that were not allowed to work for a time during this year's ski season will also get aid to offset part of their shortfall in revenue.
According to Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek, the situation in the economy in general is very good and businesses are expected to recover quickly. But some sectors have been particularly affected, so rather than preparing a ninth stimulus package, the government decided to draw up a special emergency law just for tourism and associated sectors, he told MPs on Tuesday.
Mihael Prevc from the coalition New Slovenia (NSi) said that the latest emergency bill complemented the previously introduced measures which had proved to be effective, and brought new temporary measures for the economy and tourism.
Marko Pogačnik from the ruling Democrats (SDS) pinpointed the extension of subsidies for shorter working hours, state co-funding of holiday allowance for employees in sectors that were hit the hardest, and aid for the convention film and audiovisual industries and for ski lift operators.
Outside the coalition, the National Party (SNS) and Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) expressed support for the bill, while the rest of the opposition was critical. The centre-left opposition mainly regretted the government had not delivered on its promise to pay out one-off aid to businesses which had been banned from working due to government decrees.
"Such direct aid would be the most economical and would give those affected an immediate liquidity boost to restart their business while compensating for what they lost because of the epidemic," said Marko Bandelli from the Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB) on Tuesday.
Economy Ministry State Secretary Simon Zajc agreed yesterday that such payment to the most affected would be necessary, adding that a proposal on this would be drawn up and that the money would come from cohesion funds, however this has not materialised.
Meira Hot from the Social Democrats (SD) said the cultural sector and NGOs should have also received aid.
The fiercest criticism came from Robert Pavšič, an MP for the Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ), who said the government had been carefree and even negligent in drawing up the measures, and Primož Siter from the Left, who said aid was coming much too late.
"You will be distributing new vouchers; this smells like pre-election bribery," said Pavšič. Siter said the Left opposed the bill because it offered aid to the capital not the people.
Some MPs warned that some provisions from the stimulus package were not related to the epidemic such as the extension of validity of ID cards that expired as of 29 March 2020, temporary use of money from the Fund for Waters including for the financing of services of general economic interest, extension of validity of miners' rights, extension of payment deadlines for deregistered vehicles, and Sunday opening of shops at airports.
Regardless of a ban on Sunday shopping, shops at airports may be open on Sundays and holidays until the end of 2022 under the stimulus package. Moreover, shops in tourist information centres and museums will also be permitted to be open on Sundays.
The legislation was endorsed in a 47:8 vote with the coalition, DeSUS, SNS and minority MPs voting in favour of it. The Left was the only party that voted against, whereas the rest of the centre-left opposition abstained.
STA, 6 July 2021 - The Ljubljana Jože Pučnik Airport has seen traffic tick up at the start of the summer tourism season. Scheduled flights to eleven destinations and charter flights to twenty destinations are currently available, with 2,000-2,500 passengers passing through the airport daily.
On Tuesday scheduled flights between Ljubljana and Tivat were formally launched, a three times a week service operated by Montenegro Airlines.
Janez Krašnja, head of airline management at airport operator Fraport Slovenija, said six more destinations would be added in the coming months.
"Barring any fundamental changes in the epidemiological situation, we will have 17 scheduled lines this summer, which is a good achievement for the first year of recovery," he said.
The current daily number of passengers is a significant improvement over the peak of the epidemic, but it represents only a third of the normal daily number before the pandemic.
The airport operator fears what autumn and winter will bring. "Tourism and air traffic are practically the biggest victims of the pandemic, we sincerely hope there will be no fourth wave to sweep away the returning traffic," Krašnja said.
A setback came recently when a new government regulation determined that passengers from all countries on Slovenia's red list, including Egypt, Tunisia, UK and Ireland, had to quarantine on arrival.
Krašnja said such decisions reduced the speed of recovery of the aviation sector and were a big blow for the airport. There have not been many cancellations as yet and with indications that the restriction may be eased, Krašnja hopes it will not have too much of an impact on air traffic.
"We are hoping there are no more obstacles like this and that passengers can enter our country just like they can enter other countries in the region ... The fewer the obstacles, the more demand there will be," he said.
STA, 1 July 2021 - A concert by the Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra, conducted by Valery Gergiev, will kick off the 69th Ljubljana Festival on Thursday. As the Križanke open-air venue is under renovation, Congress Square will be this year's main venue.
This year's festival will feature an array of Slovenian and foreign singers and musicians with the likes of Russian soprano Ana Netrebko, Algerian tenor Jusif Ejvazov, Slovenian soprano Sabina Cvilak, German tenor Jonas Kaufmann, the Vienna Boys' Choir, accordion virtuoso Marko Hatlak and Spanish tenor Placido Domingo taking the stage.
The SNG Maribor theatre ensemble will contribute their version of Puccini's famous opera Madama Butterfly.
Dance lovers will be able to enjoy the Tango Story show by Andreja Podlogar and Blaž Bertoncelj and the Peer Gynt ballet show directed by SNG Maribor's Edward Clug. Even theatre-goers will get their money's worth with the Lolita and Chicago musicals.
The main venue, Congress Square. Photo: Andraž Kobe for Ljubljana Festival
The festival will close on 8 September with a concert by the ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra performing new pieces by the Slovenian composer Vito Žuraj.
The idea behind this year's programme was the same as in the previous years as organizers were counting on certain Covid-19 restrictions to be lifted by summer.
The biggest issue is the musicians mobility, noted the artistic and general director of the Ljubljana Festival, Darko Brlek, explaining that some guest appearances by foreign musicians had to be postponed. He also stressed that last year's festival had been great and one of the few festivals of such calibre to even take pace.
Most of the events will be held in Congress Square, and will move to the Cankarjev Dom art centre and the city's main fairgrounds in case of bad weather. The opening event will be held in Cankarjev Dom in case of bad weather.
STA, 30 June 2021 - A new 290-kilometre circular cycling trail that explores the Julian Alps in north-western Slovenia was inaugurated in Mojstrana on Wednesday. The Juliana Bike trail features seven stages of around 40 kilometres each, and is expected to be further upgraded in the coming years.
The route was inaugurated by representatives of the Kranjska Gora municipality, the Alpine Association of Slovenia and the Julian Alps Community, with a press conference being held before the opening.
Klemen Langus, the coordinator of the Julian Alps Community, which will co-manage and maintain the trail, said that Juliana Bike was created as a continuation of the Juliana Trail.
The Juliana Trail is a 270-kilometre hiking trail circuiting Slovenia's highest peak, Mount Triglav. It was launched in 2018 and it has been declared Best Europe Tourism Project by the British Guild of Travel Writers earlier this year.
The Juliana Trail Presents Some of the Best Views & Hikes in Slovenia
The Juliana Bike cycling trail will pass through Bled, Bohinj, the Soča Valley, Gorje, Jesenice, Kranjska Gora, Radovljica, Žirovnica, Vršič and Pokljuka. The route has seven stages of around 40 kilometres each, with three additional approach stages.
The route mainly follows forest roads and cycling paths, with some parts also passing along main roads. With a cumulative elevation gain of 8,000 metres, the Juliana Bike route requires a good level of fitness from cyclists and good equipment.
Map via julian-alps.com
According to Langus, Juliana Bike was designed as a primary cycling network that will be upgraded in the coming years. A secondary and tertiary network are already being set up, due to be opened next year and in 2023.
The secondary network will link towns along the route, while the tertiary one will run within the towns themselves. This will provide a well-developed and well-maintained network of routes, suitable for cyclists of all abilities, skills and equipment.
Mountain biking or mountain cycling is becoming an increasingly popular activity in the region, added president of the Alpine Association of Slovenia Jože Rovan, who is also the conceptual author of the Slovenian Mountain Bike Route.
The route opened in 2016, covering a large part of the country, passing along all major Slovenian mountain chains, covering around 1,850 km and having an elevation gain of 50 km. The new Juliana Bike route will now also be a part of it.
STA, 29 June 2021 - Air carriers keep returning to Ljubljana airport as, after more than a one-year break due to the Covid-19 pandemic, a Brussels Airlines aircraft touched down at Brnik again on Monday. The flag carrier of Belgium currently operates three flights a week to and from Ljubljana, and the number of flights is expected to increase.
Brussels Airlines thus returns to Ljubljana airport just as Slovenia is to assume the six-month EU presidency.
At first, the largest Belgian airline will be operating flights on Mondays, Fridays and Sundays, and the schedule is due to expand depending on the demand, the airport operator Fraport Slovenija announced on Tuesday.
Fraport Slovenija director Zmago Skobir welcomed the direct link with Brussels, saying that "we are happy that Brussels Airlines has responded to the demand for flights resulting from the Slovenian presidency of the Council of the EU."
Skobir hopes that cabin occupancy in the initial period will be good and that the airline will add extra flights.
To be welcomed in the afternoon for the first time at Brnik is the Air Montenegro carrier, which will for the time being connect Ljubljana and the Montenegrin seaside resort of Tivat twice a week.
In September, the carrier intends to expand the offering with flights to the capital of Podgorica.
Eight other carriers currently operate flights from Ljubljana: Aeroflot to Moscow, Air France to Paris, Air Serbia to Belgrade, LOT Polish Airlines to Warsaw, Lufthansa to Frankfurt, SunExpress to Antalya, Transavia to Amsterdam and Turkish Airlines to Istanbul.
According to Fraport Slovenija, the existing providers are to be joined over the summer by Wizz Air (Brussels-Charleroi), British Airways (London Heathrow) and Easyjet (London Gatwick), Swiss International Airlines (Zürich), Israir (Tel Aviv), Iberia (Madrid) and Flydubai (Dubai).
The company added that the number of charter flights was also expected to increase, with the most attractive destinations being the Greek islands, Antalya, Djerba, Sharm El Sheikh, Hurghada, Barcelona, Madeira and Tenerife.
STA - Slovenia test-introduced the European digital Covid certificate last Thursday, June 24, while the system will be fully up and running this week.
For registered uses with digital identity, the certificate is now available on the zVem portal.
Make Sure You Have a “Digital Identity” to Get Your EU COVID Travel Certificate
Those who have been vaccinated with both jabs, or with one in case of the single-dose vaccines, will receive the certificate to their home address by 30 June.
A few days later, those who have already recovered from Covid-19 and those vaccinated with only one jab will also receive it.
The certificate which some 900,000 persons are to receive to their home addresses will be the same as the one that can be downloaded from zVen and printed.
The certificate has a QR code enabling simple checking of data about vaccination, test results or reconvalescence.
Poklukar said that in the coming days, police will start using special devices to check the certificates on the border.
In July, an app will be available for access to the zVem system so that "one will have one's digital certificate in one's phone", he said.
No later than 1 July, a digital coronavirus certificate could also be obtained at vaccination and testing points around the country.
People will also have an option of having it printed for up to two euros at most of the pharmacies.
Poklukar is happy that all EU member states have managed to introduce the digital certificate, which he believes will enable all citizens to travel more freely.
He stressed, however, that the digital certificate did not yet mean free entry to all EU countries because countries decide on entry rules on their own.
The minister once again called on people to get vaccinated to successfully weather the challenge of the fourth, autumn, wave of the epidemic.
"Let's join forces to get vaccinated. For our common well-being and to the benefit of all. Stay well, Slovenia," he said, as he draw a parallel between the challenges times of the epidemic and the period when Slovenia became independent.
STA, 28 June 2021 - A new summer-long bus route from Velenje to the picturesque Logarska Valley has been established by Velenje, Šoštanj and Šmartno ob Paki municipalities and the spa Terme Topolšica. The bus service will operate in July and August, providing spaces for transporting up to ten bicycles as well.
The “Bicikel bus” service will run twice a day during the weekends. The fare depends on the distance travelled, whereas bicycle transport is free-of-charge. The bus is also available to non-cyclists, said the Velenje Municipality.
Monthly expenses for the Bicycle Bus amount to just over EUR 2,700 and will be divided equally between project partners. Tickets reservations are not available just yet, but if the pilot project proves successful, it will continue and expand further.
The Velenje Municipality also provided EUR 2,500 in annual funding for another bus service, the Štrekna Bus, providing transport between Velenje and the lake in Lavamünd, Austria, a popular swimming site. This project is also co-funded by municipalities along the route and Austrian partners. The line opens on 1 July and will operate during the weekends for the next three months.
The aim of organising such public transport is to enable a car-free access to Dravograd, Upper Savinja Valley and Logarska Valley, thus reducing traffic in the area. At the same time the Velenje Municipality wants to offer a no-stress trip opportunity, help lower the carbon footprint and promote an active way of discovering nature.
More details are here (Slovene only, but an update website), while a PDF in English and Slovene is here
STA, 25 June 2021 - The Lent festival will get under way in Maribor on Friday in what will be again an in-person celebration of the start of summer in Slovenia's second largest city. Due to Covid prevention measures, there will be no large venues, however the city's streets and squares will be again filled with music over the next nine days.
More than 30 locations in the city will turn into festival venues during Lent that will continue to bring individual events over summer weekends even after it ends in early July. The festival will hence run until 3 September when the Opera Night concert will be held in Main Square.
There will be no large crowds, which the festival attracted prior to the pandemic year of 2020, with the largest venue this year being Rotovški Square that could welcome up to 650 people.
A sold-out concert by Croatian singer-songwriter Gibonni will be held there tonight. Other big names will perform there in the coming days, including bands such as Siddharta, MI2, and Big Foot Mama.
There will also be a special venue dedicated to classical music as well as more intimate concerts, stand-ups and events for children.
The festival coincides with the international street theatre festival Ana Desetnica and Live Backyard events that promote local performers. This year marks the first time it will also coincide with the Maribor Theatre Festival, which will wrap up on Sunday.
STA, 18 June 2021 - The cross-border project Crossmoby will set up a ferry service this summer again, connecting four Slovenian coastal towns - Ankaran, Koper, Izola and Piran. Last year, the service was only available at weekends, now it will run every day except Mondays. The ferry will be available for a symbolic fare between one and three euros.
The shuttle ferry service will start on 26 June and run until 3 October, according to the project manager Heidi Olenik from the Regional Development Centre (RDC) Koper, who spoke at Friday's presentation.
She added that they will be using a boat with a capacity of 71 passengers, but due to Covid-19 prevention measures, it will be limited to a maximum of 21 people, slightly more in the event of a group. There will be 16 spaces for transporting bicycles as well.
Reservations will not be possible. In case of bad weather, the shuttle ferry will be cancelled, which will be announced on their website and social media.
The ferry service is a pilot initiative of the Crossmoby project, which is a part of the Interreg V-A Italy-Slovenia 2014-2020 programme and promotes sustainable mobility by launching intermodal passenger transport options.
According to the director of RDC Koper, Giuliano Nemarnik, the ferry will operate in the mornings and afternoons. Due to the increased frequency of trips, they have decided to introduce a symbolic fare between one and three euros.
He also admitted that they had some problems last year, as some passengers did not use the shuttle ferry as a way to get from point A to point B, but rather as a sort of a round trip.
Nemarnik expressed his wish for the ferry to continue operating after the end of the project. He estimated that the cost would not be sustainable, so they will try to reach an agreement with other Istrian municipalities regarding the funds for co-financing the ferry.
He also pointed out that in addition to the shuttle ferry, the bicycle bus (Kolobus) service is set to continue running free of charge on Fridays and weekends on the Koper - Štanjel route. A daily beach shuttle service between Brkini and Koper will also be operating in July and August.
STA, 17 June 2021 - The government has passed an emergency law to help the embattled tourism sector. The package is worth EUR 243.5 million, with new tourist vouchers accounting for the bulk of new spending. Businesses think the aid falls short.
All adults residing in Slovenia as of 30 June will get a EUR 100 voucher to spend on activities ranging from tourism and restaurants to sports and culture. Those under 18 will get vouchers worth EUR 50. The total value of the vouchers is EUR 192 million.
Last year adults got tourism vouchers worth EUR 200 each and children EUR 50 each redeemable at accommodation providers, a package worth almost EUR 357 million. As of mid-May, EUR 130 million in vouchers had been redeemed.
The second principal measure is a package of furlough subsidies for the sector worth EUR 20m from 1 July, when the national furlough scheme expires, until 30 September, with the option of expansion until the end of the year.
Other measures in the new bill include subsidised holiday allowance, refunds of expenses for the convention industry, and a 25% refund of expenses for film and audiovisual production.
Additional money for the sector will also come from EU funds. Monika Kirbiš Rojs, state secretary at the Government Office for Development and European Cohesion Policy, told an event today that EUR 127 million in grants would be available for tourism investments under the national recovery and resilience plan.
"We're one of the few member states that decided to invest in tourism and culture. These two industries have suffered substantial damage during the Covid-19 pandemic and had not had sufficient investments in the past. We want to make up for that," she said.
Businesses voiced disappointment with the legislation, noting that they had expected much more given how the sector has suffered through the pandemic.
The Chamber of Trade Crafts and Small Business (OZS) said the legislation fell short as several measures that had been discussed with them did not make the cut.
"We appeal to the government to include certain aid instruments that we had been promised," OZS president Branko Meh said in a press release.
The Slovenian Business Club aired similar grievances, stressing that the sector remained subject to certain restrictions that no longer apply to most businesses after it had been shut down longer than any other sector.
"We agree that measures cannot last unreasonably long ... But we must now forget that not all industries and companies are in the same position and have not been equally affected by the epidemic," it said.
Commenting on the criticism, Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek said it was true that "some of our measures" did not make the cut, but he stressed that the government had to be mindful of the state of public finances.
He also said that many previous measures had significantly helped the industry. "In total, we will have provided nearly a billion euro in aid to the industry," he wrote on Twitter.
On Saturday, July 3, a new mountain biking park, Cilenca Trails, will be opened in Zagorje ob Savi, with which they want to put the region on the map of world mountain biking destinations.
At the opening of the bike park, mountain biking tours along the park's paths, animations for the youngest and musical accompaniment will be organized. Food and drink will also be provided at the event. There will also be organized transport to the top of the park, from where you will be able to drive along well-maintained paths and get to know the natural features and varied relief of Zagorje ob Savi.
Four new mountain bike trails and more for 2022
The area of the mountain bike park covers a large part of the Cilenca hill on about 16 hectares. Access to the top of the park is arranged along the road towards Vine, and the end of the mountain bike trails is located at the end of Europark, opposite the Pumptrack Zagorje polygon. Until the official opening of the mountain bike park, the Zagorska Dolina Cycling Club arranged and completed four routes. The first so-called “Flow line”, which is full of sloping turns, waves, and jumps. The Flow line measures 2 m and is 1.6 km long and will be suitable for the widest circle of users. At the same time, three additional lines were built that are slightly longer and technically more demanding.
In the early spring, the club also arranged a bridge at the end of the park and an intersection with the existing footpath in the area to reduce the speed of cyclists and ensure safety. By the end of 2022, the bike club plans to complete the remaining routes and establish a so-called “Skills park” for learning the basics of mountain biking and a circular XC route.
Use of the park will be free for all users. The Zagorska Dolina cycling club will continue to manage the park, together with club members and volunteers who take care of maintenance and safe driving.
Cilenca Trails Park is carefully designed for all levels of knowledge, the difficulty of each route is different, which allows you to gradually learn the skills of the sport and the possibility of safe progress in driving. The mountain bike park, together with the pumptrack polygon, an accompanying facility, and a “skills park” for learning the basics, will become the centre of cycling in the region and the starting point for other routes in the municipality.
Municipality of Zagorje ob Savi – becoming a new Slovenian mountain biking destination
In 2019, the Zagorska Dolina Cycling Club noticed an increased interest in mountain biking among both younger and older populations, and thus began a project to obtain all necessary permits and consents for the construction of the newest mountain bike park in Slovenia.
As part of the Cilenca Trails Park, during the cycling season, which runs from March to about November, the club will organize group mountain bike training programs, run workshops on riding techniques, teambuilding for closed groups, a small mountain biking school for the youngest and other educational events and one-day events and competitions, which will further enrich the tourist offer of Zagorje.
In cooperation with the Cycling Association of Slovenia and the Mountaineering Association of Slovenia, an educational centre will be established in the park and the planned facility at the foot of the park, which will enable the training of professional staff, mountain biking coaches, and touring cycling guides.
Already in 2022, according to the president of the Zagorska Dolina cycling club, they are planning the first race of the SloEnduro series for the Slovenian Cup in the enduro discipline, which will take place on the paths of the Cilenca Trails mountain bike park.
Learn more at the Cilenca Trails website