STA, 7 March 2020 - Health Minister Aleš Šabeder has issued a decree banning all public indoor events for 500-plus visitors as the number of confirmed coronavirus case increased by four to 12. The ban enters into force at 7pm tonight. A session of the National Security Council has been called by Prime Minister Marjan Šarec for Monday.
National Public Health Institute director Nina Pirnat told the press that the transmission risk was increasing, which is why the institute proposed limitations to public events.
Along with the ban on large indoor events, the Health Ministry is proposing that organisers of smaller events also reconsider.
Asked about events like movie screenings or prom dances, Minister Šabeder told POP TV's evening news show that organisers should consider whether it is urgent that their event be held and consider cancelling it if this is not the case.
He is aware that economic and financial damage is occurring, "but right now it is people's health that matters the most". Šabeder said experts were united in their view on the matter and that Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek also understood the situation.
The Health Ministry told the STA that schools would remain open, but that the situation was being monitored closely. Šabeder argued that classrooms were smaller after all and that Education Minister Jernej Pikalo confirmed closing school was not warranted for now. However, "let us wait until Monday", Šabeder added.
The concert of Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli scheduled today at Ljubljana's Stožice Arena has been postponed. Cankarjev dom, Slovenia's largest cultural and congress centre, also cancelled today's events and while it initially announced it would postpone all events with 100-plus participants, it later said it would wait for detailed instructions from the Health Ministry.
It is not yet clear what will happen to the Ski Flying World Championships scheduled in Planica from 19 to 22 March, but it is possible the events will take place without spectators.
Meanwhile, additional measures have been announced for the Metlika area in the east of the country, where an infected doctor had contact with a large number of people, including at the elderly home, which has been closed. People in Metlika have been advised to avoid any kind of gatherings, including private ones.
The institute also proposed a meeting of the National Security Council and outgoing PM Šarec has already announced it will be held on Monday.
A total of 785 people have been tested for the coronavirus in Slovenia so far. According to epidemiologists, all 12 positive cases established by 2pm today were "imported" into the country, meaning the individuals contracted the virus abroad or were in close contact with somebody who had been abroad, in most cases in Italy.
All of the affected individuals who have been hospitalised are in a stable condition and none of them has been diagnosed with pneumonia, Health Ministry State Secretary Simona Repar Bornšek explained.
All out stories on coronavirus and Slovenia are here
According to the United States Tour Operators Association annual survey, Slovenia is high on the list of emerging tourist destinations that “promise a fuller sense of discovery”.
Slovenia made the list for the first time at second place, indicating the fast growing interest in the country by the international travelers seeking more authentic, off-the beaten-path experiences.
While Egypt, Croatia and Colombia tied for first place in travel trends, Slovenia is followed by Thailand and Vietnam, with Morocco and Ethiopia tying for fifth.
An example tour of Slovenia was presented in combination with Croatian Istria by countrwalkers.com, a hiking and walking travel agency promising “places you’d never find on your own”. The seven day tour includes pletna boat ride across Lake Bled, a tour through wine and olive oil region and an excursion to Croatia for a Mirna River Valley truffle hunt. Rates start at $4,448 per person.
STA, 5 March 2020 - Several Slovenian travel agencies have seen a significant drop in business because of the new coronavirus. The agencies organising tourist trips in Slovenia are particularly affected, while those offering trips abroad are noticing a change of tourism flows.
The Ljubljana-based Atur Travel, which targets mainly tourists from Asia with its trips to south, eastern and central Europe, has recorded a major drop in the number of guests.
Almost all trips in March have been cancelled, as have 80% of those scheduled for April and May, CEO Anja Poženel Belec said, adding that most trips were being cancelled by their clients from Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam and South Korea.
"At the moment, bookings are being pushed to September and October, so we are expecting a big increase in autumn if the situation calms down until then. But the shortfall in the first six months will nevertheless show at the annual level."
Gorazd Skrt of Lovely Trips, which helps companies promote Slovenian tourism in Italy, says that Italian travel agencies are seeing a significant drop in bookings.
Many people who do not have symptoms are cancelling their trips so as to avoid transmission, while in Slovenia, people fear guests from Italy will bring the virus, he said.
The impact of the epidemic on tourism is difficult to assess at the moment, according to him. "If the situation improves in the coming weeks, we'll be able to make up for a part of cancellations and only record a drop of a few percent. But if the situation continues for months, arrivals of Italian guests could be magnitudes worse."
Plans for the Easter and 1 May holidays are also being affected. "We are recording cancellations of existing reservations. Those who have not made reservations yet, are afraid to make them," he said.
The problem is that even if the epidemic is stopped by then, there will not be enough time to organise group trips, Skrt explained.
"Tourism is an industry that is quickly affected by crises but also recovers quickly. At this point, two scenarios are possible - under the less negative one we'll be trying to offset the negative effects until the end of the year, while in the worst case scenario the season will be ruined."
Big travel agencies offering trips to other countries are not particularly affected. Palma has not seen a drop in demand or any major cancellations.
Kompas said the situation was changing on a day-to-day basis. Its tours of Italy do not make stops in the towns that are quarantined at the moment, so there have been no cancellations.
Rather than a drop in demand, they are noticing that people are opting for slightly different destinations.
GoOpti, a company providing shared and private transfers to airports and between towns, is seeing a 30-40% drop in the number of passengers, especially in Italy.
In the face of the negative effects of the virus on business, several associations, including the trade union of employees in the hospitality sector from the ZSSS trade union confederation, the Employers' Association and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GZS), have called on the government to introduce measure to mitigate the effects of the coronavirus immediately.
They called for subsidies for shorter working time and financial aid for companies that have no financial reserves to fall back on.
The GZS said today that problems were expected to mount, so the government should follow the recommendations of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
The OECD said on Monday flexible forms of work should be introduced to preserve jobs, while governments should adopt temporarily tax and budget measures to mitigate the effects of the virus in the most affected industries such as tourism, the automotive sector and electronics.
All out stories on coronavirus and Slovenia are here
STA, 4 March - Tourism officials in the regions bordering Italy are not yet reporting a decline in visitors due to the coronavirus outbreak in Italy, a major market for Slovenian tourism. The coastal community of Piran has even seen more visitors than in the same period a year ago.
The tourism association at the seaside of Portorož recorded a slight drop in the number of overnight stays at hotels, which they say was mainly due to the fact that two major hotels are closed for renovation.
Most other hotels in the Piran municipality, which also includes Portorož, saw visitor numbers in February trumping those recorded the same month a year ago. "We've seen growth mainly due to foreign visitors, who generated a good fifth more overnight stays in February than last year," they say.
The Portorož tourism association is closely monitoring the coronavirus situation, following the advice of the National Public Health Institute and the Slovenian Tourist Board, and notifying its visitors in turn.
"Our hotels are well prepared too, keeping their guests up to date on the developments, making sure the premises are thoroughly cleaned and disinfected, while the staff have attended training on preventive measures," the tourism association said.
Similarly, tourism officials in the port town of Koper have not noticed any particular effect of the coronavirus outbreak. February statistics are not yet in but the local tourism info point has not yet recorded a decline in footfall.
Nor has a fall been observed at the tourism centres in the Soča Valley, although the main tourism season there is yet to begin.
Restaurants along Slovenia's western border are not reporting a drop in turnout by Italian or other foreign customers either, but they are cautious about any projections and further developments.
Shaded countries had at least one confirmed case of coronoavirus as of 3 March 2020. WHO data, map US CDC - details
Gostilna pri Lojzetu, the award-winning establishment at Zemono Mansion, has had some cancellations from Italian and some other patrons who travelled through Venice airport, "but merely as a preventive measure because they wouldn't want to 'infect' any of our guests, even though they were not infected".
However, the restaurant does not expect any difficulties in the future. "We'll always have the restaurant full, it will definitely stay that way," they say.
The Chamber of Trade Crafts and Small Business (OZS) last week called for state aid arguing that the hospitality sector in the Nova Gorica area had been seeing a "drastic decline" in Italian customers.
All our stories on coronavirus and Slovenia are here
Ex-Yu Aviation, the best site for regional air travel website for people in the industry and those who rely on them, reports that easyJet, the budget carrier for people who don’t mind bringing their own sandwiches, is introducing a third route from around London to Ljubljana. The new flights will be from Luton, and come in addition to those to and from Gatwick and Stanstead. This replaces the Luton-Ljubljana service that was run by Wizz Air until October 2019.
The new service is set to run year round, and will begin on 30 March (2020) with four flights a week, on Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays. On Mondays and Sundays the flights leave Luton at 07:15, and on Thursdays and Fridays at 07:00. Going the other way, the planes take off from Ljubljana Airport at 11:05 on Mondays and Sundays, and 11:50 on Thursdays and Fridays.
STA, 19 February 2020 - Representatives of tourism companies and of tourism and hospitality trade unions signed on Wednesday an agreement involving a two-stage increase of the lowest basic wages by a total of 10.25%.
The annexe to the collective bargaining agreement for the sector envisages a 5% increase as of 1 March and 5.25% more as of 1 July, as well as a EUR 100 increase in the holiday allowance compared to 2019 to EUR 1,150.
Commenting on the rise, the Tourism Chamber pointed out social partners in the sector had already agreed on a 4% pay increase in 2019.
Also, the minimum wage increased across the board in Slovenia from EUR 886.63 to EUR 940.58 gross, while bonuses have also been excluded from the minimum wage, which is the wage of a large share of tourism and hospitality workers.
According to the chamber, representatives of Slovenian tourism companies have thus shown they are aware of the need to additionally motivate workers in the sector, since they are the key to increasing quality.
The trade unions have for some time been warning about continuing issues, including a lack of staff, chaotic working time, poor working conditions and low pay.
They argue these reasons contributed to the lack of interest for the profession and its increasing dependence on foreign workers and students. This is however at odds with the strategy for the development of Slovenian tourism, which aims to increase quality and prices.
Many places are celebrating Pust this Saturday (22/02), with the Shrovetide/pagan carnival giving people an excuse to dress up and take part in, or watch and thus enhance, a variety of ethnographic spectacles and traditions. Not least of these will be the parades featuring characters such as the UNESCO recognised kurenti – the hairy guys with bells – along with witches, idiots, whip-crackers and more, as seen in the following photographs and which you can read more about here.
Wherever you are in Slovenia you shouldn't be too far somewhere doing something like this, if not on Saturday then in the days after, and if you're lucky enough to be around some of the bigger celebrations then it's a good idea to make sure your phone and / or camera battery is fully charged. I took the pictures shown above at last year’s Dragon Parade in Ljubljana, to be held again this Saturday, starting at 11:00 in Prešeren Square, but also making its way through the streets to end up with an entertainment programme in Kongresni trg / Zvezda Park.
Ex-Yu Aviation reports that Israir Airlines, Israel’s third largest carrier, is launching flights between Tel Aviv and Ljubljana. The service scheduled to run from late May until October 13, with three additional charter flights during Passover, in mid-April. The flights replaces those previously operated by the collapsed Adria Airways, and join those offered seasonally by Sun d’Or Airlines.
The service will be met by a 180-seat Airbus A320, and starts on 23 May with two flights a week. On Tuesday the plane leaves Tel Aviv at 17:20, arriving in Ljubljana 20:00; while on Saturday the flight leaves at 11:35 and arrives at 14:15. Going in the other direction, from Slovenia to Israel, the service leaves at 21:40 Tuesday and 15:15 Saturday, arriving at 02:00 Wednesday and 19:35 (Tues).
I’d heard of dark dining before. Some Maltese friends of mine who are living in Dubai have told me about their dinner experience at Noire in Fairmont Hotel—they loved it. But I’d never given it much thought till I got the opportunity to blind eat here in Ljubljana.
This would be my second unusual culinary adventure in Slovenia, after my Velenje Underground experience where I dined in a mine some 160 metres below the earth’s surface.
All sorts of questions started popping into my head at the thought of it. How dark WILL it be? How will I target the food without repeatedly poking my plate in vain? Will I love dining in the dark? Will I not? The only way to find out was to try it out. So I went ahead and made a booking for myself and my dinner companion.
Read a more personal and detailed account of my dark dining experience here.
Dark Dining at Hotel Slon
Ljubljana’s Dinner in the Dark takes place in one of the city’s most famous and elegant hotels, the Best Western Hotel Slon on Slovenska cesta. So you can expect nothing other than exquisite food, as the dinner-in-the-dark food dishes are prepared in-house by Hotel Slon’s chefs.
Read about Ljubljana’s most popular restaurants.
I was really pleasantly surprised by the quality of the food. Our portions were generous and the dishes made up a proper meal, rather than the cubes of meat that are known to be served at other similar gastro experiences. To top it all, Hotel Slon’s signature dessert is served at the end (more about this intriguing dessert here).
Two attentive waiters guide you through the dark via their night-vision goggles so you’re not trampling around the place aimlessly. Since the restaurant is pitch dark, there’s no need for diners to be blindfolded. You’re led to your seat, and once you’re seated the waiters explain where your cutlery, glasses, and water dispensing jug are.
You also have a container filled with water in which you can wash your hands should you decide to make more use of them rather than your cutlery while eating. You can feel around for your cutlery and use it. But this is actually one of the joys of eating in the dark: you have the liberty to feel your food with your hands, engage with it, and not be ashamed. Here, you can really get intimate with your food!
This unusual culinary experience lasts two hours and includes four courses. Before the dinner, you get to choose from either a meat or vegetarian menu. The food is traditional Slovene with a modern twist, so every dish came to me as a delightful surprise with lots of interesting combinations of flavours and textures.
We had everything from a tasty amuse-bouche combining basil, tomato, and buffalo mozzarella to braised veal cheeks served with popped buckwheat kernels. I’d had popped buckwheat with goat cheese mousse and buckwheat pancake at the Slovenian Cheese Festival last October. It adds such a great crunch to a dish, and in this case, contrasted so nicely with the braised meat.
This experience is not just about the food. Diners must undertake a few challenges in the form of guessing games. And if you want your digestive, you’ll need to look for it. But the probability of finding it is very high thanks to the waiters’ help. So you needn’t panic. It really is fun in the dark.
I now invite you to read my more personal dark dining story here. Enjoy the ride!
Pust begins in Ptuj this weekend, Saturday, 15 February 2020, with the first parade of characters like the famed Kurenti and many other colourful, amusing, and sinister characters. And on the same day, in the same space, is a complementary event that makes Ptuj the place to be if you’re looking for a well-rounded ethnographic experience and the chance to rub your own well-rounded belly, full of cultural heritage and charitable endeavour.
This is the Obarjada stew festival, organised for some 15 years by the local Lions Club, an event that sees around 5,000 people get into the carnival spirit and fortify themselves with food and drink, working with the Kurenti to help drive winter from the land. And while this year there’s not much need for that, there’s still a good case to be made for an early start to a party at this time of year.
The basic idea is this: there’s a competition in which teams compete to see who can make the most delicious stew out of a list of set ingredients – vegetables, chicken and spices – with the dishes then judged and a winner announced. But the day is much more than that. There’s food to sample, of course, and not just stew, with plenty of local delicacies along with wine and homemade spirits. You will not go hungry.
One thing to look out for is the roast potatoes, this year cooked by a team from Bukovci. All the money raised from the potatoes and stew competition will be collected by the Lions Club and given to disadvantaged families and individuals. So go along, eat some potatoes, and put some change or something quieter in any collecting bucket or other receptacle that has the appropriate signage.
Beyond food and drink there’ll be music and dancing, and the general liveliness that ensues when these four appear together in public, with people in costumes and masks acting as a force multiplier in this context.
If you want to go along and see what’s happening, and spend time in the oldest Slovenian city, then the Obarjada stew festival will start at 09:00 in the courtyard of the Minorit Monastery (more specifically, Minoritski samostan sv. Petra in Pavla, Minoritski trg 1), just in time for late breakfast, and is scheduled to last until 14:00.
Royal Bled already appears on the list of the best and most beautiful golf courses in the region of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East, and now it has another recognition, named as among golfscape’s top 100 courses in the world. The largest and oldest course in the country comes in at #86, just after The Blue Monster at Trump National Doral Miami, USA, and before Golf de Spérone, France.
Once again it’s the beauty of the area that catches the imagination of the authors, with the noting “the course is flanked by towering mountains and the impressive valleys of the Alps. With excellently manicured grounds, many hail it as one of the most beautiful courses in all of Europe.”
If you’d like to play a round at Royal Bled then note that it’s open from March to November, with both 18- and 9-hole course, and due to its status and appeal is one of the pricier golfing options in the country – but you get what you pay for. The website is here, while our look at all the 6-, 9- and 18-hole courses in Slovenia is here.