The Slovenian Tourist Board recently predicted a 60-70% fall in related business for 2020, and with no word yet on when cafés, restaurants, spas and hotels will be reopening there’s a profound sense of gloom within the travel, tourism and hospitality sector, even as the days get longer and warmer.
But things will eventually recover, or evolve, and one focus for the rebirth of tourism in Slovenia is the fact that in 2021 the country will take its place as a European Region of Gastronomy. The culmination of many years’ efforts, and a key achievement of the 2017–2021 Strategy for the Sustainable Growth of Slovenian Tourism project (PDF), which aims to expand the areas people travel to, and the range of activities they try.
To prepare the ground for 2021 the Slovenian Tourist Board has been publishing a series of brochures and books, the latest of which is an 84-page guide to the country in its emerging role as culinary destination. It’s a beautifully photographed and well-designed guide to Slovenian gastronomy, as broken down into four broad regions: Alpine, Mediterranean & Karst, Ljubljana & Central, and Thermal Pannonian.
It not only presents an overview of the variety of food and drink on offer in each of these areas – themselves encompassing 24 gastronomic regions – but also gives details of the best chefs, restaurants and inns, culinary events, souvenirs you can eat and drink, and so on. The free pdf is available here in English, German, Italian, French and Slovenian, with the latter making the publication an ideal dual text if you want some colourful learning material going over all the terms you’ll need to talk about food and drink in Slovenia and beyond.
If you’d like to go a little deeper into Slovenian cuisine, then the Tourist Board has also produced this pdf guide to all 24 of the country’s gastronomic regions, with more great photos and descriptions of the many dishes and delicacies you can find in this small nation. Note that there are, however, no recipes, for which your best bet is probably the Cook Eat Slovenia cookbook, or even our own list of recipes. Wine lovers are also directed to another more extensive guide from the Tourist Board, which goes into far more depth with regard to the country’s wine-growing areas, with a focus on Slovenia’s wine roads.
STA, 14 April 2020 - Tourism is among the industries hit particularly hard by coronavirus. Slovenia is in a precarious position. Not only is it next door to one of the main coronavirus hotspots in Europe, it also relies on foreign guests for three-quarters of arrivals. The Slovenian Tourist Board expects the sector to experience a 60-70% contraction this year.
Previous economic crises have been brutal on tourism, but the sector has been able to recover fairly quickly. The coronavirus pandemic is different.
"The virus has spread to all continents, it is present in all countries in Europe. The impact of the crisis on life, the economy, jobs and in particular tourism is more intensive than in previous crises," Slovenian Tourist Board (STO) director Maja Pak told the STA.
While the situation remains uncertain and it is difficult to gauge the impact of the pandemic on tourism, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development estimated at the end of March that international travel would decline by 45% in the event strict lockdown measures last until June. If the recovery is pushed forward to autumn, the decline will be 70%.
The STO estimate is even more pessimistic: Pak expects a 60-70% contraction in demand if the relaxation of lockdown measures starts in June, if not, the figure is likely to be higher.
Maja Uran Maravić, an associate professor at the Faculty of Tourism Studies in Portorož, agrees with the estimate given the estimated 30% contraction in the first quarter compared to a year ago.
"The decline will probably be around 70% assuming hotels start opening at least by 1 June," she said.
After the sharp decline, the recovery is expected to be long. Pak expects it will take several years, depending on how successfully the virus is contained, when borders reopen, and when tourism providers are allowed to operate again.
A lot will also hinge on how successfully the tourism industry adapts to the "altered consumer behaviour and the new situation post-crisis", according to Pak.
"Distance, which will be the new standard for a long time, will affect revenue and slow the recovery."
Slovenia recorded 6.2 million tourist arrivals and 15.8 million nights last year. According to Tanja Mihalič, a Ljubljana School of Business and Economics professor who specialises in tourism, it may take until 2023 or 2024 before Slovenia returns to these levels.
It may take even longer before revenue from foreign guests returns to the level recorded last year, according to Mihalič, who noted that the situation might even escalate into a price war.
On the upside, Slovenia is relatively well accessible by car from the countries from which the majority of foreign guests come, and its seaside might benefit from the misfortune of major seaside destinations such as Italy or Spain.
Regardless of the pace of recovery, tourism is likely to be different than it was before the crisis, requiring far-reaching adjustments by players in the industry.
As Mihalič noted, the trends included smaller groups, a focus on hygiene, and greater demand for tourism products that involve less interaction between people. "Companies with automated receptions and services and card access to facilities and services will have an advantage," she said.
Pak highlighted Slovenia's established position on the market for green tourism and niche products, which she said was a great asset going into the recovery phase.
The STO is also counting on domestic guests, who accounted for roughly a quarter of all guests last year, with Pak noting than after past crises Slovenians tended to value the safety of spending holidays in their country. Moreover, it will take a while before global travel returns to pre-corona crisis levels.
However, Maravić says that there are simply too few domestic guests to offset the decline in foreign visitors. "But if even domestic guests do not show up, our tourism will be ravaged if the borders stay shut."
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Despite its relatively small size, Slovenia is home to a wide selection of fish species, including some rarely found anywhere else in the world. Fishing in both freshwater and saltwater has been rooted in Slovenian tradition for generations. The specimens swimming in Slovenia’s waters are very healthy thanks to the country’s favourable mixture of microclimates which surpass the European average. With the increasingly sophisticated management of waters and catch and release techniques, fishing is expected to flourish even further in the coming years and decades.
Photo: Fishing Guides Slovenia
Fly-fishing is the type of fishing Slovenia is most famous for. Its rivers are nothing short of heaven for any enthusiast. There are numerous incredible catches, the most famous being the Marble Trout. In addition to residing in the most pristine and stunning river in Slovenia, the Soča River, this trout species can grow to enviable lengths and can even hit the 10 kg mark – a trophy-sized catch for any fly-fisherman! Our rivers and lakes also provide great Brown trout, Rainbow trout, Grayling and other fantastic fish.
Carp fishing is very popular in Slovenia, and in recent years, this type of fish species has grown to enviable sizes, as catch and release has been introduced in most lakes, which greatly contributes to the size of carp caught. The current Slovenian record-holder is a whacking 34-kg monster, but this record is bound to be broke soon, as quite a few fish in our waters have already come close to this size.
The main carp fishing spots are Lake Bled and Šmartinsko Lake, where the largest beasts reside. Šmartinsko Lake is especially intended for carp fishing, as parts of its shore have been wonderfully arranged to facilitate carp fishermen. This lake holds the Slovenian record, but there are quite a few specimens roaming around Lake Bled that have likely already tipped over the 30 kg mark.
Another popular fishing sport in Slovenia is spin fishing because of the remarkable number of elusive predators which can reach record sizes. Catfish grow over 250 cm and can weigh more than 100 kg. The Pike record is 134 cm. Then there’s the lake-dwelling Zander, a tricky yet very satisfying catch. The king of rivers is, of course, the Huchen, or Danube salmon, a fish that is highly regarded in Slovenia, with only a few other countries beating our record in the size of this exquisite species. In autumn and winter, when the temperatures drop significantly, the hunt for Huchen is on!
Slovenia doesn’t have a large coastline and its territorial waters are quite small, but that doesn’t mean this part of the Adriatic fisherman-friendly. Just the opposite! According to those who have experience fishing in these parts and eaten the fish caught in these clean and calm waters, fishing off the Slovenian coast is placed among the best in the world. Unbeknownst to many, giant 200-kg Tuna can be caught in our sea. Even a shark has been known to hang off a hook and you are most certainly going to catch Dentex, Mahi-mahi, Sea Bass and other equally powerful and combative saltwater inhabitants. An additional bonus of fishing in Slovenia is that sea fishing from the shore doesn’t require a permit.
You can learn more about fishing in Slovenia at Fishing Guides Slovenia.
STA, 15 March 2020 - The Foreign Ministry said on Twitter on Sunday that Slovenian citizens were no longer allowed by Serbian authorities to enter the country as a measure to contain the spreading of the new coronavirus. It had also been unofficially reported that the measure was implemented by Croatia, which was later denied by the Croatian authorities.
The Serbian authorities announced the measure on the government website. As an additional measure to contain the outbreak, a temporary ban has been issued for foreigners coming from Slovenia, France, Germany, Austria, Spain, Greece and Switzerland.
The ministry said in a tweet that "Serbia no longer allows Slovenian citizens to enter Serbia. The temporary ban also applies to citizens of other countries where epidemic has been declared."
In another tweet, the ministry said that "according to the information we possess, Croatia is denying entry to Slovenian citizens." It added that Slovenian citizens who have residence in Croatia would be subject to two-week self-isolation upon entry to the country.
The ministry explained for the STA that the information had been received from the Slovenian police and the Slovenian ambassador in Croatia. It added that this was not official information.
Later in the day, the ministry tweeted that "according to the information from the Croatian authorities, a ban on entry of Slovenian citizens to Croatia is not in force."
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STA, 13 March 2020 - After Slovenia instituted restrictions on lorries, trains and buses crossing the Slovenian-Italian border late on Thursday to contain the spreading of the coronavirus, long tailbacks of traffic are being reported on the border crossings. Lorries leaving the country are waiting more than 15 hours to cross the border.
The situation seems to be the worst at the Obrežje border crossing with Croatia at the moment, where drivers are waiting more than 18 hours to leave the country. At Gruškovje, the waiting time for vehicles going to Croatia is more than ten hours and at Zavrč seven hours.
At Središče ob Dravi, lorries have to wait five hours to exit the country, at Metlika three and at Dobovec one hour.
Hungary and Croatia had closed their borders for all vehicles coming from Italy without a prior notice.
Traffic congestion is now being reported also at the Pince border crossing with Hungary.
The trade union representing workers in transport said that basic necessities had been provided to drivers that are stuck in the congestion for hours without food, water or toilets.
Water and sandwiches are being distributed to them, and mobile toilets are also being set up along the motorway by the motorway company DARS.
Outgoing PM Marjan Šarec told last night's late news show Odmevi that the Foreign Ministry had requested information from Croatia on border measures but had not been "very successful".
"We'll thus continue trying to learn from Croatians what all this is about. The measure has of course caused big problems and this will have to be agreed between the governments beforehand in the future, because this is not the way to do it," Šarec said.
The incoming prime minister, Janez Janša, said on Thursday that Slovenia would have to follow the example of Serbia and Croatia regarding restrictions for cargo transport. He said he had already discussed the matter with Croatian PM Andrej Plenković.
Slovenia imposed a ban for trains, buses and lorries at 10pm last night but shipments of protective gear, medicines, humanitarian aid and mail packages are except.
All small border crossings with Italy are closed. The border crossings Rateče, Robič, Vrtojba, Fernetiči, Krvavi Potok and Škofije remain open but health checks are being conducted there.
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Croatian police have informed the Slovenian Traffic Information Center that the country is now rejecting all vehicles arriving from Italy at its border crossings.
As such, an increased number of heavy vehicle traffic jams are reported at the border crossings to Croatia, with the line at Obrežje border crossing now being 13-km long. Truck drivers are having to wait in the righthand lane for more than eight hours to exit the country and seven hours to enter.
At Dragonja and Metlika border crossings the waiting line for heavy vehicles to exit the country is a little shorter, at around two hours.
You can follow the conditions at the Traffic Information Centre’s English Website.
STA, 10 March 2020 - Prime Minister Marjan Šarec has announced he has ordered the closure of the border with Italy. The measure, which Šarec said was modelled on Austria's, does not apply for cargo transport. In a statement, he said that the number of coronavirus cases had risen by another three to reach 34 this afternoon.
Šarec tweeted he had ordered the closure to the health and interior affairs ministries and that the measure was in line with the agreement on joint and proportionate measures.
The government tweeted that the border would be closed as soon as technical and administrative conditions are met. "This is a necessary measure if we want to have the situation under control," Šarec later told the press.
"Italy has declared quarantine in the entire country but people are disregarding this and continue to leave Italy. It's high time we take action.
"In Primorska, a lot of people cross the border daily, we know that children [from Italy] are in kindergartens on this side of the border, for example."
Slovenia will strive to remain in the first phase of the spreading of the virus as long as possible, the government's official Twitter account also said, adding that cargo transport would not be limited so as not to cause damage to the economy.
The closure follows the ban on arrivals from Italy introduced a few hours earlier by Austria. The ban does not apply to Austrian citizens returning home and persons carrying a doctor's note certifying they are healthy. Also allowed is transit travel through Austria without stopovers.
Šarec said the measure - stepped up from what was being mentioned on Monday - had already been discussed at Monday's session of the National Security Council. The measures are adapting to the situation, which "is changing by the hour", he said.
While explaining individuals will be able to turn to the Slovenian Foreign Ministry for help, he said he had already stressed days ago people should avoid going abroad, especially to Italy.
The Slovenian Foreign Ministry expanded today its travel warning to the whole of Italy and advised Slovenians in Italy to return home.
Asked what will happen to those commuting to Italy for work, Šarec said the detailed explanations on this would follow shortly.
Meanwhile, in the afternoon, when the total reported number of confirmed case was still 31, the Health Ministry said almost 1,500 people had been tested.
It added the new cases were related to previously confirmed cases, explaining a total of 17 people had been infected abroad and 14 were the result of community transmission.
Measures for containing the spreading of the virus were stepped up in line with Monday's announcement. A ban is in place on indoor gatherings that include more than 100 people, which has affected most cultural events. There are a few exemptions to the ban, including shopping malls, weddings and funerals.
University lectures in large lecture halls have been cancelled for the next two weeks, while kindergartens and schools remain open for now.
Temperature screenings are expected to be introduced in the coming days at Ljubljana airport, which is seeing an increasing number of flight cancellations.
Meanwhile, fears of supply problems were assuaged today by Agriculture, Food and Forestry Minister Aleksandra Pivec, who stressed the supply of food products in Slovenia was not disrupted or in peril.
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STA, 10 March 2020 - Fraport Slovenija, the operator of the Ljubljana airport, is already facing cancellation of flights to and from the airport due to the spreading of the new coronavirus, and more cancellations are expected in the future.
The company said on Tuesday that Wednesday's flights to Belgrade, to and from Frankfurt, to and from Brussels, and to and from the Montenegrin capital of Podgorica had been cancelled.
Several flights scheduled for next week have also been cancelled - including the connections with Berlin, Brussels and London.
"It is hard to speak about additional cancellations at the moment, but it is expected that new [cancellations] will follow," Fraport said.
Slovenia imposed a ban on arrivals of aircraft from the high-risk areas until the end of month today. Fraport noted that there were no direct links between Ljubljana and these areas any way.
State aircraft, mail or cargo aircraft and aircraft without passengers returning to a base or maintenance are exempt from the ban, which relates to the Italian regions of Lombardy, Veneto, Emilia-Romagna, Piedmont and Marche, as well as China, South Korea and Iran.
As regards temperature screenings at the airport, a measure announced by the government to curb the spreading of the virus, Fraport said that it could be implemented in the coming days.
The national railway operator Slovenske Železnice meanwhile said that traffic was running on schedule, including by the train connecting Ljubljana and Italy's Trieste twice a day.
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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.
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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.