As things begin to open up again, and international travel becomes a possibility once more, a number of airline have announced their plans to restart services connecting Ljubljana with other European cities. As reported on Ex-Yu Aviation, your best choice for regional news from the skies, the latest details are as follows.
Air Serbia will be the first to resume services, on 29 May, followed by Wizz Air, connecting Charleroi (Belgium) and Ljubljana three times a week from 16 June. Next is Air France, restarting operations on 24 June with two flights a week, while Brussels Airlines will offer its services on a three times a week basis from 29 June on.
EasyJet, Ljubljana’s busiest carrier, is planning to restart flights from London Gatwick and Stansted on July 1, although its service to and from Berlin is unlikely to begin before 25 October. British Airways’ flights from London Heathrow are scheduled to restart on 1 July.
Lufthansa will announce more details today or tomorrow, although no flights are expected until 15 June at the earliest.
Meanwhile, travellers to and from Finland will have to wait until 28 March 2021 for direct flights connecting Helsinki and Ljubljana from Finnair.
STA, 26 May 2020 - The Slovenian government has added new exemptions to the quarantine requirement for EU and Schengen zone nationals that in effect allow nationals from across the EU to enter the country as tourists, as long as they have a confirmation of booking. The same applies to owners of property in Slovenia.
The new regime took effect on Tuesday after the government late on Monday adopted a new decree that governs the border crossing regime not just with neighbouring countries but also on airports and ports.
Under the latest rules, EU and Schengen Zone nationals are required to quarantine for 14 days on arrival unless they qualify for what are now 17 exemptions.
Most of the exemptions are for business purposes. These include tourists with confirmation of booking and persons who own real estate, boats or airplanes in Slovenia (together with their family members), daily cross-border commuters, international hauliers, and persons hired to perform urgent services (in energy, health care, transport and utility services).
Some of the exemptions are for educational or health purposes. Persons crossing to get health services, those conducting humanitarian transport, students entering Slovenia or the EU for educational purposes, and EU researchers and teachers working in Slovenia may thus enter without quarantining.
Diplomats, those attending a relative's funeral, those with close relatives or spouses in Slovenia, and persons entering for a day to maintain contact with close relatives, are also exempted from quarantine. There is a special exemption for farmers who own property on both sides of any of Slovenia's borders.
The exemptions are a kind of stop-gap measure as EU countries gradually reopen borders based on bilateral or multilateral agreements in lieu of an EU-wide agreement that has so far proved elusive.
Slovenia has so far signed such an agreement with Croatia, which means its nationals are allowed to enter without restrictions.
Third-country nationals (except if they are residents of Slovenia) must undergo 14-day quarantine, but here too there are exemptions. These include hauliers, diplomats, those attending a relative's funeral, persons performing urgent commercial services, and persons in transit who enter and exit Slovenia the same day.
STA, 25 May 2020 - The Covid-19 lockdown meant Slovenia recorded no tourist arrivals in April, while the number of recorded overnight stays was 11,000. This is 99% less that in April 2019 and was mostly accounted for by ongoing student exchange programmes. The lockdown for tourist facilities was in place from mid-March to 18 May.
According to preliminary figures, released on Monday by the Statistics Office, the January-April period saw slightly over 660,000 tourist arrivals, a 52% decrease year-on-year. Overnight stays totalled at 1.8 million, a fall of 46%.
Arrivals by domestic tourists stood at 259,000, a 44% drop, and overnight stays at 777,216, a 39% decrease. For foreign tourists the drops were 56% and 51%, respectively, to 402,000 and 1.1 million.
More details on this data can be found here
Slovenia hosts several extreme sports and competitions, but one that stays relatively under the radar, with little publicity outside the immediate scene, is Red Bull “No Paws Down", where people on longboards go down a road known as Bear’s Guts, or Medvedje črevo, shown in the following image.
Screenshot from Google Maps
The road is hidden away by the Croatian border, near the settlement of Bezgovica, in the Municipality of Osilnica. It attracts thrill seekers because it’s a 4 km track with 18 180-degree bends, on which those who dare can reach speeds of up 80 km/h. As such it’s home to the annual KNK longboard camp each summer (official website), the highlight of which is the "Red Bull No Paws Down" event, mentioned above. In this competitors hurtle downhill, their hands, as the name suggests, never touching the ground – and if they’re lucky no other parts of their bodies either.
If you’d like to ride down Bear’s Guts then now’s your time to register for #KDNK2020, this year’s edition of the camp, to be held from 28 July to 2 August 2020, and with entry into the competition included in the price.
In slightly more detail, the camp will have 6 full days of free riding down this road, from 11:00 to 18:00, with track protection and road closure management, along with Professional Medical Assistance on the track (two fully equipped ambulance teams – two vehicles and four medics), a party every night and a lot more, with details on the official website and the related promotional text as follows:
Spend a full week skating one of the best freeride tracks in Europe and wider together with riders from all over the World. 4 kilometres, 18 hairpins, 6 days straight - upgrade your downhill and freeride skills while shredding the smoothest asphalt ever, consistent from top to bottom, swim in a beautiful river, enjoy the finest local cuisine and party with your old and newly made friends. We can’t wait to shred the Guts with you again at #KNK2020! (official website)
STA, 22 May 2020 - The Slovenian and Croatian foreign ministers, Anže Logar and Gordan Grlić Radman, met Friday to discuss the opening of the countries' shared border which has been closed, with some exceptions, as the countries are battling the coronavirus pandemic. They could however not yet provide an answer to when the border would reopen for everybody.
This was the ministers' first meeting in person. They met at the Dragonja border crossing police station today after having talked several times over the phone and videoconferencing.
They expressed satisfaction that the epidemiological situation in the two countries is very similar. "This will undoubtedly contribute to an agreement on easier crossing of the border," Grlić Radman told the press in a joint statement.
He also said that talks would contribute to make it easier for Croatians to cross the border into Slovenia, noting that the country was an important neighbour and partner.
He did not, however, say how this would happen. "The public will learn very fast when it is time."
Logar said that Slovenia was "playing with an open hand" in talks about border opening. However, the health of Slovenians must be protected and unnecessary risks avoided, he said.
Zunanji minister ??@AnzeLog z zunanjim ministrom ??@grlicradman o čezmejnem sodelovanju in skupnih ukrepih za odpravljanje posledic epidemije #COVIDー19 ? https://t.co/La9lYX5I1H pic.twitter.com/1fjAg7zNEh— SLOVENIAN MFA (@MZZRS) May 22, 2020
At the moment, Croatia is the only country from where passengers can enter Slovenia without restrictions. Meanwhile, Slovenians can enter Croatia if they have property in the country, a holiday reservation, business or important personal obligations in the country.
The ministers also welcomed the EU's recommendations on the easing of restrictions as regards border permeability.
Logar also commented on the opening of Slovenia's borders with Austria and Italy saying that epidemiological situations in the two countries would have to be taken into account and that Slovenia was doing everything in its power for this to happen as soon as possible.
He also underlined that this would be done in bilateral agreements, adding that Slovenian diplomacy was proactively seeking such agreements.
The ministers also talked about open issues between the two countries. Logar said that they focused above all on issues they themselves could tackle and issues in which the countries have fund a high level of agreement.
Logar also said that Croatia was in a unique position at the moment: presiding the EU Council and getting ready for a parliamentary election simultaneously. "It is a specific time that imposes relatively strong restrictions on talks," Logar said.
Grlić Radman expressed the willingness to discuss all open issues, but also added that these should not come to dominate the countries' relations.
The countries' main open issue is the implementation of the 2017 border arbitration decision which Croatia refuses to accept as binding.
STA, 20 May 2020 - A week after international air passenger transport with Slovenia was allowed to resume, the timetable of flights to and from Ljubljana airport is still up in the air, with some airlines postponing the relaunch of their flights. Much remains dependent on the opening of borders and conditions for travelling across borders.
While some airlines communicated their plans to the airport operator Fraport Slovenija regarding relaunching flights after the ban, initiated on 17 March, was lifted, a lot remains uncertain.
The Serbian air carrier Air Serbia has announced it will start flying from Jože Pučnik Ljubljana Airport twice a week again on 29 May.
Lufthansa is expected to relaunch daily flights to and from Frankfurt in mid-June, while Air France plans to start operating flights to and from Ljubljana twice a week at the end of June.
On the other hand, the Dutch low-cost airline Transavia has cancelled all flights until the end of June, and the Finnish flag carrier Finnair has suspended their plans for flights to and from Helsinki for the entire summer, which effectively means until the end of the year.
The remaining airlines which had operated flights to Ljubljana before the suspension have not yet responded to queries from Fraport Slovenija about whether they would relaunch their flights.
The Ljubljana airport operator had expected a clearer picture about the relaunch of international air passenger transport this week, but this is not likely as Croatia is the only country so far whose nationals may enter Slovenia without limitations.
Much will also depend on how the coronavirus pandemic will be managed in Europe, to what extent European economies and tourism will recover and in what shape airlines will be after everything is said and done.
This year's summer schedule for Ljubljana airport, which was to enter into force on 29 March, included 17 carriers flying to 22 destinations in 15 countries.
Fraport Slovenija recently said that it would take a while before the airport reached the figures from last year, when it had served 1.72 million passengers. This was a drop of 5% compared to 2018 due to the troubles of the since bankrupt Adria Airways.
STA, 20 May 2020 - The government will include in the upcoming stimulus package for the economy an estimated EUR 345 million worth of vouchers to be spent in Slovenian tourism facilities, for which all Slovenian citizens will be eligible to spend expectedly as of 1 June.
Announcing the vouchers, Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek said the measure was aimed at helping the Slovenian tourism sector recover from the coronavirus epidemic.
Minors will get EUR 50 vouchers and adults EUR 200 vouchers in electronic form, which may be used to pay for accommodation and breakfast in hotels, apartment complexes, camps, agritourism farms and other similar facilities.
Slovenian citizens will be able to use them by producing their tax numbers when visiting the selected provider, Počivalšek told the press.
The Financial Administration (FURS) will reimburse the provider's costs in eight days, and vouchers will have to be spent in their entire sum at once, and not later than on 31 December.
If the National Assembly manages to pass the third anti-coronavirus legislative package in time, it will be possible to use the vouchers as of 1 June.
The measure will cost the state EUR 345 million, said Počivalšek, who expects that visitors who cash in their vouchers will spend an additional EUR 172 million for services they will not be able to cover with vouchers.
The minister stressed that the tourism sector would feel the consequences of the epidemic for a long time and that it could not be compared with automotive or any other industry in this respect.
"Tourism has practically ground to a halt during the epidemic, while other industries, including manufacturing, carried on without disruptions," Počivalšek said.
Government spokesman Jelko Kacin added that the third stimulus package, which the government was expected to confirm as early as today, would also include aid to companies from other industries.
Among them, Počivalšek mentioned extension of subsidies for temporary lay-offs only for certain industries, and subsidies for shortened working time for all industries.
Eligible for the former will be companies in the tourism and hospitality industries whose estimated drop in revenue is more than 10% compared to 2019.
Počivalšek said that the eligible entities included hotels, lodges, camps, restaurants, travel agencies, organisers of exhibitions and fairs, operators of buildings for cultural events, gaming resorts and tour operators.
The new package will also serve as legal basis for notification of state aid under the EU rules, based on which the Economy Ministry will draft a financial incentive programme intended for tourism and border problem areas.
Počivalšek moreover pointed to efforts enabling EUR 40 million-worth of favourable liquidity loans for around 900 micro and small companies. He also mentioned a temporary relaxing of conditions for incentives related to investment and a mechanism for monitoring direct foreign investment in Slovenia.
Slovenian tourism was doing well until the coronavirus outbreak. The sector recorded last year a sixth record year in a row, with the number of tourists reaching 6.23 million and overnight stays 15.79 million.
The number of all tourists was up by 5% and the number of overnight stays by 0.6%, show preliminary statistical data for last year.
Foreign tourists, whose number reached 4.7 million, last year represented 75% in the total number of tourists. The share of overnight stays they generated (11.4 million) was somewhat smaller, at 72%.
The Slovenian Tourist Board (STO) has estimated that the decline in demand in tourism will be 60-70% this year, under the assumption that restrictive measures in the region will be relaxed in June.
The Economy Ministry meanwhile expects a 40% decline provided that all measures aimed at stimulating consumption are implemented.
An updated version of this story, confirming the details, is here
The government is expected to release more details later today of the third stimulus package to help businesses and households recover from the coronavirus crisis and lockdown. Among the measures, which were discussed late into the night on Tuesday, are tourism vouchers that would be given to all citizens, including children. Under the proposal, each adult would receive a €200 voucher to spend on domestic tourism, while children would receive €50. As yet, however, it remains unclear whether the scheme will also include foreign residents.
A tweet from the Prime Minister announcing the proposal yesterday suggested that the vouchers will be approved today.
Pomoč in vzpodbuda ljudem, industriji, turizmu in razvoju. #PKP3 pod streho. Turistični boni 200€ za vse polnoletne, za mlajše 50€. Po predstavitvi poslancem #K4 v potrditev na @vladaRS in v #DržavniZbor Odpravljanje in blaženje posledic epidemije #koronavirus. pic.twitter.com/ejuUeRylVY— Janez Janša (@JJansaSDS) May 19, 2020
STA, 19 May 2020 - Plans have been set in motion to upgrade the railway network in the greater Ljubljana area, with the Infrastructure Ministry determining the existing railways leading from Ljubljana to Kamnik in the north and to the south-eastern border as priority.
The ministry said on Tuesday that Minister Jernej Vrtovec had tasked the public company for public railway infrastructure engineering to start siting the projects.
The task has been commissioned based on an ongoing feasibility study related to upgrades of regional railway lines in Slovenia and the railway network in the greater Ljubljana area, officially called the Ljubljana Urban Region.
"The results of the study suggests that siting activities for the existing Kamnik railway - expanding it to two tracks and electrifying it - should be initiated as soon as possible," the ministry said.
As for the south-eastern railway leading to the border town of Metlika, the ministry said that it should be electrified and gradually expanded to two tracks, depending on the needs.
When it comes to the railway between Ljubljana and Vrhnika, some 20 km south-west, the ministry said that synergies should be sought with the road infrastructure to secure sustainable mobility.
All activities are expected to be focused on developing infrastructure for integrated public passenger transport, with the main goal being to reduce travel times and to make passenger train schedules more attractive to users.
STA, 19 May 2020- Croatians are free to cross the border into Slovenia without having to undergo mandatory quarantine after Croatia became the first country Slovenia put on a list of countries whose nationals may enter without limitations.
The decision was made by the government late on Monday after the National Institute of Public Health assessed the situation in Croatia and determined that the risk to the spread of coronavirus is similar in both countries.
Accordingly, there is no need for Croatians to quarantine or self-isolate when they cross the border, the government said. Slovenian nationals and those with residence in Slovenia have been exempt from quarantine restrictions since last week.
Everyone entering Slovenia regardless of nationality may still be subject to a 14-day quarantine if they have spent more than two weeks outside the EU.
Slovenians are still subject to certain restrictions when they enter Croatia. They may enter if they have property or commercial interests in Croatia and have to produce evidence thereof, for example property deeds, at the border.
The decision to whitelist Croatia comes after Slovenia opted for a gradual approach to opening its borders.
The government decided that the bilateral technical agreements would be concluded with EU and Schengen Zone members on the passage of their citizens, until there is an agreement at the EU level on a reopening of borders.
There are many exceptions in place, including for daily commuters, hauliers and passengers in transit, but theoretically most foreigners thus remain subject to mandatory quarantine upon arrival.
Talks on reopening of borders are under way with other neighbouring countries as well.
Jelko Kacin, the government's coronavirus spokesman, said on Tuesday that restrictions on the border with Hungary were expected to be lifted by the end of the month pending an evaluation of the epidemiological situation there.
As for Austria, Kacin said such an agreement depended "on the responsiveness of the Austrian side", saying there were "quite a few dilemmas there," including with regard to one of the hotspots of the outbreak, the ski resort Ischgl.
"Once Austria has properly addressed these issues, we are confident that the conditions for such an agreement with Austria will be satisfied."
Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek yesterday held talks with Austrian Minister for Sustainability and Tourism Elisabeth Köstinger.
Kacin said Počivalšek had "very clearly voiced the expectation that we wish for a relaxation in the shortest possible time," noting that the Austrian-German border was set to reopen June, which gave Slovenia and Austria "quite some time before then".
With Italy, Slovenia expects "expert talks at the highest level" about the state of the epidemic there and forecasts, which would be followed by an operational agreement about when and under which conditions the border could reopen.
STA, 19 May 2020 - Slovenia confirmed one more coronavirus infection on Monday, raising the total number of confirmed cases so far to 1,467, official data show. The national death toll remains at 104, as no new Covid-19 fatalities have been reported.
A total of 1,128 tests were performed yesterday, roughly on a par with the daily testing volume since the start of the epidemic.
The number of Covid-19 patients in hospitals dropped by one to 24, including five in intensive care - a figure that remained the same compared to Sunday.
STA, 18 May 2020 - Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Peter Szijjarto announced on Monday a gradual approach to lifting restrictions on the Slovenian-Hungarian border by 1 June after talks with Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek. The Slovenian minister confirmed the goal was to reopen borders in early June, provided a suitable epidemiological picture.
Szijjarto wrote on Facebook that relaunching the economy meant resuming international cooperation which includes easing border restrictions. People's health should not be put into jeopardy though, he highlighted in a post reposted by the Hungarian Press Agency MTI.
The Hungarian foreign minister added that he and Počivalšek agreed that both Slovenia and Hungary had successfully contained the coronavirus epidemic.
Szijjarto pointed out that trade between the two countries exceeded EUR 2.5 billion per year with close-knitted communities on both sides of the border.
In a post on his Twitter profile, Minister Počivalšek said that he had suggested stepping up procedures to reopen borders in his talks with the relevant ministers from Hungary and Austria.
The Slovenian minister added that protocols should be put in place on how to cross the border and that everything should be done "not to jeopardise our health in the process".
Slovenian government coronavirus spokesman Jelko Kacin announced on Sunday that Počivalšek would be holding talks today with both Szijjarto and Austrian Tourism Minister Elisabeth Köstinger.
In the wake of Sunday's government decision to take a more gradual approach to reopening Slovenia's borders to EU citizens, Kacin told the press today that the relevant strategy was focussed on preventing the cross-border spread of the virus.
A list of countries that will enjoy a restriction-free entry has not yet been delivered, however the government has said that it will be regularly updating the list taking into account epidemiological situations in individual countries, presented by the National Institute of Public Health, as well as agreements with member states and Schengen countries and EU-wide agreements.
There are no border restrictions for Slovenian citizens upon entering Slovenia though.