Twenty years ago, Slovenia became a new global tourist destination. It had a centuries-long history of tourism that, since the first half of the 19th century, it had marketed under the names of the various political entities of which it was a part.
The repositioning on the tourist market and the development of the image of Slovenia as a tourist destination was a demanding task. The reason was that the Slovenian tourist sites were known as Yugoslav destinations on foreign markets. Due to the wars on the territory of the former Yugoslavia, everything that was "Yugoslav" had a negative connotation, a fact that hindered Slovenia's promotion on the international tourist market. However, the loss of the international market share was not the only challenge the Slovenian tourist industry was confronted with after 1991. In the two decades since gaining independence, the structure of guests and their needs has also changed; it was a period of privatisation and the re-structuring of companies, as well as the time of certain drastic changes in the organisation of tourism, both at the national and local levels. And all these factors have influenced the present image of Slovenian tourism.
Change in tourist demand
The response of the tourist market to political developments in Slovenia and later in Croatia was rapid. In the year of Slovenia gaining its independence, the overall number of tourists decreased by 40%, and the number of foreign guests fell by no less than 74%. A further decline in the number of foreign tourists continued throughout 1992, when Slovenia was visited by another 20% fewer tourists. In 1993, the number of foreign guests started to slowly increase; however, at the end of the 1990s, the number of foreign guests was still lower by one third in comparison with the year before the independence. There was also a rapid decrease in the number of tourists from the former Yugoslavia. In 1990, Slovenia was visited by 800,000 guests from the other Yugoslav republics, but three years later (1993), this number was only 50,000.
The loss of foreign guests was partly compensated by domestic tourists. In 1990, there were 0.6 million Slovenian tourists who contributed to more than one fourth of all tourist revenues (27%). The number of domestic tourists increased by 15% in 1992 and this growth continued until 1995, when their number rose to approximately 850,000. With some fluctuation, this number was maintained for another decade and then began to increase again in 2006. The rise in the number of domestic guests in the early 1990s can be attributed to political developments and the war in the neighbouring Croatia. For safety reasons, Slovenian tourists tended to avoid the popular holiday resorts in Istria and Dalmatia, and stayed in Slovenia. It was only after the end of the war, i.e. in 1996, that they started to increasingly re-visit Croatia. And it was also then that for the first time after the independence, a decrease in the number of domestic guests was registered, since the majority of them began to visit the Croatian coast again.
Slovenia's promotion on foreign markets
After 1993, the number of foreign tourists visiting Slovenia has been increasing by an average annual rate of 3%. For the purpose of promoting Slovenia as a tourist destination on foreign markets, the Slovenia Tourism Promotion Centre (STCP) was founded in 1995. Headed by Franci Križan, the centre's founders were the Republic of Slovenia, the Government and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Slovenia. The founding of the STCP represented a new step forward toward the systematic marketing of Slovenian tourism. The centre's activities were based on a tourism marketing strategy, drafted in 1994. For the purpose of ensuring a higher efficiency, this document envisaged a centralisation of funds for promotion activities. Rather than geographic areas, the Slovenian tourist industry for the first time marketed destinations and tourist products. A new visual identity of Slovenian tourism was consistently used on all printed materials and in publicity campaigns. Most of the STCP's operations were aimed at foreign markets. The main activities were trade-fair appearances, the production of promotional material and advertising in the foreign press. In addition, a network of representative and information offices was established on the incoming tourist markets of major significance for the Slovenian tourist industry.
By way of the Decree on the Transformation of Public Commercial Institutions, the STCP was transformed into a public commercial institution and was named the "Slovenian National Tourist Board". This decree was followed by an amendment to the decree with certain corrections, including the deletion of the word "national", and henceforth, the institution has been operating as the Slovenian Tourist Board (STB). The decree, however, not only bought about a new name, but also extended the STB's activities to the field of research and development. Moreover, representative offices were established on the most important markets (Austria, Germany and Italy), followed by the opening of the STB's bureau in Brussels for the Benelux countries in 2007.
Brand names of Slovenian tourism
In the period from independence to the present, Slovenia or Slovenian tourism has been promoted under several brand names. The symbol the Slovenians remember best from the time before and after independence is the then symbol of the Slovenian tourism – the linden leaf.
Based on the Strategy of Marketing the Slovenian Tourism, a bouquet of colourful flowers with the slogan The green piece of Europe was chosen as the emblem of Slovenian tourism within the first Slovenian tourism forum held in Bled. The proposal was chosen as an optimum solution from among several other proposals as the one that best reflected the basic idea of the presentation of Slovenian tourist services and was also in line with the trends of tourist demand at the dawn of the new millennium. The slogan The green piece of Europe, denoting the location, was chosen as a supplement to the basic emblem of visual identity for the purpose of communication on foreign markets. It highlights the "green" component of Slovenian tourist services and places it in the European context.
In November 2003, the Slovenian Tourist Board launched a contest for a creative concept of marketing communication aimed at increasing Slovenia's visibility and upgrading the marketing communication of Slovenian tourism in terms of content upon Slovenia's accession to the EU. Among the eleven competitors, the Imago agency's Slovenia Invigorates was selected. This was the beginning of the first major joint publicity campaign, by way of which Slovenia wanted to position itself abroad as a country that surprises, invigorates and enriches the European Union. The slogan Slovenia Invigorates represented the first attempt involving the use of a uniform slogan not only in tourism, but in all other areas.
In 2006, this slogan gave way to the new slogan I feel Slovenia, which is in use today. Between 2006 and 2010, the brand I feel Slovenia was primarily used in tourism. In this area, the use of the brand was consistently implemented both visually and in terms of content. In 2010, the brand – particularly in terms of visual elements – was also introduced into other areas, for example in the area of sport, where it was included in major sport events, such as the Winter Olympics, the Football World Cup and the Basketball World Championship.
Rise of Slovenian Tourism
A rapid rise in tourist demand began after the turn of the millennium. This particularly involved foreign tourists who (at the beginning of the 21st century, and for the first time since 1991) registered more overnight stays than domestic guests. Since then, the share of the incoming tourism has been steadily increasing, so that the share of overnight stays made by foreign tourists rose to 56%. While the number of foreign guests in the previous decade doubled, the share of domestic guests did not change.
In the previous 15 years, the Slovenian tourist industry has registered an above-average growth; the number of foreign tourists has increased by 160%. Today, the tourist industry produces 3 million arrivals and 9 million overnight stays, and approximately €1.8 million of tourist revenues from outgoing tourism, which represents 40% of the export of services. Tourism is becoming an increasingly important industry, since it provides (directly and indirectly) jobs for every tenth employee, whereas its share in the GDP amounts to 12.3%. The ranking of Slovenian tourism in terms of global tourist competitiveness is also improving. Currently, Slovenia ranks 33rd, and in this ranking, it has moved up 11 places.
A systematic approach towards marketing, the renovation of tourist infrastructure, the development of spa and convention tourism, the design of tourist products, the promotion of sustainable tourism, a systematic approach towards the organisation and management of tourism, and increasing tourism turnover demonstrate the quality of its development in the past twenty years. Looking into the future, however, provides new impetus. A new development and marketing strategy of Slovenian tourism for the 2012–2016 period will above all be based on a comprehensive marketing, the improvement in the quality of services and the development of innovative tourist products aiming at increasing the competitiveness and tourism turnover, and promoting a sustainable development of people- and nature-friendly tourism.
Text by Tomi Brezovec, Turistica; Maja Pak, Director of Slovenian Tourist Board (STB), Sinfo, September 2011