Maja Pak: Internationally recognizable and high-profile sports events are of great importance for the promotion of Slovenia and its tourism

The Slovenian Tourist Board (STB) is a traditional supporter of sports events in Slovenia. They recognize sport as a great way to promote the country. Sporting events have become especially important during the new coronavirus pandemic when the world came to a standstill. STB director Maja Pak makes no secret of the fact that sport has even gained in importance during this period. Event support therefore remains unchanged which also applies to smaller events, as the multiplier effects of the sport in tourism are large.

What do sporting events mean for the promotion of Slovenia or Slovenian tourism – first and foremost, the biggest events, such as the IBU World Championships Biathlon, or the IBU World Cup Biathlon in Pokljuka?

Internationally recognizable and high-profile sports events are of great importance for the promotion of Slovenia and its tourism, as they are followed by millions of sports fans and numerous media. The Slovenian Tourist Board has been participating in major sporting events for many years with the intention to highlight Slovenia and the “I feel Slovenia” brand. And this year we have even intensified this cooperation. We have published a new public call for participation in major international sports events, seeking the opportunities to increase the recognition of Slovenia as a destination for active holidays and an excellent destination for the athletes preparation.

Major international sports events hosted by Slovenia, indeed attract millions of viewers around the world in front of television screens. It is also very important that we know how to upgrade each event separately in terms of communication and content. Our athletes, who are excellent promoters of Slovenia, help us a lot with that. Many international sports events hosted by Slovenia take place in front of the unique natural backdrop of our country, which inspires people to visit Slovenia for active holidays. It is a fact that the implementation of demanding sporting events in Slovenia is at a high level which contributes to the recognition of the country as a host of top organized international events.

Biathlon will attract the most interest in Norway, Sweden, France, Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Austria, northern Italy, Russia, Ukraine and Belarus, and due to Jakov Fak, also in a part of the former Yugoslavia. Is this the main target group of Slovenian tourism?

Immediately upon the onset of the crisis, the Slovenian Tourist Board adjusted its marketing activities to the situation and redefined its target markets with an emphasis on the nearby and domestic markets. In these markets, we have intensified digital promotion with both the business and the general public and the media. Considering that during the recovery active holidays will gain additional importance as a tourist product, we have increased promotion within high-profile sports events and cooperation with top athletes who help us present the advantages of Slovenia.

There are very few events during a pandemic due to preventive measures, but top sport defies. Is this currently the only promotional platform in terms of events? Not only in organizational terms, but also considering the impact of successes and promotion by sports aces?

We look forward to every sports event that can be held in these really different times. Even if the event is performed in a modified form, which most often means without spectators. It is commendable that the organizers of the demanding events have taken care of the appropriate safety standards and have made the events possible.

The Slovenian Tourist Board has been cooperating with top Slovenian athletes, who have always been one of Slovenia’s most successful ambassadors. We are proud to work with the most recognizable Slovenian sports names. These are extraordinary individuals who impress millions around the world with their success, diligence and heart. Especially globally influential media pay a lot of attention to them, highlighting Slovenia as a country of top athletes, loyal fans and a great destination for an active vacation.

Their posts on social media platforms are especially resonant, so our cooperation takes place primarily with the exposure of Slovenia and the “I feel Slovenia” brand on their social media profiles. They have an amazing reach..

The public is also interested in how the pandemic has affected your work, as you had to fundamentally change your strategy and look for new solutions.

The pandemic is the worst crisis for tourism in history and the recovery will not be fast. Therefore, we adapted the program in which we significantly intensified activities and projects in the field of digitalization in marketing. We placed special emphasis on strengthening Slovenia’s position as a responsible and green destination, especially by highlighting the Green & Safe brand.

What about the new role of sport?

Active and sports tourism are gaining in importance, as they are the biggest opportunities during the recovery of Slovenian tourism. And here, with its long-term focus on sustainability, Slovenia has many advantages and a good position. That is why we have chosen active holidays and sports tourism for the next two-year promotional theme.