In a sea of black news and catastrophic forecasts for the tourism industry, and at the same time very few concrete proposals and actions and initiatives, and a lot of provocations and harsh accusations at all levels, Slovenia made a pioneering step and launched the first optimistic news.
The Slovenian government, STA reports - the Slovenian news agency - has officially announced the end of the coronavirus epidemic.
Key measures of distance between people remain in place, but one major restriction has been lifted: EU citizens will be able to cross the border. Of course, with some warnings, the Slovenian tourism industry is at a low start and ready for action. As soon as the measures for easing the quarantine restrictions come into force on Monday, they will start reviving their activities.
All detachments. Slovenia's tourism workers can't wait, although they will start with smaller operations, but all shops will be able to open, while bars and restaurants will be able to serve indoors again, the Slovenian government decided on Wednesday. According to the same government decrees, the only facilities that must remain closed are accommodation facilities with a capacity of more than 30 rooms, spa accommodation, wellness and fitness centers, swimming pools and water parks.
The tourism industry has been closed for two months in an effort to curb the epidemic, and this decision is the first to ease restrictions in the sector. The activity, moreover the proactivity of Slovenian tourist guides through this period was a really rare example of organization, harmony and creativity in the profession. Dozens of extremely high-quality webinars, trainings were held online, countless messages about the situation in Slovenia were recorded, and they were active in the international professional network.
A colleague Matej Kregar Gliha I found myself working today… programs for next week. Mateja, a doyenne in Slovenian guide waters, in addition to being a local guide, she is a Tour manager, Destination Consultant, WFTGA Guide Trainer and what is especially interesting, and in our infancy - Green Destinations Ambassador.
Given Slovenia's orientation towards sustainable tourism, the green heart of Europe that promotes Slovenia, Mateja's specialty is increasingly in demand.
Every conversation with people from the world of tourism comes down to the time before the corona - and to the "what now" question. Mateja recalled her last 'pre-crown' of the group she hosted in Ljubljana.
"This is something that, I think, humanity has not yet experienced in its history. There were wars, but it didn't happen that the whole world stopped. My last - 'before the crown' group - were associations of ex-mayors from London. On the first day everything still seemed normal, and then on the second day of their visit every hour there was a ban: we could not use the funicular, the meeting with the mayor was canceled… It seemed calmer in Bled, but when the group had to leave for Croatia, it became - impossible. The others are blocked in Slovenia. They were ordered a plane and when my colleague and I jumped on the bus, it became clear to me to see them off - this is serious. Occurs. Our guests are still not or aware that we are inventing something, because everything was ok with them, but for a short time. "
Mateja, but also her colleagues did not waste time and showed exceptional activity in the profession during the quarantine period. “The first reaction is shock, I trust everyone. But then you say; come on I'll use the time to 'iron' my website, tidy it up, read it… Then a little more serious plans start like - I'll rent a garden. But there was no peace in the company of Slovenian guides. We agreed that we need to do something for our audience. We had zoom rallies and constantly exchanged There were so many rhymes for education and skills that we could pass on to each other, no matter the distance. Zoom and Hangouts and other platforms have become our main tools for knowledge transfer. At ARGOS, we are divided by region and after these virtual meetings we concluded that we need to see each other more often, even after quarantine."
Did you keep in touch with your guests? Colleagues? Agencies? How did they react? “Regardless of the fact that the whole world was in a "lockdown", people still wanted contacts. It was clear to us that people would not travel again, as they used to. Guests and agencies contacted us saying, “No travel until there is no vaccine,” “Nowhere until there is no cure”… But what’s important, we stayed in touch. There was no room for discouragement and we told them we missed them. They called us regularly, and we called them. We used social networks, and on Palm Sunday we started with video messages on the YouTube channel Regional Tourist Guides of Slovenia. "
How did you design that interaction? How did you set priorities for which audience to address? “We decided to make it a program in different languages. So we have Sundays for Slovenian, Monday for English, Tuesday for German, Wednesday for Italian, Thursday and Friday for French or. Spanish or some other language (Mandarin, Dutch,…), and Saturdays are for Slavic languages (Croatian, Polish, Czech, Russian, Ukrainian, Serbian, Bosnian,….). So we wanted to provide that everyone is really welcome, of course, when they have the opportunity"
And the possibility opened up even before everyone hoped, and as Mateja Kregar Gliha points out, citizens are slowly getting used to sanitary measures at the time of the corona, so why can't they respect tourism now. “So already organized to work in small groups and mini »professional trips will open guides. They will now be, speaking the crown of the dictionary - zero tourists.
When? Next week! Guides will learn something from the guide, get ideas for their tours, very collegially and selflessly. When do you expect the first real guests? -
We predict that in the beginning, only Slovenes will be visitors. As pleasant as it is to have your people as guests it is also demanding. Yes, they mostly know everything about their country. That is why we have prepared a special guide around the Ljubljana Marshes (in the early morning, in the evening with the sunset and one during the day). We will spend around Ljubljana from a 'fish perspective' in canoes, it is something for those who like a little adventure. A particularly interesting tour is the one called "The First Time", and leads through places in the city where something happened - the first time. We put together a whole range of places where Slovenian films were made, a tour where we get to know the development of the language, guided tours of Baroque Ljubljana… Of course we included the whole of Slovenia: Bohinj, Bled, Piran-Strunjan-saltworks… Slovenj Gradec, Carinthia… and never with foreign visitors we don't go into so much detail because there is no time for introduction to the context, and with the locals - we just have to.
This is demanding, very demanding. Are domestic guests more critical than foreign ones?
Sometimes you express how much they know, sometimes how much they don't know about their country. Such guides, in small groups, are a great opportunity to test our ideas and knowledge: what is good, what is not good, what should be added, taken away… This is also an opportunity to think, what to do to make tourism not only seasonal, but that we can make a nice living from it all year round.
We have already said many times: quality not quantity. Now we have time to work on it. What will such guides look like in practice? Did you get recommendations, instructions, prohibitions, restrictions?
"We must respect measures in all these activities. Since the tours of the city do not need to have masks, but we must maintain a distance of 1,5 meters. To make ourselves heard better, we will use headphones and kits, maybe loudspeakers, or even phone apps that we are still testing. For now, visitors will come in their own arrangement. I hope soon and less groups from neighboring countries. Now is the right time because there is no crowd"
Do you see an opportunity to return to tourism and the guide business we once knew?
"This time was given to us to think about us and our business from some other perspective. It won't be like it was in 2019 for a long time, but after every rain the sun comes, even this time. Slowly, at a slow pace, for us to try something new, and to see how much tourism really means to us. So far, they have seen it as something crowded. But now we are more humble and I think we will respect him more. And on the other hand, tourism now has a great opportunity, to define its direction. What are these programs, which are really high quality and what does a quality life bring to all of us? We cannot talk about quality tourism, if the economy and social of the local population are endangered and if we destroy the environment. It must not be just seasonal. We have already said many times: quality not quantity. Now we have the opportunity to work on it. It’s not easy, but we have to get out of the ‘comfort zone’ we’ve lived in so far. Nothing will be the way it used to be, we know that"
Finally, when asked how to proceed, Kregar Gliha points out that we will see soon. "Let's just think, let's discuss, let's connect. I don't think that's a problem for us in that part of Europe. "
Cover photo: Visit Ljubljana