Exclusive Interview with the Mayor of Ljubljana

You’re kindly invited to read our exclusive interview with Mr. Zoran Janković, the mayor of Ljubljana, where we ask about his views on the development of congress Ljubljana, the significance and potential of MICE in the Slovenian capital, and the future of the city’s congress industry development.

In the past decade Ljubljana has developed into a modern European capital. It now boasts all the attributes of a proper metropolis, while still preserving its lovely spirit of boutique authenticity. The city received a number of respected international awards, reaffirming its status and growing its international profile. We’re happy to showcase it to the most demanding business meeting organizers, who often express enthusiasm upon their first visit. What is your personal perception of this thriving development of Ljubljana – in your own words “the world’s most beautiful city”?

I like to say Ljubljana has transformed from a sleeping beauty into a shining star. It’s become a contemporary capital for the people, committed to sustainable development while still respecting tradition and the rich cultural-historical legacy of the land. Ljubljana’s success story is the result of the extraordinary efforts of my colleagues, who ran over 2,000 projects aimed at improving the citizens’ quality of life throughout our twelve years of governance. Many of these were not easy, but we continue to prove that the union of vision, expertise and positive energy yields great solutions and improvements for everyone. I’m very happy our townspeople feel safe and content in their home city, and that growing numbers of visitors love to return. More proof our work is headed in the right direction, co-creating alongside our inhabitants a pleasant and inviting urban space. In fact, over 90% of those we polled believe the development of tourism contributes to the overall development of Ljubljana.

Ljubljana has been participating in the congress tourism industry for over 30 years now. In the sphere of business meetings and incentives, it has likewise done well in the last decade. The downtown area offers two state-of-the-art congress centres, many congress-oriented hotels, domestic and international MICE organizers, while a dedicated Ljubljana Convention Bureau supports the industry within the framework of Tourism Ljubljana. It’s no coincidence that Ljubljana this year welcomed the greatest number of international scientific-expert conventions with over 1000 participants in the history of independent Slovenia; or that it hosted the popular Conventa international trade show for the tenth consecutive year. Your administration played a key role in these tendencies. How do you view the significance and potential of congress tourism for our capital?

The fact Ljubljana has become an in-demand destination for a variety of international gatherings attests to its rising global visibility and popularity. We’ve recently received some delightful international awards and recognitions, most importantly the title of the European Green Capital 2016, a paramount award for any city. In its explanation, the European Commission stressed we’ve implemented the greatest amount of changes towards the improvement of life quality in the shortest amount of time, successfully following a sustainable vision. With the above and similar international accolades, nearly 60 in number by now, we’re strengthening the city’s brand and increasing its appeal to foreign investors as well. I believe the MICE industry is very important since business meeting participants represent a highly desirable guest segment, one that brings along multiplicative effects in combination with relatively high spending, and if we impress them with our friendliness and hospitality – which are a given, we’re sure they will return with their families and friends. By building modern conference facilities at the Ljubljana Exhibition and Convention Centre, we’re about to upgrade the city’s offer with additional capabilities to host top-tier trade shows and congresses.

In the latest strategy of Slovenian tourism, the product “Business Meetings and Events” became one of three key products of the central Slovenian region as well. Ljubljana is already growing successfully in this regard. The future looks even brighter, with new investments in plan. What is your role in the continued development of Ljubljana in this field, and what are the city’s plans on the road to becoming a regional winner?

Indeed, I’m happy to see a new wave of private investments in Ljubljana recently, which is also a consequence of the international visibility of our effective projects. These have made the lives of our townspeople more enjoyable: improved infrastructure, green surfaces, an abundance of cultural happenings and venues for sports recreation to name just a few, all these likewise appeal to foreign visitors. Our first five-star hotel, the Intercontinental, has opened its doors not long ago, proving we’re strengthening our position as a high-end destination as well. Zlatarna Celje is about to begin construction on another five-star hotel by the Slovenska street, new hotels are also growing in place of the old Šumi and Kolizej buildings. We’re confident the Hotel Bellevue is also coming along, as well as another new hotel in the Stožice Centre. All these will bring a range of modern capacities for various types of events. As it is, we’re already doing great when it comes to meetings on the most challenging level, having last year hosted the international conference Eurocities with over 600 attendees from 120 European cities, or in 2016 the opening ceremony of the European Green Capital title reception, attended by some 2,000 honoured guests.

Photo: Zoran Janković, the mayor of Ljubljana, Ljubljana, 19 January 2017, photo credit: Uroš Hočevar, Mestna občina Ljubljana.