Slovenia tops poll of prime destinations

Slovenia has been voted 'Favourite European Country' at The Guardian, The Observer and the Guardian Unlimited Travel Awards for 2004. The vote is based on the quality of the holidays experienced by readers and demonstrates just how popular Slovenia has become in the UK. The award comes at a very important time for Slovenia's tourist industry as it marks a centenary of organized tourism in the country.

Due to its geographical position, Slovenia is an interesting tourist destination, and those in the tourist industry want Slovenia to become an important tourist destination too. Slovenia offers a lot from skiing and mountaineering in the Alps to swimming in the Adriatic Sea. There are also many cultural and historical sites. You can find archaeological remains from Roman times as well as architecture from the period of Hapsburg rule. In the Pannonian valleys there are springs of thermal water, and many well known spas.

Exactly 100 years ago, 25 local Slovenian tourist boards joined to become the Slovenian Tourist Association. Today the association consists of 588 smaller societies and 200 clubs in elementary schools. Marjan Rozic, president of the Tourist Association Slovenia:

"This year is very important for Slovenian tourism. Firstly because we want to achieve better results in our development than last year, which was around 5 %, secondly because new programmes are developing, which will offer the visitor a richer stay and thirdly, this year is a jubilee year as we celebrate the 100th anniversary of organized tourism in Slovenia. We do not want to celebrate past events, but we want to co-operate creatively in tourist programmes this year."

Slovenia is a small country and this is why those working in the field of tourism, have to take additional care of the environment. In April each Slovenian tourist society will plant a lime tree, a Slovenian symbol. There will be around 10.000 events in total throughout Slovenia marking the centenary of organized tourism. Marjan Rozic stresses the importance of tourism in Slovenia, not only as an economic activity:

"We can say that from the beginning tourist associations did more than just stimulate tourism. One of their functions was to promote the Slovenian language, to encourage Slovenian culture and heritage. The associations were the bearer of national identity. Throughout those 100 years a nice environment and hospitality have been the main concern."

And it is exactly this beautiful environment and hospitality that Slovenia tries to offer their guests in the future too. Despite its geographical smallness Slovenia has big plans and many will be realized in cooperation with neighbouring countries.