Fredi Fontanot: “We aspire to make Slovenia a regional industry leader”

Interview with Fredi Fontanot, Director of the Slovenian Convention Bureau

We chatted with Fredi Fontanot, the Director of the Slovenian Convention Bureau, who shared his views on destination management and the importance of air accessibility. Mr. Fontanot noted that Slovenia should not hanker after unattainable goals but improve its connections and infrastructure. He also discussed Slovenian sustainability projects par excellence, which have gained international acclaim.

INTRO: How would you describe your destination if you could only use four words?

Diverse, green, compact, and safe.

Q1: What defines a world-class meeting destination? What sets your destination apart from your competition?

A world-class meeting destination meets and exceeds expectations on different levels. A destination must encompass a broad array of captivating programs, high-quality infrastructure, phenomenal services, a variety of experiences and excellent event organisers.

Slovenia is glancing towards the leading meeting destinations as its offer ticks many boxes. First, the country’s natural beauty, cultural heritage, gastronomical delights and more render it a country of diverse experiences. Second, the quality of accommodation and the kind, expert employees in the hotel industry ensure guests have a memorable experience when staying here. Not least, Slovenia’s meetings industry and congress tourism are well-organised and interspersed across the country.

Nonetheless, we must improve the connectivity between Slovenian cities and advance accessibility. Furthermore, our industry must invest in the congress and tourism infrastructure. These are core segments that, when developed, will bring Slovenia closer to the notion of a world-class meeting destination and contribute to our competitive advantage as a destination.

Q2: Which destination is an inspiring role model to you in creativity and organisation?

Some countries that rank higher than Slovenia as meeting destinations include Germany, Austria and Denmark. These countries have long been admirable meeting destinations as they boast superb infrastructure, diverse options for organising meetings and events, and well-connected industries.


Q3: In recent months, the meetings industry has been facing tumultuous changes. Which ones affected your personal work the most?

Our industry has seen landmark changes recently. The pandemic cemented the belief that certain activities, including meetings and remote work, can be conducted online. Still, we noticed that people still cherish and hanker after in-person events. Hence, the fear that in-person will disappear is unjustified. Humans are social beings who always wish to socialise and enjoy personal meetings.

Q4: What is your outlook on the craze caused by ChatGPT? Do you believe such tools will affect the work of convention bureaus, and how?

I see technological innovations, such as ChatGPT, as positive additions to convention bureaus. Novel technologies enable us to process content faster, make analyses swiftly and improve the efficiency of our work. However, the human factor is fundamental. Technology can help us do certain tasks, yet it can never replace human knowledge, creativity and ingenuity. The human factor still plays an elementary role in organising, adapting and managing events. To illustrate, nascent technologies such as ChatGPT are still prone to errors and must be controlled and regulated by humans. We developed an eye for AI-generated content now, at the very advent of globalised use of advanced technology such as ChatGPT. We can easily spot if the content is AI-generated on posts or articles on social media. The human factor is what sets apart quality content from generic texts.

I hope new technologies will continue to benefit us, help us achieve results and become more efficient in our profession.

“The Slovenian Convention Bureau must be the leading force and set an example for every creator and stakeholder in the meetings industry.”

Q5: How does your destination foster ideas for new events that would develop with the destination over time? Is your approach systematic?

We undoubtedly adopt a positive approach to such ideas. Still, we do not have the tools in our arsenal to begin encouraging ideas to be developed, at least not systematically.

Q6: Which promotional campaign from your destination that was a resounding success would you do again?

We conduct our promotional campaigns in cooperation with the Slovenian Tourist Board. The most ingenious marketing idea was to promote Slovenia as the only global country with the word LOVE in its name. Everyone remembers Slovenia and its name because of this campaign.

Q7: What do you wish to see in the Slovenian meetings industry? In which fields are we on par or even better than rival destinations?

We wish to have better mobility and public transport connectivity in our meetings industry. Most importantly, Slovenia should improve its air connections with key European airports, increase the frequency of flights to Ljubljana Airport and develop reliable and swift train connections within Slovenia and with its neighbouring countries. We have difficulties wining events because of these drawbacks in accessibility.

On the other hand, Slovenia prides itself on a well-developed infrastructure for boutique and medium-sized events, astounding natural features, cultural heritage and rich culinary offers. Slovenia is also a compact destination, enabling guests to traverse the country and reach various destinations effortlessly. The Slovenian Convention Bureau also aims to promote the features we have. Were we granted more aid in resources (financial and human), we could achieve even better results and improve our competitiveness in the international MICE market.

Q8: What are your priorities to become a carbon-neutral destination? Can you illustrate with concrete examples and initiatives at your destination?

The Slovenian Convention Bureau must be the leading force and set an example for every creator and stakeholder in the meetings industry. We support carbon neutrality and encourage, educate and present best-case practices to all our partners, thus spreading awareness within the industry. Together with other institutions, we support new quality standards in sustainability. On a national level, we can be proud of several projects: Ljubljana was selected as the European Green Capital in 2016, and the Conventa trade show was named the “best in sustainability” project in Europe.


Q9: What is your future vision to develop your destination?

Our vision is to make Slovenia a leading destination in the meetings industry in this part of Europe. Our focus to achieve this goal includes developing sustainability, expertise, innovation, personalised services and a high level of hospitality.

Q10: Can you name a pressing challenge the entire Slovenian meetings industry should address together?

We must tackle the challenge of air accessibility and train connections.

Q11: In fifteen years since its inception, Conventa has become the central event for the meetings industry in New Europe. How important is the trade show to your destination?

The event is a phenomenal success and an inspiration to the entire region. Because the event is hosted in Slovenia, attendees and partners from across the globe can visit and explore our destination. For us, the event is a celebration for the entire meetings industry.

Learn more about the Slovenian Convention Bureau here

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