“All the tourists eat,” said one of my colleagues. But it is important what they eat. Gastronomy is definitively one of the most important elements in what a country has to offer to its guests as well as the locals. So, gastronomy has been defined as one of the ten leading products of the Slovenian tourism. It has been incorporated in various marketing and promotional activities by the Slovenian Tourist Board for over 22 years now. Gastronomy can contribute a great deal to the promotion, visibility and reputation of the country and its tourism. Slovenian tourism is developing five-star experience products, based on the principles of the sustainability and efforts to be and stay sustainable. Gastronomy plays a key part in it.
What challenges does Slovenia face in becoming a globally known gastronomy destination?
Slovenia is interesting destination with exquisite gastronomic experiences, but it has to attract the tourists for whom the gastronomy is the primary reason for visiting. To achieve this, interesting products will have to be developed, and associated with others – like cultural offerings or programmes of active holidays or city breaks. We’ll need more Ana Roš type personalities, who will build strong images abroad. More personalities and more products give the Slovenian Tourist Board more material for the up-to-date promotion of gastronomy, which has already been done with Ana Roš and other chefs. For example, we use the principles of the content marketing, the promotion is made on social media; we collaborate with the international foodies etc. We welcome the arrival of the Gault & Millau guide in our country and we know that the ERG 2021 title will help to grow our image as a globally recognisable gastronomic destination, known for local natural products, excellent wines, creative chefs and boutique experiences.
In terms of gastronomic tourism, where does Slovenia have the most potential for improvement?
Gastronomy and tourism can influence and improve the quality of life of both locals and visitors alike. Gastronomic tourism gives us the opportunity to educate everyone about the healthy and environmentally friendly living; it highlights the importance of nutrition for one’s health; it can contribute to sustainable development of the country; it supports local self-sufficiency; it connects rural areas with the urban environment; it supports small- and medium-sized enterprises; and it creates synergies with different stakeholders. Gastronomy is an important facilitator of local and country development in the fields of economy, culture, education, social relations and environmental protection. And it gives us excellent opportunities for inter-sector connections in relation to production of food and wine, hospitality sector, tourism, culture, health, principles of sustainability, etc.
How important are Slovenia’s increasingly well-known chefs and other gastronomic ambassadors?
The chefs’ and wine makers’ achievements, as well as those of other ambassadors, contribute to Slovenia’s recognisability as an increasingly attractive gastronomic destination. They attract the most demanding gourmets and attention of the international media, who are impressed by the authentic creativity and excellent quality of the ingredients and final products. Slovenian winemakers have already won many different medals and awards, and I hope that more chefs will start to attend the international conferences and different events and increase their activity on the social media to be even more visible internationally.
Slovenia has some 365 local regional dishes and drinks. Any personal favourites?
I enjoy modern dishes, based on local ingredients and chefs’ creativity, and of course the traditional ones too. Bograč stew from Prekmurje is great to warm you up on winter days. When you are in a hurry, the Carniolan sausage kranjska klobasa, accompanied by freshly made bread and hot horseradish, is a solution to have something filling. When it comes to lighter dishes, a perfect choice would be Piran sea bass or Soča trout, flavoured only by olive oil from Slovenian Istra and Sečovlje Salt Pans Fleur de Sel. For dessert, my favourites are Ljubljana cottage cheese pancakes with tarragon or a slice of good potica cake. Since almost every family in Slovenia has their own recipe for potica cake, it’s always a pleasure to taste it when you pay a visit to your friends, neighbours or relatives during the holiday season, when it is a must on the table. You can find amazing dishes and wines everywhere in Slovenia, and I always enjoy it when I discover something new and different.
Slovenia gastronomy in 5 words?
Top chefs, local, diversity, creativity, tradition.