We recently met up with Doris Urbančič Windisch at the Michelin starred restaurant Hiša Denk, where we have the opportunity to ask her a few questions regarding her job as the manager of the Maribor – Pohorje Tourist Board, her love for the city where she lives and work, and so much more!
Could you please describe what is it you do?
I`m a manager of the Maribor – Pohorje Tourist Board – a leading tourist organization in Maribor and its surroundings, comprising over 20 municipalities. We perform public services in relation to the promotion of tourism, we are designing comprehensive tourist offers, encouraging the development of tourist infrastructure, and informing visitors in the Maribor Tourist Office. Besides, the tourist board also runs the Old Vine House, a visitor center with a wine bar dedicated to the World`s Oldest Vine, which is the most visited tourist attraction in our tourist destination. Our work is based on networking and joint creation and promotion of the destination`s tourist offer home and abroad.
What is the biggest challenge in your field of work?
The biggest challenge is coordinating the inputs from various institutions and organisations, form public to private, and managing different points of view with an objective to get the best out of city`s promotion. At the same time, we have to meet the expectations of the locals, who are our most demanding public. We are striving to join the projects that are vital for the development of the destination, like for example the digital content innovation of intangible cultural heritage and the launch of a collective trademark which grants a certificate to the various service providers and producers of food and other products and thus enables the improvement of their quality and promotion. The trademark is called Our Finest and is based on locals` hospitality and the fact that we always offer our guests, our colleagues and our friends only the best. Doing more with less is our motto and its performance is not always easy – it demands a lot of inventiveness and sometimes also the use of the sixth sense. The look in the future is optimistic, but spiced up with the awareness that our actions will have a long term impact and must thus be directed into sustainable and green tourism.
What brings you great joy at work?
If I would have to pick only one of the joys at work, I would say it is working with people in tourism. After 25 years of work experience and additional 14 years of tourism education I can say this is a way of life. I believe that putting your heart into your work brings success. Thus I also put my personal note and the note of my team into the presentations home and abroad, the public performances and media interviews.
We imagine that your job must be quite stressful, especially since you are managing a lot of people along the way. How do you deal with the stress?
Being on a position of the director of the Maribor – Pohorje Tourist Board has not been easy at first, because my career so far was built in the field of private business sector. But soon I have realised this was the key to success. I knew exactly what various public and private institutions expect from the tourist board. Although it is not possible to satisfy everyone at once, we are working hard and the results are getting better and better. The Covid-19 situation raised our activities on the digital level and the accessibility of us all expanded overnight. Now, we are in even more regular contact with our partners and the flow of information and the feedback are even faster. I have learnt to deal with stress, and one of the mindsets that helped me with that was that everything I do, I do for the welfare of my city and because I truly believe in my work. I have trained my mind to stress less, to take time for myself and to find relaxation surrounded by nature. Ma loyal companion is a regular run or a walk in nature, when it`s time to hear my inner voice.
When you actually get a day off, what do you like to do? Do you perhaps have a favorite spot in Maribor where you like to go almost every day?
As all mums, I devote my day off to my family – and to all the housework that needs to ne done. Many times, though, we take trips around Slovenia and neighbouring countries. More and more we like to hike, so we are likely to spend weekends on the Pohorje Mountain or on the city wine hills Piramida and Kalvarija with its popular stairs and the first vineyard of the World`s Oldest Vine`s scions. Every day I take a walk through the city to feel its pace and watch the changes that happen there, like the most recent one – the renovation of the Glavni Trg Square (Main). I listen to the voices around me, who are the city`s guests and where do they come from. Sometimes, they stop me and ask for me a advise. There are many spots that I like a lot, from the wonderful city park (especially when the picturesque Art Camp is taking place there), the views from the city wine hills, a coffee break in the city centre, either on the hidden terrace of the Ancora restaurant or at the Nana Café on the Glavni Trg Square. I like to sip a glass of an excellent wine at the Le Vino wine bar at the Poštna Ulica Street or in the company of the World`s Oldest Vine at Lent, and … I could go on and on, but I suggest you better visit us by yourself and find your favourite spot. Maybe you`ll get fascinated by one of my special childhood memories, i.e. taking a ride with the cable car up to the Pohorje Mountain and having the unforgettable Pohorje omelette at the Bellevue hotel.
Where do you see the biggest room for improvement in promoting Maribor as a tourist destination?
Maribor is a tourist pearl that has not been discovered by the masses yet. This has suddenly become an advantage more valuable then ever before. Embraced with wonderful nature and picturesque countryside, Maribor offers excellent gastronomic experiences and outdoor adventures. The old city itself offers a lively urban beat of a European Capital of Culture. In the oldest part of the city, there grows a Guinness Record Holder, the oldest vine tree in the world. It tells an amazing story about the persistence and will to survive and also a will to “spread its wings and fly”, which is in a way also the story of the city of Maribor. Maribor is also an important university city with its university ranking among best in the world.
How would you describe Maribor? How is the second-biggest city different from other Slovenian cities like Ljubljana for example?
Mariborians are happy people, and first and foremost, we are known for our hospitality. Visitors also describe us as people with the following characteristics: warmth, joy, friendliness, authenticity, personal approach. Did you know that the capital of Slovene Štajerska is one of the sunniest places in the country? As the second largest city it offers all that its citizens need. The green surroundings give the opportunity for a quick hop to the top of Pohorje on the one side and wine growing hills on the other, or one can roam down by the River Drava, which wends its way through the city. This small city, embraced by rural surroundings, certainly contributes to making you feeling well. During the last decade we, the locals have become even more persistent, as we had to replace our once strong industry with new activities, also tourism. Numerous Mariborians, who achieved exceptional achievements, also world fame, are proof that there is great energy in us.
If we were to visit Maribor tomorrow, where would do take us first? What are some of the most amazing spots in Maribor?
With no doubt, I would first take you down to the river embankment to meet the World`s Oldest Vine, to hear her amazing life story and to taste some of the excellent local wines. There are some great views of the old town to enjoy, like for example from the cathedral`s viewing tower or the rooftop bar. However, only a 10-minute hike or a drive from the city center, you can take a ride with a cable car, create you own chocolate, sleep in a luxurious glamping by the river, or set out on a five-star journey with a stop at the famous heart-shaped road in Špičnik.
Any good restaurants we have to visit next time while we are in Maribor?
As you are probably already familiar with the arrival of the Michelin Guide in Slovenia, I would not miss a chance to take you down the Michelin path. We would start in Maribor, at the two very special restaurants, acknowledged by the Michelin Plate: first one called Sedem (Seven) is actually a part of a catering school, and the second is the Mak Restaurant, known for its unconventional chef David Vračko and his crazy culinary adventures. Saving best for last, we would continue to a village Zgornja Kungota north from Maribor to Hiša Denk where the unconventionality of a chef resumes: David`s brother Gregor Vračko runs the only restaurant in our tourist destination awarded by a Michelin star. However, those three restaurants are only the top of an iceberg, since the Maribor – Pohorje destination is a true culinary and wine treasure trove.
Slovenians will be using so-called touristic vouchers. How can domestic tourists use them this summer in Maribor? Do you have any advice on where and how to use them in your beautiful destination?
Find a tailor-made accommodation for yourself or your family: I suggest a hotel in the city centre for the lovers of the urban beat, a lovely cottage on the Pohorje Mountain just next to numerous natural wonders for families, or a glamping among vineyards for a romantic getaway. Maribor and its surroundings offer high value experience for competitive prizes, and the touristic vouchers are an excellent chance to convince yourself about it.