Travel

30 Jul 2021, 09:30 AM

STA, 29 July - Infrastructure Minister Jernej Vrtovec and his Austrian counterpart Leonore Gewessler took part in Thursday's ceremony marking the reopening of the Karavanke railway tunnel following a safety and technical upgrade. The ministers said on the occasion that railways represented the backbone of mobility of future. 

After taking a train ride through the Karavanke rail tunnel with Gewessler, Vrtovec told the press that the upgraded tunnel was a major step in securing greater traffic flow capacity between Slovenia and Austria.

This also brings better conditions for the economy and passengers, the Slovenian minister said, noting that the modernisation of the 8-km tunnel eliminated a bottleneck in rail transport between Slovenia and Austria and represented a major hub.

Rail transport in the tunnel will be speeded up, as instead of the maximum of 50 km/h, trains will now be able to travel through it at speeds of up to 120 km/h. The upgraded safety of rail traffic also means greater safety for passengers, Vrtovec said.

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The location of the tunnel. Image: gov.si

As part of works that took some 10 months, the two-track railway line, constructed in 1906, has been replaced with a single track, damaged parts of the tunnel tube have been repaired, the entry portal has been reconstructed and drainage and fire safety has been improved.

The project was financed both by Slovenia and Austria, with its cost estimated at EUR 79 million, of which more than EUR 49 million was chipped in by the European Cohesion Fund.

"Railways are the future both for passenger and freight transport," Vrtovec said, adding that they "must become the backbone of passenger and freight transport and play a key role in decarbonisation of transport."

According to the national recovery and resilience plan, Slovenia is to invest EUR 280 million in grants in railway infrastructure, and this year alone EUR 509 million is expected to be earmarked from the national budget for this purpose.

Slovenia took the opportunity of the closure of the tunnel to upgrade almost the entire railway section between Kranj and Jesenice, which according to the minister is expected to be reopened next month. "This will connect Slovenia and Austria in an even faster and more efficient way."

The Austrian minister of climate action, environment, energy, mobility, innovation and technology added that the joint task of Slovenia, Austria and other EU member states was to prepare infrastructure for the future. "With projects such as this we build the future of mobility in Europe."

Gewessler agreed that "trains will be the backbone of climate-friendly future", adding that Austria intended to invest EUR 17.5 billion in railway infrastructure in the next six years to get "modern railway tracks, stations and trains."

27 Jul 2021, 21:35 PM

STA, 27 July 2021 - A coach service linking Tolmin in western Slovenia with Cividale del Friuli in Italy during the summer season was launched on Tuesday with a promotional ride and a meeting between mayors from both sides of the border.

Running in July and August, the service was put into operation with the help of Crossmoby, a project under the Interreg programme of interregional cooperation between Slovenia and Italy which is supported by the European Regional Development Fund.

Passengers on the maiden ride included the mayors of the three Posočje municipalities, Uroš Brežan of Tolmin, Marko Matajurc of Kobarid and Valter Mlekuž of Bovec, who met Cividale del Friuli Daniela Bernardi during their informal visit.

Viljam Kvalić, the head of the regional tourism board, sees the link as a big step forward for the Soča Valley, being that it does not have many good public transport links with the rest of Slovenia and other countries.

"As we also get a rail link and more bus lines connecting us with Italy in the future, this will be our gateway to the world," Kvalić told the STA.

The Crossmoby project is seeking to improve sustainable mobility planning throughout the cross-border region in a bid to establish new cross-border transport services.

The whole project is valued at just over EUR 4 million, of which 85% in EU funds. EUR 30,000 has been obtained for the Tolmin-Cividale del Friuli link.

As part of the project a cross-border rail service has linked Ljubljana and Trieste.

19 Jul 2021, 07:02 AM

STA, 18 July 2021 - Although demand remains below last year's, travel agencies have noticed interested in organised tours as Slovenians travel more and more after stiff coronavirus restrictions have been relaxed. However, the Association of Tourist Agencies of Slovenia (Združenje turističnih agencij Slovenije  - ZTAS) does not expect full recovery before mid-2025.

"Demand for holidays and travel is slowly returning," the association's secretary general Mišo Mrvaljević has told the STA, although demand is not exactly rising.

Demand compared to last year's summer season is by some 20% worse, with a number of coronavirus bans and hurdles not enabling people to seriously plans their holidays.

"In Slovenia we are severely limited by where travel is possible without too many complications. Constantly changing conditions has caused a rush in demand and periods of unexpected lull."

Mrvaljević says this makes it extremely hard to offer domestic clients good travel products, while practically blocking any serious promotion on foreign markets.

Travel agency Sonček has told the STA that the majority of holiday-makers waited with booking until late spring or early summer, while those who have been vaccinated against Covid are more relaxed about deciding where to spend their holidays.

Travel agent Palma has meanwhile noticed that travellers who used to arrange their tours on their own are now turning to them, adding it is safer to have the backup of an agency in these uncertain times.

Mrvaljević says that safety comes first for Slovenian travel agencies, which offer several safe destinations such as Croatia, Greek islands, the Tenerife and Madeira, as well as tourist resorts in Turkey and Egypt.

"Interest in coach tours, and cruises is slowly returning, but we miss more interest in far-away destinations," Sonček says.

A year and a half into the pandemic, the Slovenian tourist industry is according to Mrvaljević in a state of lethargy.

Companies have largely used all of their reserves, while managing to keep the bulk of employees with the help of government emergency measures which have now expired.

"We're trying very hard to help decision-makers understand the need to get the industry going through the key part of the season with the help of the state until the end of the year, as we expect tourism to get back to pre-2020 levels in two to three years if things slowly get back to normal."

He is optimistic about the future of organised tours and travel agencies' business, saying "the human spirit will always want to explore the world we live in".

"If things get back to normal by the end of the year, realistically speaking, we expect the volume of business to increase by 65% in 2022 and to return to full scope by mid-2025."

18 Jul 2021, 14:24 PM

STA, 17 July 2021 - Slovenian roads and border crossings are congested with holiday traffic on what is one of the busiest weekends of the summer. A 10-kilometre tailback is reported on the motorway leading to the Gruškovje crossing with Croatia.

A queue of about one kilometre has also formed on the Slovenian side of the Karawanks border tunnel with Austria, while the tailback on the Austrian side of the tunnel runs to 14 kilometres, the traffic information centre has reported.

The tunnel is being closed at intervals to ensure safety.

Congestions are also reported from most other border crossings with Croatia in both directions. At some crossings drivers are waiting more than two hours to cross.

The Vinica crossing is closed due to technical problems on the Croatian side.

The congestions, typical of high summer, are being made worse this year as border officers are also checking passengers' certificates on their Covid-19 status.

With storms and downpours forecast during the day, the authorities are asking drivers to exert patience and adjust their driving to the weather conditions and keep a sufficient safety distance.

You can always find the latest traffic news at the official site, promet.si, while the current waiting times at Slovenia’s borders can be found here

16 Jul 2021, 15:33 PM

New COVID  Vouchers Released Today – for Hotels, Restaurants, Concerts, Gyms, Ski Resorts & More

STA, 16 July 2021 - Starting from Friday, all Slovenian residents can benefit from a new batch of government-sponsored vouchers, which unlike the holiday-at-home vouchers issued last year, can be redeemed for a variety of services and goods, including textbooks for schoolchildren.

Learn how to check your vouchers at the end of this story

Part of the government Covid-19 relief aid, the vouchers come in two amounts, at EUR 100 for adults and EUR 50 for those under 18, and are thus valued at a total of EUR 192.2 million.

They can be used to pay for goods and services in tourism, hospitality, sports and culture, the sectors hit hardest by lockdowns. The first booking on the new voucher was made just after midnight and the first voucher was redeemed in Koper at 6:30am.

Presenting the details on Friday, Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek said the vouchers can be redeemed until the end of the year at tourism accommodation facilities, bars and restaurants, bookshops, museums and concerts, gyms and sport clubs, amusement parks and ski resorts.

Those who have not yet redeemed last year's vouchers, which can only be used for accommodation and breakfast, will be able to combine them with the new vouchers with the same provider.

Out of last year's EUR 365.8 million worth of vouchers (at EUR 200 and 50), the minister said 53% or about EUR 153.6 million worth have been booked or redeemed. The latter figure is lower because some have redeemed only part of their voucher.

The vouchers are part of the latest Covid-19 relief package, valued at EUR 243.5 million, with the bulk of measures aimed at tourism. "This is not the only aid for Slovenian tourism, which was hit hardest by the pandemic," said Počivalšek.

The industry was closed for much of last year and this, but has benefited from EUR 705 million worth of various support measures under the eight stimulus laws, or a total of more than one billion euro when other measures are included.

Počivalšek announced the ministry was working on a one-off extra aid for the most affected parts of tourism, which would benefit city hotels, travel agencies that bring visitors to Slovenia and the convention industry.

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Check your balance by going to eDavki as a ‘natural person’, clicking on Vpogledi / Insights in the column on the left, the scrolling down to Vpogled v unovčene bone / Insight into redeemed vouchers. The site plays nicely with Google Translate, if needed.

15 Jul 2021, 10:37 AM

STA, 15 July 2021 - Significantly tighter rules for entering Slovenia took effect today, as the colour-coded lists of countries were replaced with the requirement that passengers who wish to enter the country need to have a Covid certificate regardless of where they come from.

The certificate will have to prove that passengers have had a negative PCR test within the last 72 hours, a negative rapid antigen within the last 48 hours, certificate of vaccination or proof that they have recovered from Covid.

The EU's green digital certificate and equivalent certificates of third countries are acceptable.

The acceptable vaccines are those by Pfizer/BioNtech, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Janssen as well as the Russian vaccine Sputnik V and the Chinese Sinovac and Sinopharm vaccines.

There are three sets of exemptions: passengers in transit and lorry drivers, owners of land on both sides of the border and accompanied minors under 15.

Persons without a Covid certificate will have to quarantine for ten days and foreigners without a certificate and without residence in Slovenia are allowed entry and quarantine only if they can prove they have a place to quarantine for ten days.

It is unclear how compliance will be verified since Slovenia does not currently have police checks on the borders with Austria, Hungary and Italy, only on the Schengen border with Croatia.

The decision comes amidst concern about a rising number of new cases and a surge in the share of the more infectious delta variant of the novel coronavirus.

09 Jul 2021, 13:30 PM

STA, 9 July 2021 - Slovenia will tighten rules on the border starting on 15 July, as the colour-coded lists of countries will be cast aside in favour of the requirement that passengers who wish to enter the country will need to have a Covid certificate showing they have been vaccinated, tested or have recovered from coronavirus, regardless of where they come from.

Under a government regulation adopted on Friday, passengers will need a negative PCR test no older than 72 hours, a negative rapid antigen test no older than 48 hours, certificate of vaccination or proof that they have recovered from Covid.

The EU's green digital certificate will be accepted, as will the equivalent certificates of third countries, which must contain the same information as the EU certificate and be issued in English.

The acceptable vaccines are those by Pfizer/BioNtech, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Janssen as well as the Russian vaccine Sputnik V and the Chinese Sinovac and Sinopharm vaccines.

Only owners of land on both sides of the border and accompanied minors under 15 are exempted.

Persons without a Covid certificate will have to quarantine for ten days and foreigners without a certificate and without residence in Slovenia are allowed entry and quarantine only if they can prove they have a place to quarantine for ten days.

The decision comes amidst concern about a rising number of new cases and a surge in the share of the more infectious delta variant of the novel coronavirus

09 Jul 2021, 10:31 AM

STA, 8 July 2021 - People who come to Slovenia from countries and areas listed as red and dark red but show proof that they have been vaccinated against Covid-19 or have recently recovered from the disease will no longer need to quarantine as of this Saturday, the government decided on Thursday.

Digital Covid certificates from EU and third countries will be accepted.

However, a 10-day quarantine requirement remains in place for foreigners without residence in Slovenia coming from red-listed areas.

The border police page - in English - with the list of dark red, red, and orange countries is here

To enter Slovenia, they will need to provide a negative PCR test and prove they have a place to stay for the 10-day period. Those who fail to do so will be denied entry.

Foreigners without residence in Slovenia coming from dark red areas are not allowed to enter the country.

There are no changes for entry from the green-listed countries.

Persons entering Slovenia from orange-listed countries can enter without quarantine if they provide a digital Covid certificate from the EU or third countries. Otherwise they need to quarantine for 10 days.

Foreigners without residence in Slovenia will be allowed to enter the country and go into quarantine only if they prove they have a place to stay during the quarantine.

08 Jul 2021, 12:08 PM

STA, 7 July 2021 - The National Assembly passed on Wednesday an emergency bill worth EUR 243.5 million to help the embattled tourism sector. The short-time work scheme has been extended and new holiday vouchers introduced. The opposition warned that the measures, which are this time aimed at the most affected sectors, came too late and were insufficient.

The stimulus package for tourism and other sectors most affected by the Covid-19 epidemic brings new vouchers for a wide range of services that can be used in accommodation facilities, restaurants, and even bookshops, theatres, for concerts or various sports and other activities.

Adults will receive vouchers worth EUR 100 and those under 18 EUR 50. The total value of the vouchers is EUR 192 million.

Previous vouchers, worth EUR 200 for adults and EUR 50 for those under 18, could only be used for accommodation. They were introduced on 19 June last year, and according to data by the Financial Administration, EUR 146 million has been redeemed so far, some 41% of the total value.

Both the old and the new vouchers can be spent until the end of the year.

The new emergency bill also brings a series of measures to help companies in tourism, convention industry, restaurants, sports and culture.

This includes the EUR 20 million extension of the short-time work scheme for all sectors at least until the end of September with the possibility of extending it until the end of the year.

For tourism, hospitality, the events industry, sports and culture, subsidies for 2021 holiday allowance will also be available.

The legislation also delivers an 80% or 60% cost refund for event organisers from August until the end of the year, waiver of fees for water rights for swimming pools for the first half of this year, and a 25% refund for the cost of production of audiovisual works until the end of the year. Ski lift operators that were not allowed to work for a time during this year's ski season will also get aid to offset part of their shortfall in revenue.

According to Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek, the situation in the economy in general is very good and businesses are expected to recover quickly. But some sectors have been particularly affected, so rather than preparing a ninth stimulus package, the government decided to draw up a special emergency law just for tourism and associated sectors, he told MPs on Tuesday.

Mihael Prevc from the coalition New Slovenia (NSi) said that the latest emergency bill complemented the previously introduced measures which had proved to be effective, and brought new temporary measures for the economy and tourism.

Marko Pogačnik from the ruling Democrats (SDS) pinpointed the extension of subsidies for shorter working hours, state co-funding of holiday allowance for employees in sectors that were hit the hardest, and aid for the convention film and audiovisual industries and for ski lift operators.

Outside the coalition, the National Party (SNS) and Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) expressed support for the bill, while the rest of the opposition was critical. The centre-left opposition mainly regretted the government had not delivered on its promise to pay out one-off aid to businesses which had been banned from working due to government decrees.

"Such direct aid would be the most economical and would give those affected an immediate liquidity boost to restart their business while compensating for what they lost because of the epidemic," said Marko Bandelli from the Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB) on Tuesday.

Economy Ministry State Secretary Simon Zajc agreed yesterday that such payment to the most affected would be necessary, adding that a proposal on this would be drawn up and that the money would come from cohesion funds, however this has not materialised.

Meira Hot from the Social Democrats (SD) said the cultural sector and NGOs should have also received aid.

The fiercest criticism came from Robert Pavšič, an MP for the Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ), who said the government had been carefree and even negligent in drawing up the measures, and Primož Siter from the Left, who said aid was coming much too late.

"You will be distributing new vouchers; this smells like pre-election bribery," said Pavšič. Siter said the Left opposed the bill because it offered aid to the capital not the people.

Some MPs warned that some provisions from the stimulus package were not related to the epidemic such as the extension of validity of ID cards that expired as of 29 March 2020, temporary use of money from the Fund for Waters including for the financing of services of general economic interest, extension of validity of miners' rights, extension of payment deadlines for deregistered vehicles, and Sunday opening of shops at airports.

Regardless of a ban on Sunday shopping, shops at airports may be open on Sundays and holidays until the end of 2022 under the stimulus package. Moreover, shops in tourist information centres and museums will also be permitted to be open on Sundays.

The legislation was endorsed in a 47:8 vote with the coalition, DeSUS, SNS and minority MPs voting in favour of it. The Left was the only party that voted against, whereas the rest of the centre-left opposition abstained.

07 Jul 2021, 14:36 PM

STA, 6 July 2021 - The Ljubljana Jože Pučnik Airport has seen traffic tick up at the start of the summer tourism season. Scheduled flights to eleven destinations and charter flights to twenty destinations are currently available, with 2,000-2,500 passengers passing through the airport daily.

On Tuesday scheduled flights between Ljubljana and Tivat were formally launched, a three times a week service operated by Montenegro Airlines.

Janez Krašnja, head of airline management at airport operator Fraport Slovenija, said six more destinations would be added in the coming months.

"Barring any fundamental changes in the epidemiological situation, we will have 17 scheduled lines this summer, which is a good achievement for the first year of recovery," he said.

The current daily number of passengers is a significant improvement over the peak of the epidemic, but it represents only a third of the normal daily number before the pandemic.

The airport operator fears what autumn and winter will bring. "Tourism and air traffic are practically the biggest victims of the pandemic, we sincerely hope there will be no fourth wave to sweep away the returning traffic," Krašnja said.

A setback came recently when a new government regulation determined that passengers from all countries on Slovenia's red list, including Egypt, Tunisia, UK and Ireland, had to quarantine on arrival.

Krašnja said such decisions reduced the speed of recovery of the aviation sector and were a big blow for the airport. There have not been many cancellations as yet and with indications that the restriction may be eased, Krašnja hopes it will not have too much of an impact on air traffic.

"We are hoping there are no more obstacles like this and that passengers can enter our country just like they can enter other countries in the region ... The fewer the obstacles, the more demand there will be," he said.

01 Jul 2021, 13:36 PM

STA, 1 July 2021 - A concert by the Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra, conducted by Valery Gergiev, will kick off the 69th Ljubljana Festival on Thursday. As the Križanke open-air venue is under renovation, Congress Square will be this year's main venue.

This year's festival will feature an array of Slovenian and foreign singers and musicians with the likes of Russian soprano Ana Netrebko, Algerian tenor Jusif Ejvazov, Slovenian soprano Sabina Cvilak, German tenor Jonas Kaufmann, the Vienna Boys' Choir, accordion virtuoso Marko Hatlak and Spanish tenor Placido Domingo taking the stage.

The SNG Maribor theatre ensemble will contribute their version of Puccini's famous opera Madama Butterfly.

Dance lovers will be able to enjoy the Tango Story show by Andreja Podlogar and Blaž Bertoncelj and the Peer Gynt ballet show directed by SNG Maribor's Edward Clug. Even theatre-goers will get their money's worth with the Lolita and Chicago musicals.

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The main venue, Congress Square. Photo: Andraž Kobe for Ljubljana Festival

The festival will close on 8 September with a concert by the ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra performing new pieces by the Slovenian composer Vito Žuraj.

The idea behind this year's programme was the same as in the previous years as organizers were counting on certain Covid-19 restrictions to be lifted by summer.

The biggest issue is the musicians mobility, noted the artistic and general director of the Ljubljana Festival, Darko Brlek, explaining that some guest appearances by foreign musicians had to be postponed. He also stressed that last year's festival had been great and one of the few festivals of such calibre to even take pace.

Most of the events will be held in Congress Square, and will move to the Cankarjev Dom art centre and the city's main fairgrounds in case of bad weather. The opening event will be held in Cankarjev Dom in case of bad weather.

Learn more at the website

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