Q: What role do and FDI and tourism play in Slovenia’s economy?
A: Being a small economy of two million people, our growth is deeply connected with exports and FDI. Eighty per cent of our GDP is exports. Companies that have invested in Slovenia over the past 10 years represented €13bn of our GDP in 2018.
Regarding tourism, we’ve had five years of sustainable growth above the European average. In 2017, our government undertook a strategy of sustainable growth for tourism, to emphasise our country as a green, active and healthy destination. We would like to expand on that because we have huge potential for growth in tourism. We have 8000 rooms ready for brownfield investment and 8000 for greenfield investment. Currently, there are 22,000 places for tourists to sleep in Slovenia, and we received 15 million overnight stays last year. We’re at the heart of Europe. Vienna is three hours away, Venice and Salzburg are two hours away. But so far we don’t have much investment from western Europe, or the western part of the world, in Slovenian tourism.
We have several key regions in Slovenia that really show what Slovenia is. First, there’s the alpine region, the Julian Alps, which represent a third of Slovenian tourism, and are home to the national park, one of the oldest and largest in Europe. There’s also the Pannonian region, home to 60 spa resorts and thermal springs stretching across the country. There is also Ljubljana, the capital, which has 1.3 million overnight visits a year. It received the WTTC Tourism for Tomorrow award last year, and the Green Capital of Europe Award 2016. Lastly, there’s Slovenia’s Mediterranean region. So, we are the only country in Europe that has alps, the Mediterranean and Pannonian thermal baths. Slovenia is great for outdoor activities. We have four seasons and are developing tourism all year round.
We also have some special incentives for SMEs in tourism; there are EU funds for them, especially if they do eco-tourism.
Q: Beyond tourism, what are the best sectors for FDI?
A: We have quite a few niche investors in hi-tech, IT and the automotive industry. In Odelo, more than 1000 Slovenians are already employed manufacturing back lights for high-end cars for BMW and Audi.
Japanese industrial robotics company Yaskawa is making a €25m investment in Slovenia, in Kocevje. They’re thinking to really enlarge it in the future. Another example is Magna, the Canadian company with a factory in Austria, but now coming to Slovenia.
Our ministry is giving support and health to investors, if they need contacts with local communities as well; we have the information about which local community has space for greenfield or brownfield investment, and what the incentives are. We have incentives in the form of regulation and tax relief, especially for the research and development sector.
We have a really strong IT community, centred around the Institute for Artificial Intelligence; we have the highest number of scientists in artificial intelligence per capita. Slovenia has a very strong start-up community as well.
Another strong sector is wood and forestry, because 60% of our country is covered with wood.