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ITTFA Comment on… Focus on… Slovakia

The Slovak Republic (Slovakia) is a good example of how a small country is helping to increase tourism both inbound and outbound with the help of an ITTFA member exhibition – Slovakiatour, held each January in the capital, Bratislava.

When Czechoslovakia was dissolved in 1993, the Czech capital of Prague soon became a major tourist destination with air travel being liberalised within a couple of years. But Slovakia was virtually unknown except to its neighbours, despite its many natural assets and easy access from key European tourism markets.

Bratislava, the historic capital, has an attractive setting on the River Danube and is close to Vienna. The High Tatras mountains are one of the last wildernesses of Europe offering activity holidays in summer and skiing in winter, and throughout the country are natural spas with great appeal to health-conscious travellers.

Slovakia is now starting to emerge from the shadow of its better-known neighbour, with significant investment in its tourism infrastructure both before and after its accession to the EU in 2004. Slovakiatour provides the perfect forum for tour operators to discover more about the country, and for foreign tourist boards to target the increasingly mobile Slovak market.

Slovakiatour was held for the 13th time in January 2007, having made its debut shortly after independence. It attracted 521 exhibitors including 342 from the domestic market and 179 from other countries, including 30 tourist boards. The total of 62,387 visitors included nearly 9,000 from the trade, the total number having grown by over 50% from only 40,000 in 2004.

The tourism fair is held alongside two other exhibitions, helping to boost attendance. The Hunting and Leisure exhibition focuses on outdoor pursuits, while Camera Slovakia is a festival of film and photography.

The Slovak regions are always strongly represented, with a major focus on spa tourism which extended into the business seminar programme in 2007. In 2008, Slovakiatour will extend this with a general focus on rural tourism.

Slovakia’s spa product is being modernised to appeal to a wider audience, with a focus on wellness and relaxation as well as medicinal cures. The most significant development is opening of the country’s first five-star spa hotel at the resort of Piestany where the 111-room Thermia Palace, built in 1912, is next to the Irma Health Spa and mud pool. It is operated by Danubius Hotels which also runs several spa hotels in Hungary, including Budapest and Heviz.

Although the majority of visitors arrive in Slovakia overland, tourism is also developing thanks to low-cost airlines including SkyEurope (which has a base in Bratislava) and Ryanair. SkyEurope routes include a direct service from London Stansted to Poprad, in the High Tatras mountains.

The number of Slovaks travelling abroad increased from 17% of the population in 2005 to 22% in 2006, and this is reflected in strong representation of tourist boards at Slovakiatour. Sunshine destinations are the most popular, led by Croatia, Greece and Bulgaria.

Head of the fair’s management team, Ernest Nagy, says: “During the 13 years of its existence, Slovakiatour has become the largest and most significant tourism fair in Slovakia and holds an important position among travel and tourism fairs in the Central European region. ”

“The number of exhibitors, visitors and represented countries increases every year. An inseparable part of the fair is a rich accompanying programme as well as the project of Honoured Country, which every year introduces an attractive holiday destination.”

Slovakiatour is a member of ITTFA, International Travel Tourism Fairs Association. For more details on the Association, its aims and member shows, please view