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March 2011Conference+Meetings World www.c-mw.net11Paul Colstonreports from Ljubljana on how a small nation is training to pack a big conference andmeetings punch in the South East Europe market. Slovenia ups its stakeSlovenia hosted the biggest gatheringof industry professionals in the region(Conventa 2011) in January and ispitching strongly as a regional MICE hub,with good connections and modern venues. The country lies on a Europeangateway between East and West, Northand South. With a certain priceadvantage over parts of Western Europe,the business tourism offer is backed byservice levels generally on a par with its neighbours to the West.Buyers and media representativesattending Conventa's familiarisation tripsthis year experienced first-hand some of thenatural landscapes that can provide abackdrop not just to the tourist board'smarketing line, but to major events.A small country of just two million offersboth Mediterranean coastline and a slice ofthe Alps. Slovenia is also the second mostafforested country and boasts the world'ssecond largest cave. In fact there are 9,000karst caves in the country, including the one(Karst) that gives it name to thephenomenon and to the local town.Organisers won't go short on bolt-onactivities in Slovenia, with 87 thermalsprings and the unique Lake Bled. If you'remore of a night owl, then join the Italianand Austrian gamblers at the popularcasinos in the Alps.Slovenia has 10 golf courses, one near toLipica, home of the stud farm that breedsthe distinctive white Lipizzaner horses.You can practise winter sports in the WorldCup ski venue of Kranjska Gora.The country can be a gourmet's delightand Conventa showcased two majorcaterers to the local events industry, Vivoand Jezersek, companies accenting locallysourced produce. There is a 10-day autumnfestival of gastronomy and wine in Mariborand local delicacies include Prekmurskagibanica layer cake, pumpkin seed oil andsemi-cured kranjska sausage. And, if youlike your food salted, go to the Secovljesaltworks and see where it comes from.The Slovenia Convention Bureau estimates700,000 meetings delegates and businessvisitors come to the country each year, 20per cent of all tourists.Outside the capital, the city of Maribor willbe the European Capital of Culture 2012,while Portoroz, on the Adriatic, boasts thecountry's largest congress hotel. The GrandHotel Bernardin's main auditorium can host1,100 delegates and Venice is only a shortboat trip away. Piran is another Adriatic cityof interest and, like most major towns andcities in Slovenia, connected by a good roadsystem, partially toll operated.Postojna Cave is another unique spot andthe Jamski Dvorec mansion can be bookedfor events for up to 300 delegates.Overnight stays in Ljubljana increased 14per cent to August 2010. A city whosename translates as 'Beloved' has clearlyfound many new admirers amonginternational meetings industryprofessionals.COUNTRY FOCUSThe church on Lake Bled is a traditional wedding venue for Slovenians?Hotel Slon- Part of the Best WesternPremier chain, it offers 168 rooms. ?Hotel Mons- Nearest hotel toLjubljana airport. It is four-star and hostedthe Skoda Yeti press launch in 2009 andlaunch of the Renault Twingo. Its largestconference hall can seat 600 delegates. ?The Art Nouveau Grand Uniondatesfrom 1905 and was HQ for Conventa. ?For those that like things on a bijouxscale, the Antiqand Antiq Palaceboutique hotels are centrally situated. ?Also at the luxury end is the five-starHotel Lev. ?Ljubljana's two largest conferencevenues are Cankarjev DomCultural andCongress Centre and the GR LjubljanaExhibition and Convention Centre.?Ljubljana Castlecan be used forreceptions and events, while a 45-minutedrive takes you to the panoramic LakeBled where Tito had his own retreat, nowthe hotel Villa Bled.The Grand HotelToplice, also in Bled, is five-star qualityand offers a big lakeside panorama.Conference hotels andmajor venues?Population 280,000, one of Europe'ssmallest capitals?UNESCO World Book Capital 2010City of festivals, including the JazzFestival, Young Lions internationalfestival of theatre and dance and theLiFFe international film festival.?A recent regional barometer ofcongress prices by local MICEmagazine Kongres showed Belgrade asthe cheapest destination of ninecountries in South East Europe, withZagreb and Bucharest the mostexpensive.Boutique City - Ljubljana