Sunday, March 29th 2020.


Hugo Slimbrouck
Slovenia: the last of the unexplored European territories



By Karina Schuil
Managing Director SPARKZ corporate events


I have to confess: during the flight I quickly snatched the Adria Airways magazine and secretly browsed for the Airline destination pages. Where exactly was Slovenia located? If you asked me before I probably would have answered you that it was next to Poland. As it turned out next to Austria, Italy, Croatia, Hungary and the Adriatic Sea was the right answer. Could it have been the busy times and last minute trip preparations that I didn’t know of its exact whereabouts? Or could my missed Topography class of Central Europe in elementary school have created the blank?

How could an experienced incentive professional have heard so little about one of Europe’s countries? How big was my relief when many of my colleagues from The Netherlands and Belgium confided in me that they hadn’t had a clue themselves. It left me wondering though why all of us professionals knew so little about Slovenia.

Upon arrival at Jože Pučnik Ljubljana international airport I felt like I had landed in Austria, seeing a range of snow covered mountains in the background. The climate left me feeling more like I was in Italy though. The tone of the program was set with a line of shiny
old-timers awaiting our group at the airport. Even the rock ‘n roll music on board was in tune.


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Conference centerOur first visit was to Brdo estate (, only 9 kilometres from the airport. This was the official venue for state protocol events in the past. The richly decorated Brdo Castle, formerly a residence of Tito, still carries the memories of the region’s turbulent past. Nowadays meetings and banqueting dinners can be organised in the same room Bush and Putin once debated in. Next door is a state of the art conference centre that amongst others presented the headquarters of the Slovenian Presidency of the European Union in 2008.

Duck islandA short walk through the lovely 500 ha park, along fairytale lakes covered by water lilies and with magnificent views of the foothills of the Kamnik-Savinja Alps, led us to Duck Island. On this tiny island beautifully set tables under a canopy awaited us for a lovely lunch with wonderful local wines. The Slovenian Convention Bureau (, together with Ria Mooijaart & Partners ( and DMC Intours (, organizers of the fam trip welcomed us.

After lunch we where swooned away by our limousines again, off to the capital Ljubljana for an introduction with a creative approach. Ljubljana Castle, majestically towering over the city from atop a hill, was the starting point. The lioncastle with its surprisingly modern interior can be privatised for meetings and events ( In teams we visited highlights by bike, a very pleasant way of transferring in this green and peaceful city. So our team ended up doing the dishes in the kitchen in a hotel, ‘interrupting’ a make-believe gala dinner at Hotel Lev ( and interviewing the manager of Nebotičnik café, located on top of the Nebotičnik (Skyscraper) building. A wonderful spot for drinks, dinner or a party with a 360 degrees city panorama. After crisscrossing the city we were rewarded by a meet & greet with the charming mayor of the city of Ljubljana. He himself gave us a tour of the house and even of his own office, where he proudly showed us framed photographs of his grandchildren. The modesty of the Slovenians surprised me: in what other capital of the world could you imagine this kind of personal touch!


major diner


Dinner took place at the back garden of a restaurant located in a cosy old city house. Intours created a funky atmosphere with illuminated furniture and a DJ/saxophone combination. The sustainable approach of Slovenia was illustrated by a beekeeper who told us all about the ‘BeBee’ campaign launched by the Slovenian Convention Bureau (

restaurantBreakfast the next morning was another example of the creativity of the Slovenian meeting & incentive industry. After a comfortable rest in the Grand Union Hotel ( we entered the Grand Ballroom of the hotel. The room with all the adornments of a classical theatre was beautifully lighted as for a gala dinner and on stage a pianist accompanied a presentation of the hotel. I can honestly say this was the first ever PowerPoint presentation that left me with goose bumps. How simple, yet smart.

After breakfast we travelled to the seaside city of Portoroz. En cavesroute we were transferred to another world when we visited the majestic Postojna caves. With 20 kilometer in length they form the largest karst cave system in Europe. The immense passages, galleries and chambers with ancient towering stalagmites and stalagmites make sure to create a ‘wow’- effect. Inside activities like trekking or speleology, teambuilding events and even theatre performances or receptions under crystal chandeliers can be organized. An exclusive exploration by foot brought yet another surprise. From above a rock formation we heard the sounds of a small choir emerge, bringing us a mini-concert in the overwhelming acoustics.

In Portoroz we stayed at the very comfortable yet affordable Kempinski Palace Hotel ( The afternoon started off with an eco workshop in which more of the variety of the destination was presented to us.

Portoroz can be easily reached from the capital in 1 hour. You could also opt for flying in from Trieste or Venice and reach Portoroz by boat.


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Next to offering a nice seaside ambiance and extensive meeting facilities, the area provides some good teambuilding as well, a salt panning competition for example. For us another bike ride brought us to the charming village of Piran for some sightseeing.


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At night we were guests at the Santomas wine growing estate, in the heart of Slovenian Istria ( for a tour of the cellars and dinner. It was hard to choose what was best: the wines, the food or the panorama. Afterwards we had to test the lively nightlife at one of Portoroz’ seaside clubs for ourselves.


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The last day we changed scenery one last time as we travelled to the picturesque lake of Bled, deriving from the Bohinj glacier. Bled is a good destination for water activities on the lake or a visit to Bled Castle, rising high above the lake. Vila Bled (, the former summer residence of president Tito, now refurbished as a small hotel, can be used for a lunch or dinner in historical settings. Guests can be transferred with typical Pletna rowing boats to the venue. After a taste of the famous local cream cake at the GH Toplice Hotel ( it was time for us to go to the airport.


During the days of my visit, as the diversity of the landscapes and the creativity and professionalism of the Slovenian meeting & incentive providers surprised me time and again, my initial question kept on surfacing: how in the world is it possible that Slovenia is such a hidden gem in well trodden incentive land? Why did most of us organizers know so little about it? Miro Hribar from Intours explains it as follows: ‘We Slovenians are very modest people, perhaps a bit too much so!’. He may be right: in a test conducted by Readers Digest, Ljubljana even came out as the most honest city in the world. In my opinion, they would have all the rights to brag about their country instead and tell all the world about its’ uniqueness.

So now, back at home, I struggle with a dilemma: part of me wants everyone to be in the know about this wonderful new country I have discovered, while another part of me secretly wants to keep my treasure hidden. That way I can keep on surprising my clients with a very original, unexplored and surprising new destination. But that would be too selfish wouldn’t it?


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Slovenia meeting & incentive facts

  • Slovenia will astound you with its landscape being so varied, making it possible to walk around the capital, ski in the Alps and take a swim in the Adriatic Sea all within the same day.
  • Your delegates will not likely have visited Slovenia before, creating a surprise factor.
  • Slovenia is one of the most forested countries in Europe with around 60% of its surface covered in forest.
  • Slovenia offers a clean, unspoiled environment and a calm, relaxing atmosphere
  • Slovenian meeting and incentive providers are very professional and focus on sustainability with hotels and venues using only local and organic produce and promoting delegates to drink water from the tap.
  • Direct daily flights from major European airports, mainly by Adria Airways ( and access from airports across borders such as Trieste or Venice, Graz, Klagenfurt or Zagreb.
  • Slovenia is the only country in the world with the word LOVE in its name - and deserves it!




The fam trip to Slovenie was organized by INTOURS DMC, Slovenian Convention Bureau and Ria Mooijaart & Partners.  
Ria Mooijaart & Partners represents exclusive & superior hotels and dmc’s to the Benelux market place through sales & marketing activities, public relations and passion…
The Collection of Ria Mooijaart & Partners invites you to discover fine hotels and exciting destinations selected with the discerning traveller and organizer in mind.
Each of them is special in a unique way; by their creativity, their original approach to hospitality, their flexible attention to business, or just by being exclusive and by their unique features.
Ria Mooijaart & Partners look forward to introducing The Collection to you and help you finding the right venue for a meeting, product launch. incentive, cocktail party or any other special event requiring something out of the ordinary. There are no additional handling or coordination costs involved.
New in The Collection are: 24 Degrees Dubai  & Oman  - Valamar Hotels and  Resorts  Croatia -  Hotel Puerta America Madrid - ESA Exclusive South America    
Ria Mooijaart & Partners
Mobile +32 476 800 811


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