Q1. How has changing to the Euro and joining the EU affected the brand of Slovenia and other countries from the region who have undergone similar changes?
Joining the EU was one of the key events in our recent history, and it has very much improved our national brand. It was proof that Slovenia is working really hard with reforms and was proof that we were on the right path because after the break-up of Yugoslavia, being on the right path was not the easiest task. The region itself was affected by many conflicts at the beginning of the nineties and these conflicts continued for several years. Working on the reforms in this period was an extremely hard task. Slovenia proved to be one of the best students in the class since we joined the group of all the other Eastern European countries who joined the European Union together. Even more than that, we were the first to adopt the Euro as our official currency and the first of the new countries who joined the European Union to hold the presidency of the European Union. These were the key events in making the Slovenian brand a positive one.
Q2. What has Slovenia done differently to surrounding and competing countries, such as Croatia and Hungary to give it its own brand and attract tourists?
The thing is that Croatia and Serbia, for example, or Bosnia-Herzegovina were affected by war much more than Slovenia was. We were lucky to have had only a short experience with war, which lasted only ten days. After those ten days of armed conflict, we had time to make reforms, to develop, to actually work on our progress. In the meantime, the other countries were still struggling with the conflict. So you cannot say that we did anything better than Croatia or Serbia, but we were lucky that we were not affected by the war as much; thatís why we joined the EU first. I think all the countries in the western Balkans are doing well. The problem is that some of them have had worse conflicts, worse political problems to deal with and this, of course, affects their speed.
Q3. Thereís a big difference in prosperity between western Slovenia, and the southeastern part of Slovenia. Tourism is one element of a countryís national branding. Have you noticed any difference between tourism in these respective areas, and do you take the image of Slovenia given to the rest of the world as more like the way of life in the more prosperous or least prosperous areas?
Tourism in Slovenia is one part of the brand, but itís not our winning horse. Slovenia has very big prospects in tourism, but if you look at the contribution of tourism to our national GDP, tourism is not such an important part as in the case of Croatia, for example, so I would say that in our case, we have to build our brand on several different aspects, tourism being one of those, but not the strongest. Regarding the tourism, you are right Ė several parts of Slovenia are differently developed, but Slovenia is not so big that this would present a big problem. We are trying to build Slovenia as a destination as being small enough to enable traveling within a day from mountains to the seaside, to the thermal complexes in the eastern part. There are many destinations in Slovenia, but itís luckily small enough to that you do not have to split your vacations in different parts of Slovenia.
Q4. Do you think there are unique links between globalization and nation branding? Can this be used to your advantage?
Of course, with globalization the perception and methods of Nation Branding changes Ė in any case you have to work on your brand as a nation, but you have to take into account everything thatís going on around you. Globalization brings negative and positive aspects. The positive one is of course that as Slovenia we can present ourselves not just in our neighborhood, but around the world. We can easily target Asian countries or South American countries as countries where we would like to promote Slovenia, from where we would like tourists to come, from where we would like investments to come, so globalization of course makes it easier for your national brand to be seen abroad. On the other hand, as a small country trying to compete in the globalized world, we have to compete with everybody else. If you are taking globalization into account you have to find the perfect place to put yourself and think about how to put yourself there, not trying to take too much on one side, still knowing that you can act all around the world. You have to try to pick the right targets abroad.