This competition represents a new initiative by the European Commission, which is aimed to increase the visibility of Europe as a tourism destination and to establish a platform for the exchange of best practices in tourism between European cities.
Representatives of 10 cities on the shortlist presented their candidatures yesterday to the jury in Brussels, which announced that Helsinki and Lyon will receive the first European Capital of Smart Tourism Award 2019, while Ljubljana was declared the best in the field of sustainable tourism development. Applying for the evaluation in the competition which was organized for the first time this year, were 38 cities from 19 member states, 10 of which were selected as the finalists by the jury of independent experts. After yesterday's presentation of the candidatures in Brussels, the winners were selected by a jury consisting of representatives of the European Commission, the European Parliament, the European Committee of the Regions, Bulgaria and Austria.
"We are extremely proud that a group of experts recognized the efforts made by Ljubljana to develop into a modern capital city while at the same time remaining people-friendly. The award positions Ljubljana to the very top of good practices in the field of sustainable tourism development for its work done so far and its plans for the future, which will enable further economic and social development as well as preserve the natural environment and resources," said the managing director of Ljubljana Tourism, Ms. Petra Stušek after the proclamation of this years' award winners.
In regard to the sustainable tourism development of the city, Petra Stušek presented to the jury the projects Green Supply Chains, Taste Ljubljana, a project connecting primary schools to the local food producers, the city's zero waste management measures, the increase of public green spaces, pedestrian zones, cycling trails and public transport networks, the introduction of electric tourist train, measures taken in order to achieve de-seasonalisation and dispersion of tourism flows and the development of cultural districts.
In terms of accessibility, she highlighted various projects facilitating the mobility of blind and partially sighted people as well as people with other disabilities and special needs including an adaptation of public urban traffic, route designation, the Ljubljana by Wheelchair mobile application, multisensory museum guided tours and the Oviratlon triathlon organised to increase public awareness.
In the area of digitalization, she presented various innovative practical and tourism information outlets, digital products, services, spaces and experiences tailored to the needs of consumers, such as mobile audio guides in cultural institutions, a digital city guide, the public transport and tourist card Urbana, an application for recording the occupancy of parking spaces, BicikeLJ bike sharing scheme, electric car sharing, the WiFree Ljubljana city WiFi network, the Green Supply Chains web platform, the development of a smart tourist platform that will help understand the tourism flows in real-time and provide the input necessary to adapt the experiences for different target groups, etc.
In the field of cultural heritage and creativity, Petra Stušek emphasized the rich offer of more than 14,000 events with which Ljubljana Tourism and various institutions enrich the city throughout each year. The events include culture and sports, culinary and tourist experiences and innovative guided tours. They are supported by a strategy of cultural tourism, implemented on the municipal level and connecting as partners both the local as well as international institutions.
The sustainable tourism award within the European Smart Tourism Capital 2019 competition is another recognition for Ljubljana as a pioneer of sustainable and smart tourism in the European Union. With it, Ljubljana has again become an inspiration to other tourist destinations throughout Europe, while at the same time it was given a new challenge to further upgrade and improve itself, ensuring the quality of life for its citizens and visitors.