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Ljubljana was declared the winner of this prestigious title by an independent panel of experts at the award ceremony which took place yesterday in Helsinki. Gothenburg and Malaga shared the European Capital of Smart Tourism 2020 award.

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© Branko Čeak

The jury recognized Ljubljana's efforts in the field of smart solutions on the basis of our city's candidature, presenting its most important measures and plans in the fields of sustainable development, accessibility, digitalisation, cultural heritage and creativity.

The jury was impressed by Ljubljana's various smart solutions including the official tourism website with its rich content and a series of apps - especially the Tap water app for locating water fountains all around the city. 35 cities from 17 member states applied to this year’s competition, with an independent panel of experts selecting ten cities that have shown excellence in all four competition categories.

Representatives of the ten finalists presented their candidacies and their programme of planned activities for 2020 in Helsinki on 8 October 2019.

Petra Stušek from Tourism Ljubljana gave a presentation of the successful projects and initiatives undertaken by the City Municipality of Ljubljana and Tourism Ljubljana, such as the Green Supply Chains and Locally Grown Food Exchange, urban bee-keeping, new hiking trails in the Ljubljana region, and the new “Smell of Ljubljana” product, which is currently being developed.

In relation to the category of accessibility, she highlighted projects designed to improve urban mobility for everyone, including persons with disabilities (tactile signs, the “Ljubljana By Wheelchair” mobile app, the adaptation of public transport, the “Kavalir” electric vehicle network and electrical attachable handcycles for wheelchairs), as well as the opportunities offered by the Avant2Go electric vehicle car-sharing system.

Among the projects in the digitalisation category, Ms Stušek announced a new chatbot for visitors and locals which will soon be launched on the Visit Ljubljana Facebook page. She also mentioned the upgrading of the Nexto and Urbana mobile apps and smart projects and services being developed at BTC City shopping complex. In her presentation of the cultural aspects of Ljubljana’s bid, she emphasized more than 14,000 cultural, sporting, culinary and tourist events that take place in the city every year, and the fact that products and services in areas outside the city centre are also being included, with the aim of rerouting tourist flows.

The European Capital of Smart Tourism is an initiative launched by the European Commission to increase Europe’s profile as a tourist destination and establish a platform for the exchange of best tourism practices between European cities. A smart tourist destination is defined as a city that uses its territorial, social and human capital to grow the tourism sector, increase the prosperity of the city and improve the quality of life of its inhabitants, offers enhanced and tailored tourism experiences that place a high value on local resources while respecting and involving local communities, and provides access to tourism services and products by using new technologies, interconnections and services.

By being awarded the title, Ljubljana has received the confirmation that within a year it has succeeded in upgrading and improving the city for its citizens and also as a travel destination. Furthermore, it has once again become an inspiration to other tourist destinations across Europe.