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The findings showed that Ljubljana has been successful in strengthening its image of a developed congress destination, which also contributes to a more positive perception of Slovenia and South-east Europe in the eyes of potential clients.

International association congresses and other forms of business meetings are recognised as an important economic activity for Ljubljana in terms of investment into the sector's offer. The key focus of the research titled »Conference delegates, their customs and expenditure 2017«, carried out by Toleranca Marketing agency on behalf of Ljubljana Tourism, was to establish the actual spending patterns, habits and expectations of the international congress guests.

The research was carried out in September 2017 on 4 congresses - the 47th Congress of the European Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Therapies – EABCT 2017, the 2nd World Open Educational Resources Congress – OER, LUX Europa 2017 and EUROSON 2017, the 29th Congress of EFSUMB.

Who are the congress guests in Ljubljana? Demographics

The survey was carried out in September 2017 during 4 congresses, sampled 302 guests (out of a total of 2,204) from 67 countries who were, in average, 40.34 years old and among whom 86% possessed a MA or PhD degree. Two thirds of the participants in the survey were employed in public sector (education, science, medicine, social services). As many as 79.5% of the respondents were attending a congress in Slovenia for the first time. In terms of the selected transport, 81% of the respondents travelled to Slovenia by airplane.

Why do they decide to come? Key factors

Most delegates base their decision to attend an international conference (51% of the surveyed do so once to twice a year) on the networking opportunities, education and training programme quality (84.4 and 85.4 %, respectively), followed by the destination's accessibility (61.3%) and safety (50%). However, and probably not surprisingly so, the findings showed that the factor of destination safety significantly increased, compared to a similar survey carried out in 2008. In this regard, 98.3% of the respondents answered that they were very satisfied or satisfied with the feeling of safety in Ljubljana, which positively distinguishes the Slovenian capital from a number of other meetings destinations.

Where are they staying and for how long?

Almost all of the surveyed conference delegates perceive Ljubljana very positively, for 97% of them stated that they would like to return and that staying in Ljubljana stirred their interest to find out more about the events' offer in the region. Among 73% of the guests who stayed in Ljubljana for 2 to 4 nights, more than two thirds stayed 3 to 4 nights. A significant number of the guests, 30%, extended their stay after the congress, mainly for one to two days. Therefore the average length of the stay, according to the survey, reached 3.97 days. Among the respondents, 70% stayed in hotels, while others found accommodation in other structures - Bed and Breakfasts, Airbnb, apartments, etc. Additionally, it is important to emphasize that in September 2017 the occupancy rates of congress hotels and other accommodation facilities were above average (based on Ljubljana Tourism’s daily recorded data); in the period from 13-25 September the occupancy of all accommodation facilities available was between 90,5 % and 98,2 % and the occupancy of hotels was between 90,3% and 97,8 %.

How much do they actually spend on average?

The most positive surprise that the findings revealed was connected to the fact that congress delegates in Ljubljana spend 3.7 times more in their three-day stay compared to leisure travellers*. To be precise, a delegate will spend 494 euros /day (including transport to- and from destination, registration fee and overnight stay on one hand, and food, drinks, entertainment, shopping and other personal expenses on the other). This results in a total average spend of 1,482 euros per delegate over a three-day event, which does not differ much from their usual expediture in other destinations around the globe (1,502 euros). The survey analysis also showed that for most of the questioned guests this expenditure was as expected.

What is their perception of Ljubljana as a congress destination?

In the section related to evaluating the satisfaction with the destination, the survey also measured the subjective satisfaction through questions regarding the interest for the event and plans for the future. Around 94 % of those who attended a congress in Ljubljana noted that the event reached or even exceeded their expectations. The most positively evaluated elements in Ljubljana's offer and all that the city delivers they listed safety, the kindness and hospitality of the local residents, the city's cleanliness and tidiness, and efficient congress staff, followed by accommodation, culinary experiences, the destination's accessibility, its value for money, shopping and entertainment. Most of the delegates want to return to the region of South-east Europe and, particularly, to Ljubljana / Slovenia, while among them more than half are planning to certainly return.

The goal? Enhancing Ljubljana's position on the international meetings market

According to the subjective evaluations of the survey participants, Ljubljana is a mature congress destination with an increasing international presence compared to a similar survey carried out in 2008. An interesting data from the 2017 survey is that almost 50% delegates answered positively to the question whether they knew that Ljubljana had been European Green Capital 2016.

Ljubljana Convention Bureau, operating within Ljubljana Tourism, intends to continue carrying out researches on the meetings industry also in the future in order to collect useful data that will help in planning their marketing activities as well as the destination's product development, all with the aim of enhancing Ljubljana's position on the highly competitive international meetings market.

* According to a research from Valicon in 2015 (Analysis of tourist expenditure in Ljubljana), a leisure guest spends around 135 euros a day, including the expenses for transport and overnight stays.