SLOVAKIA: A COUNTRY REPLETE WITH NATURE’S BOUNTIES

In recent years, Slovakia has emerged as an attractive tourist destination. Notwithstanding its small size, the country located in the central part of Europe is replete with abundant bounties of nature. The nation boasts of its tall mountains, national parks, natural caves, rivers and much more, making the country a favourite for those fond of nature. The country also has a very rich historical and cultural heritage. In an exclusive interview with TnH, H.E. MR IVAN LANCARIC, the Ambassador of the Slovak Republic to India, speaks about the tourism potential of his country and offers tips for travellers planning to visit Slovakia.

Please tell us about the current status of tourism in your country in terms of the number of arrivals.

In recent years, the Slovak Republic has become even more popular as a tourist destination. For example, in 2017 about 2,2 million foreign visitors came to Slovakia. This number is surely even higher, but statistics only include travellers staying in Slovakia at least for one night. If you take into consideration that the total number of Slovak citizens is only about 5.5 million,  you will find our tourism sector remarkable. Tourism in Slovakia generates revenues of roughly 5 billion € every year, which represents 5.2% of our total GDP.

Tell us about the overall tourism potential of Slovakia? 

When you compare Slovakia to India, we are really small because the size of our country is just about 50 000 sq km.  But even though we are relatively small you can find almost everything in Slovakia: about 120 medieval castles, almost 4200 churches and cathedrals, 9 national parks, more than 7000 natural caves, 1600 mineral and thermal springs, 40 spas and aquaparks, more than 50 ski resorts with hundreds of cable cars, almost 150 wineries… We can boast of a total of 30 records in the UNESCO list of world heritage.  Not to mention dozens of festivals, cultural events, galleries, museums and nightlife of course. You can find everything in Slovakia, maybe except the sea.

 What are the unique tourist destinations in Slovakia you would like to recommend?

To be honest, it is really difficult to recommend only a few, but I will suggest some tips to address everyone. For those who prefer nature, mountains and adventures, I would recommend our pride: High Tatra mountains, national park Slovak Paradise as well as our famous Demäňovská Ice Cave and Ochtinská Aragonite Cave that are listed in UNESCO. For those who want to see the history of medieval castles, there are Bojnice Castle, Red Rock Castle, Bratislava Castle, Spiš Castle, Orava Castle and many others.  All of them are fully renovated and wonderful. Those who would like to get to know Slovak culture and traditions should visit our open-air museums of traditional villages like Čičmany, Pribylina or Bardejov and of course they should not miss our traditional folk festival Východná every July.

What facets of tourism in your country do you think will appeal to Indians?  

I believe that all of abovementioned. We understand that travel preferences are very individual. Someone might like mountains and nature, others might like history and culture, someone might prefer to enjoy the nightlife. But as I explained in previous answers Slovakia can really offer something for everyone´s taste. Especially if you want to escape from the Indian summer heat and humidity or polluted air in winter, Slovak touristic resorts may offer you pleasant climate and fresh air during the whole year.

How important is India as a market for tourism in your country? Currently how many Indians are visiting Slovakia per year and for what purposes?

Last year we recorded more than 11 000 Indians that visited our country and stayed there more than one night. In this regard, I would like to highlight that Indian tourists on average stayed on our territory more days than other tourists. But still, there is a huge potential and we believe that we will attract even more Indian visitors in the future.

What are the new initiatives to attract Indian tourists? 

Just recently we doubled visa capacity at the Embassy and launched the cooperation with VFS Global in 3 cities – Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore, which adds to tripling the visa capacity as compared to 2018. The latest initiative was an event presenting Slovakia as a tourist destination organized by the Slovak Embassy on March 6th. It was a very successful event and we are planning to organize more of them in the future, maybe even in collaboration with some agencies or organizations.

Please tell us about the Slovak visa process for Indians. How easier is it to get Slovak visa?  

Our visa issuing process has to strictly follow the Schengen Visa Code so we can say it is the same as in any other EU country. But at this point, I would like to recommend to any applicant: please, read the visa application instructions carefully and make sure everything in your application is correct and complete. Correct and complete application submitted in advance of the planned travel is likely to get easy and fast approval. As I have already mentioned, we have strengthened our visa office this year. Majority of Indian Schengen Visa applications in 2018 were business trips and average visa processing time was 4 calendar days.

How is air-connectivity between the two countries?

There is a very convenient flight connection via Dubai to Bratislava, and also direct flights to Vienna airport which is just half hour drive from capital Bratislava. And from Bratislava, it takes only 2-3 hours of car ride to get to most of abovementioned beautiful sites, mountains and attractions.

How long have you been in India? what do you enjoy the most about it? 

Together with my wife, we have arrived in June 2018 and since then we are trying to enjoy a variety of regional and traditional Indian cuisines.

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