Melania's birth country Slovenia sees strong tourism growth

LJUBLJANA (Reuters) - Slovenia, birth country of U.S. First Lady Melania Trump, expects revenues from foreign tourists to jump by about 9 percent this year and by at least 5 percent in 2018, Economy Minister Zdravko Pocivalsek said on Tuesday.

U.S. First Lady Melania Trump tours the holiday decorations with reporters at the White House. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

2017 will be the fourth record year in a row for Slovenian tourism after revenues from foreign tourists reached some 2.3 billion euros ($2.71 billion) last year, Pocivalsek told a news conference.

Tourism in Slovenia rose strongly because of a general increase of tourism in Europe and a successful promotion of Slovenia as a safe country.

Officials say it also got something of a boost from Melania Trump having been born in the city of Sevnica in southeastern Slovenia before becoming a fashion model and moving to the United States.

“We received a lot of attention from (international) journalists because of the U.S. First Lady and we managed to present Slovenia as an attractive, green country,” Maja Pak, head of the Slovenian Tourist Organisation, told the same news conference.

About 60 percent of Slovenia is covered by forests while the country has some resorts on the Adriatic sea as well as a number of Alpine and spa tourist resorts.

Pocivalsek also said Slovenia plans to gradually privative all tourist accommodation infrastructure which should further improve tourism business. At present about 40 percent of hotels in Slovenia are in state hands.

“I want a well-considered privatization ... which will be in favor of the state and the companies that are being sold,” Pocivalsek said.

In the first 10 months of 2017 the number of foreign tourists jumped by almost 17 percent year-on-year, the statistics office said last month.

In the first nine months of the year, the latest data available, the number of tourists from the United States rose by 23.4 percent, it added.

According to the government’s tourism strategy the revenues from foreign tourists should rise to at least 3.7 billion euros per year by the end of 2021.

($1 = 0.8472 euros)

Reporting By Marja Novak Editing by Jeremy Gaunt