Smile! Tourists are coming!

THE PREPARATIONS for the upcoming Ice Hockey World Championship have not transformed Bratislava into a shiny European metropolis overnight. But tourism experts still believe that the city can appeal to the foreign guests who are expected to flood the city for two weeks – if only service providers, who have something of a reputation for being grumpy, treat the hockey fans with honesty and a smile.

THE PREPARATIONS for the upcoming Ice Hockey World Championship have not transformed Bratislava into a shiny European metropolis overnight. But tourism experts still believe that the city can appeal to the foreign guests who are expected to flood the city for two weeks – if only service providers, who have something of a reputation for being grumpy, treat the hockey fans with honesty and a smile.

The Slovak Spectator spoke to Peter Belinský, the general director of the Slovak Tourist Board (SACR), about the Play Fair and Don’t Forget the Smile campaigns. The first is based on a code of ethics which providers of tourist services can sign to declare they will treat their customers honestly; the second is based on a kind of game in which restaurants and other establishments are marked with a sticker depicting a smiling forget-me-not flower which is intended to remind staff to keep smiling and be kind to their customers.



The Slovak Spectator (TSS): What effects do you expect these campaigns to bring?


Peter Belinský (PB): The aim of the two campaigns is to encourage the biggest possible number of service providers to be welcoming and homey, which would result in the number of satisfied visitors to Slovakia increasing. But they should also provoke debate on this issue among experts. A smile in the first place is a symbol, but it is also like a boomerang. It returns to the service provider when happy customers come back again. Tourism is an experience for the visitor, but the daily bread of the entrepreneur. And both should be left satisfied. The task of the forget-me-not is therefore to remind them that very often it doesn’t take much to make tourists happy, just an increase in the willingness of staff.



TSS: Have service providers shown an interest in the campaigns?


PB: As of today [April 19] we have 69 establishments who have signed the code of ethics through the municipal office in Bratislava. They will be sent the forget-me-not stickers. In Košice the mayor sent a letter in which he called on about 800 establishments to join the code of ethics and the forget-me-not project. When the championship is over, the forget-me-not initiative will be spread to other Slovak towns and those who are interested will be able to apply via a special website, www.nezabudniusmev.sk.



TSS: How will you make sure that foreign visitors understand what the symbol of the campaign means?


PB: We will inform foreign tourists with information flyers, posters in public transport, and through tour operators. We will explain to them the sense of the campaign and will tell them where to get small forget-me-not stickers which they will then stick on boards in the restaurants where they were happy with the service.



TSS: What other activities will SACR undertake during the Championship?


PB: We will have 14 specialised information stands in Bratislava, Košice and Vienna. In this way we will promote among the fans the typical Slovak tourist products and destinations, such as healing spas, UNESCO monuments, castles, and others. There will also be a media campaign promoting Slovakia’s tourist attractions during the championship, on Czech Television and the Austrian radio station Arabella.


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