Hotel Sojka lures tourists from Benelux

TOURISM in Slovakia is not developing in a good direction according to Belgian Gerdi Vanfleteren who opened his Sojka hotel in Liptov region in 2004.

The Sojka hotel is located in the Liptov region of northern Slovakia. The Sojka hotel is located in the Liptov region of northern Slovakia. (Source: SME)

Despite the negatives, he is trying to persuade people from Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg to come and discover the beauties of Slovakia, including by offering his own unique beer.

Opening a hotel

Vanfleteren came to Slovakia as manager of a foreign bank. In 2003 he moved to Liptov where he opened a family hotel. He chose this location as there is nearly everything a tourist is searching for in one region: possibilities for summer and winter tourism, mountains, water and history. Moreover, there are also other interesting regions surrounding Liptov, he recalled for The Slovak Spectator.

Though most of their guests are Slovaks, about 30 percent of the guests come from the Benelux countries, particularly Belgium. There are also some guests coming from the neighbouring countries or the Baltic states, he said. In the beginning it was hard for him to convince tourists coming from the Benelux region that Slovakia is a modern country with a lot of possibilities for visitors.

When asked about the differences between Belgian and Slovak tourists, one of Vanfleteren’s employees said that while the former are more interested in getting to know the country, history, or nature, the latter are more interested in leisure. Moreover, while Belgian customers keep more to themselves or speak with each other rather than complaining, Slovak customers expect a lot more for the money they spend. Belgian customers prefer longer stays and Slovaks shorter.

Beer on offer

The Sojka hotel is known for beer tasting, which Vanfleteren launched to distinguish it from other hotels in Liptov. 

Along with Belgian beers he also offers one special beer: Vlaamse Gaai (Sojka beer) that is brewed in Flanders. 

Vanfleteren recalls that the beginnings of brewing it were not easy.

“When I started Sojka beer, that was not possible yet in Slovakia,” said Vanfleteren, adding that since then the situation has changed and now several Slovak micro-breweries brew their own beers. 

But Vanfleteren points out that these now have all similar production processes, similar taste and for the local market they already are obtainable everywhere.

Unfriendly business environment

Vanfleteren calls the business environment in Slovakia unfriendly, criticising the falling prices for accommodation but increased costs, taxes and fines. Moreover, he says there is no good flight connection to Liptov and points to insufficient activities by the Slovak Tourist Board in the Benelux countries. 

“Slovakia is not known at all as a holiday destination, hardly even as a country,” said Vanfleteren. Despite actual economic situation and lack of interest of the government in tourism, Vanfleteren would like to expand and improve the offer. 

 

Get daily Slovak news directly to your inbox

Theme: Foreigners in Slovakia

Read more articles by the topic

Top stories

Car industry needs to jump on the latest trends

Economy minister promises extensive support for hydrogen technologies in Slovakia.

The Hydrogen Technology Research Centre (CVVT) is to be launched at the end of 2020 or beginning of 2021 in Košice to do R&D in this field.

Want to publish a book? You can do it yourself

Self-publishing is setting a new trend.

Nikoleta Kováčová has published two cookbooks without the aid of a publishing house.

Hospital manners expose the toxicity of Kollár

Unjustified privileges overshadow some good news of the coalition's work. Halloween testing will not be repeated during advent time.

PM Igor Matovič (l) and Speaker of Parliament Boris Kollár

News digest: Slovakia still dealing with the loss of its talent

Economy minister promises extensive support for hydrogen technologies in Slovakia. Far-right supporters protested in front of PM’s house during the weekend.

The far-right ĽSNS organised a protest in front of PM Igor Matovič's house in Trnava.