As a country Slovenia has incredible green credentials – something which inevitably jars with broadening its aviational connectivity. Nevertheless, the question must be asked – does the country want more tourists, or is it focusing on bringing in fewer visitors who arrive with deeper pockets and are more respectful of their natural surroundings? Each trait does not necessarily go hand in hand, nor do they need to be mutually exclusive.

I am though puzzled as to what future the Slovenian government imagines for Maribor’s all but mothballed Edvard Rusjan Airport. For it to be merely considered as a aviation maintenance hub, the location of a flight school, and even a storage facility for other counties aircraft is as disrespectful as it is short-sighted. Nobody including myself wants to see the Pohorje Massif and Maribor’s surrounding countryside as well as the city itself overrun with tourists, but there is so much scope for many different genres of visitors that to not pursue a way forward to make Maribor’s airport work for the region is utterly preposterous.

I do not subscribe to the cautious approach inevitably promulgated by those transfixed by the cost of living crisis and the devastating “special military operation” in Ukraine. If a purposeful, joined up approach was entered into by all the relevant stakeholders, including the Slovenian government, then Maribor’s fit for purpose but otherwise overlooked airport can still have a bright future that its European Union-funded terminal building was intended for.

Although the ongoing issues with Ljubljana’s Brnik-based Joze Pucnik Airport and its inability or lack of desire to attract low coat flights from the likes of Ryanair is often lumped together with Maribor’s ongoing difficulties, in reality the capital’s airport is privately owned and operated by Fraport, whilst Maribor’s facility is as far as I am aware from both ownership and operational perspectives solely in government hands. It isn’t beyond the realms of possibility that state subsidies could be proffered to prospective airline partners to use either airport, but that is where the similarity between the two ends.

The time for feasibility studies, hand wringing, and ‘looking into ‘how to solve the ‘Maribor problem’ needs to be replaced with measured, sustainable proposals that can be brought about by all concerned working in tandem for the good of a country that is so often branded Ljubljana-centric and where tourism has its main focus on and within its western side: the Adriatic coast, Bled, Bohinj, Kranjska Gora, and Bovec for example.

Those wishing to fly to Maribor, Slovenia’s second city, should not have to accept instead doing so into Ljubljana – not always an easy place to get a direct flight to – or even Graz, across the Austrian border when there is a perfectly adequate airport just sitting there. It is time those with the power to do so got to know their target markets – viniculture, hiking, winter sports, thermal spas, and city break credentials – and set about building a diverse tourism offering for those who otherwise do not know of Maribor, but would certainly be glad if they did.

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