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The tourism industry is regarded as one of the most successful and promising industries in the Slovenian economy. As such, the Slovenian Tourist Board aims to promote Slovenia as a tourist destination for travelers from all around the world seeking distinctive experiences for peace, and/or personal benefits. Promotional activities, tourism workshops, planning, and development assisted the Slovenian Tourist Board in recent years “to increase the recognizability and reputation of the country as an authentic boutique destination for five-star experiences, which is committed to sustainability.”
Usually, STB organizes physical events but in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, they decided to organize a virtual event titled: FEEL sLOVEni@ Business Date in September and December 2020 using different virtual events hosting platforms. Then moving forward in April 2021, they chose vFairs as their virtual event hosting partner. The period between April and May was the “high time” for STB, therefore since April they have hosted four virtual events with the vFairs platform, alone – with two events in April 2021 and two events in May 2021 respectively.
We have had a chance to converse with Saša and Tanja – two members of STB’s business communication department – about their experience with vFairs. Let’s see what they have to say.
FEEL sLOVEni@ Business Date is a B2B tourism event in Slovenia that offers networking opportunities and meetings with renowned Slovenian tourism providers. Additionally, the conference offers an amazing opportunity to establish and strengthen business partnerships between foreign tour operators, tour agencies, and the representatives of the Slovenian tourism industry. The main goal of the event was to “promote Slovenia as a tourist destination”, says Saša. All four of their virtual events included presentations and conferences from global tourism providers, associations, and agencies.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the main activities of Slovenian Tourist Board were disabled so they couldn’t proceed with organizing physical events. So, in order to keep the momentum going and “to replace the live events, [they] began looking for the best virtual event hosting solution out in the market,” commented Saša.
STB was looking for a platform that would have an interactive two-way meeting scheduling process as one of their main functions such that both attendees and tourism providers can seamlessly schedule meetings, and also the platform needed to be fully brand aware. “We wanted to have our brand and Slovenia to be prominently exposed at our virtual business event,” says Saša.
Tanja and Saša both did quite a thorough investigation of the best possible options for virtual meetings that were on the market. After digging a little deeper into details, they concluded that all the platforms had their pluses and minuses. But they had a clear idea of what they wanted and the kind of functionalities they were looking for in their virtual event hosting platform. User-friendliness, chat options, and meeting schedulers were the top features that they preferred and weighed each platform against them. After comprehensive market research, they finally chose vFairs and were very pleased with the results and customer support.
“We were very satisfied with colleagues on the other side, vFairs side, with project managers – we were very surprised because there are different time zones between Slovenia and Pakistan, they were so quick in answering and helping us, whether it was a Sunday or Saturday, we always got an answer – compliments for that.” Says Tanja
1.1. Meeting Scheduler – It made connecting with buyers and delegates easier. There were 24 meeting slots available. Each meeting slot was 15 minutes long; with extra five minutes between each meeting as change over time.
1.2. Exhibit Booths – Approximately 120 buyer delegates met with around 30 Slovenian tourism providers such as hotels, DMC agencies, spas & health resorts, destinations, associations, and tourist attractions. All the exhibitors had their branded booths to showcase their services and content.
1.3. Profiles – STB encouraged the buyers and exhibitors to create their profiles with their descriptions and interests to ensure they had the best chances of receiving a quality appointment schedule for the event. Additionally, profiles let attendees narrow down their search by applying filters to connect and network with delegates and fellow attendees.
1.4. Online Conferences – STB arranged multiple sessions for the full event experience using our online conference tools. The best part was that all the conference content was available on-demand for attendees during the period of one month after the event.
1.5. Video Meetings – Buyers and delegates were encouraged to schedule video meetings in advance to improve collaborations and make new connections to benefit their business. Since the entire event was virtual, attendees could participate whenever they wanted. In addition, the entire idea of 1:1 meetings was to build relationships and trust through virtual events and to strengthen them in person as soon as possible.
1.6. Swag Bags – Our virtual briefcase feature enabled attendees to add all of the available documents to their online Swag Bag so that they can share event takeaways with colleagues and friends.
1.7. Technical Support – According to Saša, “we didn’t have this quick administrative system before. I needed to upgrade some parts of the system and they were updated in no time which was a value addition. The technical team tried to listen to our needs as much as possible.”
When asked about their most favorite part of the whole vFairs platform, Saša said, “I liked the backend—- where I can see everything, because we had data that only we could access”. Moreover, the landing page was “very well designed”. It had all the relevant information for both the buyers and delegates along with frictionless registration options. Visitors could scroll down the page to learn more about the event agenda, FAQs, and the registration process. Plus the 3D interface was very attractive such as the visuals, the lobby, avatars, and animated options were very eye-catching and close to real events.
“We used platforms where avatars were not that professional, more like a computer game or something. But with vFairs you have a fully brandable lobby and also, the platform was very easy to use, it was also a good thing,” says Tanja.
“Online events are more convenient to measure than live events,” says Saša “ but the common element was the satisfaction of the exhibitors and our partners in both live and online events.” Saša noticed. Additionally, in virtual events, people know beforehand with whom they’d meet, but with live events, it is not that easy.
All in all, they were deeply satisfied with the entire event. For them “satisfaction of their partners” is the most important KPI and they definitely achieved the KPI with online events and vFairs. When asked about which format they will choose going forward, Saša said, “It is hard to compare virtual events with live events, because the size of the event we host live is much smaller than online. For example, during physical tourism workshops, we invite 15 tourism providers, virtually we could have around 30 and can get even more agents to join” Saša continued, “… and it was also easier to combine the markets, for example, we can have joint workshops with participants from different countries”.
We also asked if they had any trouble promoting the event among exhibitors or attendees, Saša said, “Engagement is very important for us, there are a lot of online events competing with each other these days, we tried our best to get as much engagement with buyers as possible, for example; through different presentations from the experts, and influencers, etc.” But they were least satisfied with the event that took place on May 20th because there were a lot of similar events going on at that time, plus there were some indications that the COVID-19 situation is getting back to normal, and that “live events will soon be available again”. They had a hard time for travel agents to join their virtual event, but the first three events were a total success in comparison.
“It was easier with each event and it was a learning curve, sure a challenge to host an online event,” says Saša.
Last but not least, they do hope for live events to come back again. For now, Slovenian Tourist Board don’t plan to have any hybrid event, but if they decide to have one, then “definitely vfairs will be their first choice”.
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