“Baby dragons” boost profits at Slovenia’s top tourist attraction

“Baby dragons” boost profits at Slovenia’s top tourist attraction
By bne IntelliNews May 27, 2016

Marjan Batagelj, CEO of Slovenian Postojnska jama, the operator of Postojna Cave, a 24,120 metre long karst cave system near Postojna in southwestern Slovenia, said on May 26 the company’s net profit in 2015 surged 34% y/y to €3.6mn, as revenues increased 12% y/y to €18.3mn.

Postojna Cave has been one of the main tourist attractions in Slovenia for the last 188 years. It is a network of 20 kilometres of passages, galleries and chambers already visited by more than 35mn tourists. It is also the home of Slovenia’s olms, popularly known as “baby dragons”.

Most guests to the cave still hail from Italy, while Koreans made a leap to second place in the share of visitors, overtaking Germans. Non-European visitors already represent a third of all guests, Batagelj told journalists.

According to Batagelj, over 672,000 people visited the cave in 2015 and all sites operated by Postojnska jama, including the Predjama Castle, together attracted 986,000 people.

Within the cave, the spawn of the baby dragon are ready to hatch, causing a spike in media attention. Employees at Postojanska jama have been waiting with bated breath for the arrival of baby olms since January 30, when a tour guide noticed an olm egg attached to the glass.

Olms only reproduce once every six years and it takes them until the age of 15 to become sexually mature. When Postojanska java expected baby olms in 2013, none of the eggs hatched and several were eaten by other olms in the tank.

The cave’s biologist Saso Weldt wrote on May 17: “We are about three periods of change away from the eggs hatching. Earlier today, we were happy to see an embryo turning around rather vigorously for more than an hour. It won’t be long now until we will get to see it.”

The company’s earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortisation (Ebitda) in 2015 rose by 36% y/y to €5.1mn and generated €62,000 in value added per employee, Batagelj announced at a press conference on May 26.

Batagelj announced that the renovated hotel in front of the cave, Hotel Jama, will be open in June and will employ 40 people.

In 2015 Slovenia reached all time record numbers of tourist arrivals and overnight stays. For the first time in the country’s history 3.93mn tourist arrivals were registered and spent 10.34mn nights at tourist accommodation, according to the Slovenian Statistical Office's final annual data released on May 19. This follows a 3.6% y/y increase in tourist arrivals in 2014 when tourism contributed 13% of total GDP, although the number of overnight stays went down by 0.5% y/y.

The positive trend in tourism continued in the first quarter of 2016, when tourist arrivals went up by 10% y/y to over 692,000 while tourist overnight stays rose 10% y/y to 1.86mn, the Slovenian Statistical Office said on May 25, revising and expanding data announced on April 27.


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