Only 1,5 hours drive from Košice in East Slovakia and at a similar distance from Krakov in Poland we are in the middle of a mountain range with a mysterious name: the High Tatra mountains. 2/3rds of the High Tatras, part of the Carpathian mountain range – are situated in Slovakia, 1/3rd belongs to Poland. The name sounds both familiar and remote and has (to me) a whisper of bears and wolfs roaming. Indeed there is rare wildlife and plants which can be experienced with when you hike on the mountains.

For those who like it a step lower on the scale of adventure, the area offers a long tradition of rest and escape. I was keen on visiting this part of Eastern Slovakia to see what it is like and to explore the options for meetings and events.

In general I think Slovakia is a great country for corporate events with some very good reasons to go there: a selection of good hotels where meetings can be combined with activity in the nature and with health treatments in one of the numerous spas. Short distances, value for money and security. And it should be interesting not only to Europeans, but also to Asian visitors; now Turkish Airlines is flying into Košice and the climate and environment are very pleasant.

One of the Hotels that I visited was the Grand Hotel Bellevue, where I spoke with Ing. Viktor Kosmák, who is the General Manager of the privately owned hotel since 3 years, with a personal history of 9 years in total with the property.

A few key facts upfront: the hotel is 50 years old, and was one of the first hotels in the former Czechoslovakia which had a swimming pool! It also was one of the top hotels in the country. In 2008 the whole complex was renovated and added with professional congress facilities. It still has a wonderful and large swimming pool and comfortable facilities.

It is one of the largest hotels in the Slovak Republic for meetings and congress business with peak season for business meetings between September and May, whereas in summer there is more leisure tourism. Main source market is the domestic market, about 20 % of the business is international – with Germany, Czech Republic, Poland or Korea (!) leading.

Why Korea?? Many Korean guests stop in the High Tatras when they do a tour through the European capitals. If Bratislava, Budapest or Krakov are included in the tour, they usually stop for 2 days and visit the mountain area of High Tatras. Why these are so popular in Korea I don’t know – it would be interesting to learn about the connection!! If any Korean friends are reading this article it would be great to hear their thoughts on it!!

When it comes to security, the hotel is a truly safe spot – that was the reason to hold a Nato conference with 25 generals in 2010 there, which was a high security event with military guarding included.

To be open, from outside the hotel is a typical cube building from the socialist times when it was built, but inside it is very nice: spacious, generous, pure and pleasantly furnished. According to Viktor, it is the most beautiful place in the world! Why? Here are his personal reasons for staying in the High Tatras:

– Work and sport can be easily combined and that offers a high quality of life
– The smallest range of high mountains in the world has a great climate, nature, cities very nearby.
– The Slovak Republic is a compact country which has it all; short distances, great variety.
– Best ski offer in the East of Europe
– Health promoting offers: thermal sources and a great offer in healing water

Viktor says about the development of this region in Eastern Slovakia:
“I think it should stay as it is, the nature needs to be protected and guarded, as it is our greatest asset. The transit from socialism to modern times has brought many investments and modernity in the infrastructure. Now we need to be careful and wary in what we do to develop further.”

He continued: “We focus on new markets, like Israel, UK, Dubai” (I also talked with Viktor about the opportunities in the Indian market for the Slovak Republic) “with new airlines coming up to fly to the airport in Popradt and to Košice, like Turkish Airlines – together with the security that our country offers and the beautiful and one-off sights we have, we look very positively into the future!”

Johanna Fischer