BTA News

Central, Local Government Officials and Tourist Industry Representatives Discuss Message for New Tourist Season, Challenges for Sector

He suggested that the core message could be extended: “… because you are our guest, not a tourist”, “the sea awaits you and its clean, even though its Black Sea”, or another.

The forum was organized by the Bulgarian News Agency (BTA) for the fifth time: the discussions are held twice every year, ahead of the summer and winter season.

In his opening remarks, BTA Director General Valchev recalled the significance of these meetings for the tourist sector in Bulgaria. He suggested as it thinks of a message, Bulgaria could turn into an advantage for itself some trends in the Europe-wide tourist sector, or emphasize its geography and climate. He suggested two possible messages: “You are welcome in Bulgaria”, a counterpoint to the sentiments against tourists in some parts of Europe, and “Warm but not hot”, amid the warnings of extreme heat during the summer months in some parts of Europe. Valchev pointed out that Albena, where the discussion is taking place, celebrates 55 years this year. “After last year we celebrated the 115th anniversary of the resort of St. St. Constantine and Helena, we can say for sure that Bulgaria has traditions in tourism that go beyond our generation and our goal is to present these traditions well,” he said.

Caretaker Tourism Minister Evtim Miloshev highlighted the importance of clean sea water for a successful season and said it should be one of the main messages. “Our water is clean, and I stand by my words,” Miloshev said. He announced that on June 6 in Varna (on the Black Sea) there will be a public event on clean sea with the participation of the Ministers of Environment and Health. The Minister recalled that summer tourism accounts for 70% of this country’s tourism.

The chair of the parliamentary tourism committee, Erten Anissova, suggested that the message for the new tourist season in Bulgaria be “Together, we can do more”. She said that legislators from her committee have held a number of meetings and always sought dialogue with the central and local governments, and the tourist industry. “Dialogue will help develop year-round tourism in Bulgaria and establish it as a key factor in the Bulgarian economy, help it bring about the advancement of the regions. Unity will help us address the myriad problems,” she said.

Varna Mayor Blagomir Kotsev said that nowadays tourists want to feel welcomed and are looking for diverse experiences. He recalled that this summer the season in Varna was opened with a big concert, which was a change from previous years. He stressed that the Northern Black Sea coast in general has a significant potential for development, and the product it offers is different from that in the South. “In the North there are camping sites, the beaches are quieter and more peaceful,” Kotsev argued, adding that there is currently an upward trend in demand for such type of product. Kotsev argued that advertising should focus on the specific experiences of different places in the country and said there is a need to promote all destinations in the country, as well as Bulgaria as a whole.

Dobrich Mayor Yordan Yordanov said that when there is trust tourism flourishes as a product. He argued that in dynamic situations of pandemic and war, it is important for state institutions to show that they are doing their job. “Thanks to the development of tourism on the Black Sea coast, tourists are also visiting Dobrich and the other municipalities in the region, because there is a lot to see there as well”, he said.

Meglena Plugchieva, the ambassador of the Bulgarian Union of Balneology and Spa Tourism and a former Ambassador to Germany, Switzerland and Montenegro, said there is a lot of work to be done to improve Bulgaria’s image as a tourist destination. She urged the news media and the local tourist sector to try to put themselves in the shoes of foreign tourists and see how Bulgaria looks from the outside. “We don’t look good,” she said. “First, the political instability is impacting adversely Bulgaria’s image and the focus on bad news in the media makes the situation most unfavourable. Not only are we little known: what are known for, is not some positive image and the assets the country has. There is an uphill task, despite the difficult situation in Bulgaria and across Europe, to build a positive image for Bulgarian tourism,” she said. She quoted a Bavarian businessman as saying that Bulgarians are world champions in failing to advertise the tourist assets they have to offer. She called on avoiding focusing on sea resorts and summer tourism, but also think of Bulgaria’s mountains, mineral water, spa tourism, health tourism, and project this country as a year-round destination.

Georgi Shterev, Chair of the Bulgarian Hotel and Restaurant Association, said there is an issue in the fact that tourism is in the focus only when there are elections and it is for the government to determine whether tourism is a priority or not. He stressed that advertisements are a very important part of Bulgaria’s tourism product. He mentioned two major problems for the sector: the visa requirements and the status of resorts. Also, he believes that domestic tourism is overlooked.

The Rector of the University of Economics in Varna, Prof. Evgeni Stanimirov, sees the need for a strategy for Bulgarian tourism. He said he is “not encouraged” by the current one, which has a horizon up to 2030. “The messages are not a strategy, they are the implementation of one. Moreover, it is imperative that such a document is backed by the necessary funding in order to be implemented,” he said.

Ventsislav Tanchev of the Bulgarian Hotel Association commented that the municipalities and the state are still in debt to the tourism industry. He stressed the need to send much more news and messages about our country abroad in a positive way to make it a better known destination.

Denitsa Milosavljevic of Fraport Twin Star Airport Management, added that one of the important messages to guests should be “Experience Bulgaria”. She believes that it is a good idea to do a lot of events to attract foreign journalists and promote this country.

The commanding officer of the Bulgarian naval research ship Sv. Sv. Kiril i Metodii, Nikolay Danailov, told the other participants that last year his ship and crew carried out “emergency advertising” of Bulgaria when it had to monitor the sea water quality from Durankulak to Rezovo, and found that that it was very good. He said that they are ready to do the same this year and to partner the Ministry of Environment and eco-organizations.