Bulgarians Staying Local for Summer Holidays

2010-07-30

Separate sets of figures show sharp decreases in the number of Bulgarians spending their summer holidays in rival destinations such as Greece, raising hopes among the local tourism industry of luring local customers through special offers, the Sofia Echo writes. The Institute for the Analysis of Tourism said that in the first half of 2010, the number of Bulgarians travelling abroad was down 30 per cent on an annual basis, explaining that people were opting for the country’s Black Sea resorts which were offering "attractive promotions". The National Statistical Institute said that journeys abroad had plummeted, with the number of trips across the southern border to Greece at close to 58 per cent less in June 2010 than in June 2009. In May, the decrease in trips to Greece was 55 per cent, which the institute ascribed to the overall economic crisis but more specifically to the series of strikes and protests there. International media reports said that summer bookings in Greece were up to 12 per cent lower than in 2009, which was not a great year for the country’s tourism industry. In recent years, Bulgaria’s tourism industry lost customers to Greece and Turkey, said to have been attracted by better service and better value for money, but Sofia-based daily Dnevnik said that this year Bulgarian tour operators were expecting a decline in holidays in Greece by anything between five and 20 per cent. The Institute for the Analysis of Tourism said that Bulgarians were attracted by all-inclusive offers in resorts such as Albena and Pomorie and, the institute explained, there was keen interest in Bulgaria’s southern Black Sea coast. Recent media reports show some upsides for Bulgaria’s coastal tourism industry but also the inevitable downsides. The European Commission’s latest annual bathing water report listed Bulgaria in fifth place in clean bathing waters across the European Union (the first four were Greece, Cyprus, Malta and France) although there was bad news for Varna, where the central beaches again were listed as not meeting the EC’s more rigid requirements. Also on the upside, UK media reports named Bulgaria as the second ranked low cost destination for British tourists, coming in after Portugal. Whether such reports will make a significant difference remains to be seen, given declining interest among British tourists in Bulgaria in recent years and their replacement by tourists from Russia and other Central and Eastern European countries. Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov, after an inspection tour of Sunny Beach, said that the resort had a total of 750 illegal structures, including both temporary buildings and large buildings, according to a report by Bulgarian news agency BTA. All of the illegal structures will be demolished, but after the summer season ends, so as not to cause disruption for tourists at the resort, he said. Tsvetanov met the leadership of the company that runs Sunny Beach to discuss problems at the resort, including noise, illegal rickshaws and taxis and prostitution, the report said. Meanwhile, Bulgaria’s tourism industry could be set for changes in the medium- and long-term. The Commission for the Protection of Competition is to investigate the industry to follow up on allegations of various abuses including cartel agreements and illegal trade practices, a probe that will cover hotels, restaurants, tour operators, industry associations and travel companies. Meanwhile, new legislation on the tourism industry is being planned by the Economy Ministry. While not yet drafted, the bill – scheduled to be ready at the end of September – has been the subject of calls by industry representatives for the inclusion of firm rules for online tour operators and travel agencies.