Tourism in Bulgaria - Lots of Money, Nothing Invested

2009-07-20

Bulgaria is a beautiful country, because it has everything - mountains, sea, lakes, mineral water springs, and many other natural wonders. A wonderful place for spending a vacation, for tourism as a whole, you will say. And you will not be mistaken. However, something is still missing. Ah, yes! The tourists. You expect to see crowds of tourist, struggling to visit this piece of heaven on Earth. I do not see them. And my eyes are fine. What is wrong then? The world is in a never-seen-before economic crisis. Many people lose their jobs, and frankly, it is not a time for a vacation for them. But still, the developed western countries are the biggest "suppliers" of tourists in the world. There are still millions of people planning vacations, and now they wonder where it will be cheaper to go. Of course, in such a difficult time the number of tourists is less than the business has got used to in last few years. The competition is severe, and the offers have become more attractive than ever. Some countries, that are typical tourist destinations, are managing to survive the crisis. Not much profit is made, but at least the business is still alive. Then, why is Bulgaria experiencing difficulties, and some hotels are closing down, while other are almost empty? In fact, this is the logical consequence of year of wrong policy, and lack of interest from both the business, and the government. What can we offer to the foreign tourists, who have seen the big luxurious resorts in Turkey, Greece, and countries in Northern Africa (Egypt, Tunisia, etc.)? In Bulgaria, there are countless hotels. Unfortunately, the first impressions are that their construction quality is questionable, and the staff is quite incompetent. The reason for the first impression is that all of the hotels on Bulgaria's Black Sea coast were build pretty quickly. In most cases sea sand is used in the construction, which does not provide the required strength. Moreover, a large number of the hotels are built on very week foundations. I will pay special attention on the infrastructure further in this writing, however, in many hotels there is no sewerage, and the waste goes who knows where. Otherwise, the hotels seem nice, and generally the beauty of the nature on the Black sea shore just makes you ignore all these things. Another, pretty annoying thing that puts the Bulgarian tourist business way behind the competition from the neighboring Turkey, and Greece, is the low service quality. Bulgarians are generally nice, talkative, and helpful people. I do not know why, when they have to work in the services business they become, mean and inhospitable. Most of the staff in the hotels is incompetent, and most of the times not willing to help. This is something that can be easily changed. In Bulgaria, there are no schools for hotel service staff. Well, yes, there are high schools and colleges that prepare young people for such jobs. In my opinion this is not enough. When you have so many hotels, and you want to offer high quality tourist services, you need to take care of the proper education of the people who will work in these places. Here comes the question of investments. Hundreds of millions, and probably billions of EUR have been invested in Bulgarian tourism. Or at least, investors say so. Yes, building a hotel is an expensive thing, but the process of investment does not stop here. Training staff is part of that process. The business has to take care of the services they offer. Building a big and shiny hotel is just a waste of money and time if you leave it with no proper service. Tourist must be treated like kings, and not like some foreign people who disturb us with their presence. The tourist business has to do something about it. This is its responsibility. School, offering specially designed courses for each specific job may be created. Foreign specialist may be invited. The animation service in Bulgaria is very lame. And that is one of the things that makes people come back again, and again. The state must invest, too. Bulgaria is unquestionably a beautiful country, which can offer a lot to its visitors. The problem is that they cannot get to where they want to go. Why? Look at the roads. There is not a single highway in this country. Roads are either in awful condition, or are always in construction. Once out of a main road, one can easily get lost, because there are no signs. Of course there is improvement, but the state has to work harder and quicker. It had too much time to do this, and it failed. Now, it will suffer the consequences. Tourist will choose Turkey, and Greece because all these infrastructural issues have been solved long time ago there. Before even thinking of constructing a building, or even a hotel, you have to make sure that all the infrastructure is present - sewerage, roads, pavements, street lights, etc. Only building hotels, is not enough. The whole place must look beautiful. And both the tourist business and the government, has not done a lot in this directions. Even if we have all these thing done, there is one more thing left - advertisement. When you open a TV channel (a news, or popular ones) you will see ads of Italy, Crete, Spain, Greece, Turkey, and many other places, but not Bulgaria. Why? Isn't this the first thing the state must take care of? How are foreign people supposed to know about Bulgaria, if there are no advertisements? In the last few years, some attempt have been made, but most of the times I personally have felt ashamed of the quality of these ads. Compared to the advertisement of all other countries, ours have always looked like shot with and an amateur camera. This is not a responsible attitude. The Bulgarian state acts as it does not care about that. And this is not the right thing, because tourism brings a lot of money in the budget. This money is vital for the Bulgarian economy, especially in a time of global economic crisis. Reports show loads of money has been invested in the tourist business in Bulgaria, and still not much have been achieved. All this money will be wasted if no further steps are taken for the improvement of the tourist services. We clear decision, and firm action, now! Before it is too late, and the beauty of Bulgaria remains undiscovered by the curious tourists.