Bulgaria as a “good place to live” is among the top five priorities in the Government strategy for tourism advertising and development till 2030, approved on Wednesday.
This aim of this slogan is to attract elderly people who would like to live and spend their pensions in Bulgaria.
The strategy also includes the development of tourist products for people 65+ years old, such as balneotherapy, cultural, eco and village tourism, etc.
Another goal in the strategy is to turn Bulgaria into a well known and preferred year-round tourist destination with clearly recognisable national identity and well preserved culture and nature.
The Ministry of Economy plans an average annual growth of 4.5-5.5% in the tourism sector. According to the strategy in 2020 Bulgaria would attract more than 9 M tourists, which would be a 37% growth in the period 2012-2020. In 2030 the number of tourists is expected to surpass 12 M.
It is expected that in 2023 the share of the tourist sector in Bulgaria's GDP to reach 10.6%, by growing by an average of 1.9% per year.
THE OBSTACLE OF ADEQUATE MEDICAL COVERAGE: One problem for longer-term residents here not from the EU is medical coverage, and the laws for Bulgarian National Health Service (НЗК) barring most non-ЕU foreigners from membership and necessary coverage, even if married to Bulgarian nationals [!], should be reviewed and changed. This is especially important at a time when the Bulgarian healthcare system is in severe contraction as a result of the huge exodus of qualified (esp. younger) medical personnel, making it hard for anyone--local or foreign, tourist or worker--in many towns to find a competent doctor, unless perhaps the doc is retired and too old himself/herself to emigrate.
A NUMBER OF PRIVATE INSURANCE COMPANIES HERE WILL NOT EVEN ISSUE MEDICAL INSURANCE, WHATEVER THE COST, TO FOREIGNERS OF RETIREMENT AGE AND OVER STAYING HERE LONGER-TERM, EXCEPT FOR SOME KIND OF 'ACCIDENT INSURANCE' THAT THE FOREIGNER POLICE REQUIRES. That is also why opening the doors of НЗК is especially necessary in their case. This more broadly in the name of equity and fair play, and the basic right we should all have to health care that is not a 'business'.
Bulgaria will need to do something about its attitudes towards foreigners then. Foreign friends of mine have paid a great deal for Bulgarian lesson only to be told they are stupid when they try to use the language in shops, restaurants, cafes and the municipalities. There also needs to be a support network set up to stop foreigners being ripped off and sold properties which later turn out not to belong to the person selling it. Estate agents need to clean up their act in this regard.
A pensioner's visa of one-year duration is available to citizens of most no-EU countries here. But it requires bank transfer of the pension into a Bulgarian bank. That is not possible with a pension from the U.S., for example, since there is no such agreement between Washington and Sofia. This is a fact. For that reason, there are virtually no US pensioners who have settled in Bulgaria longer-term on that basis.
Thailand, by contrast, has many foreign pensioners, including quite a few from the U.S. Proof of pension is enough if $2000 a month or more. Thailand also has a system whereby opening a savings account with a deposit around $25,000 equivalent in Thai baht is sufficient as a basis for one-year renewable visa. The age for such a visa is 50. Bulgaria has no such comparable provision. The equivalent here for a long-term visa based on 'investment' is a very high amount of money.
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