The Bulgaria 2011 Review: Tourism

Business » TOURISM | Author: Milena Hristova |January 6, 2012, Friday // 17:32
Bulgaria: The Bulgaria 2011 Review: Tourism Summer 2011 brought a decent number of foreign tourists to Bulgaria's Black Sea resorts. Photo by BGNES

Bulgaria - the Best Value Anyone Can Get

Bulgaria Ranked Cheapest Summer Holiday Destination for Germans

Bulgaria is the cheapest summer holiday destination according to a survey of the German automotive union ADAC.

The survey covers 50 resorts in 10 European countries and includes various costs, such as sun protection creams (a price range of EUR 4.80- EUR 25 at the French Atlantic coast), beach chaise longues (EUR 2 in Croatia, EUR 20 in Italian resort Cesenatico), etc.

According to ADAC data, Bulgaria charges the cheapest for a consumer basket of 34 products and services for a family with two children- EUR 131. The items fall into the following categories: "Eating and Drinking", "Information and Leisure Activities", "Health and Body Care" and "Shopping and Extras".

The same set of products costs almost double (EUR 206) in Denmark, the cheapest European country. The Netherlands, the second most expensive country, charges EUR 186, followed by Germany with EUR 171.

A total of 21 of the resorts under review are classified as "expensive" or "very expensive", 9 belong to the "golden mean", 11 offer "reasonable" prices and 9 are "absolute bargains".

The most expensive summer holiday destination is Denmark's island of Fano, where you can buy the abovementioned group of products for EUR 217. The cheapest price for these 34 items, EUR 121, can be found in Agea, Southern Turkey.

ADAC's survey was conducted in July and August 2010 in Bulgaria, Denmark, Germany, France, Greece, Italy, Croatia, the Netherlands, Spain and Turkey.

Sofia, Bulgaria, Rated Top European Bargain City for US Vacationers

Sofia has been ranked the most affordable European city for US travelers by TripAdvisor, a travel review website based in Newton.

The firm has based its list on what it calls a TripIndex, which takes into account foreign currency exchange rates, hotel fees, the cost of a pizza, a dry martini, and a taxi ride.

The index shows how much it would cost for an American to spend a day in a particular destination and all destinations are ranked by value.

Sofia has emerged as the cheapest European detination for US travelers with a tally of USD 136.

Asia has been named the most affordable continent, claiming four of the top ten cheapest cities for American travelers. In first place is Bangkok. It has a TripIndex tally of 2.

In the United States, Las Vegas represented the best bargain on the TripIndex scale. Its TripIndex score is 4.

TripIndex is based on the current exchange rate and applies to travel between June and August 2011 with hotel prices based on the average cost of a four star hotel found on TripAdvisor, via multiple partner booking sites.

"Value against the dollar is one of the most important considerations for American travelers planning international trips," said Karen Drake, senior director of communications for TripAdvisor. "TripIndex offers a useful means of setting realistic budget expectations and reveals some outstanding destination deals."

Bulgaria's Bansko Named World's Best Value Ski Resort

Bansko, Bulgaria's biggest ski resort, is the cheapest resort for British skiers in the world, according to new research by the Post Office.

While last year it ranked second, preceded by Romania's Poiana Brasov, now Bansko has emerged as the most attractive winter resort for Britons on a budget since prices have fallen by 5% in comparison with 2010.

The total cost for ski equipment, lift passes, ski tuition, drinks and an evening meal for two came in at ?263 which was still ?100 cheaper than at the runner-up resort of Arinsal in Andorra, whose prices have also fallen by 5%, according to the Ski Resort Report 2011, carried out by Post Office Travel Money in association with Crystal Ski.

In third place, making its first entry into the list, came Slovenia's emerging resort Bohinj.

Last year Bansko was named the winter capital on the Balkans at an international tourism exhibition in the Serbian town of Novi Sad.

The little town bordering Pirin National Park, about 160 kilometers south of Bulgaria's capital Sofia, offers a stark but nice contrast between the cobbled streets and churches of the old town and hundreds of millions of euros poured into hotels, ski runs and bright blue gondola bubbles in its modern part.

Supervising all this is the roughly 2,800-meter Todorka peak.

The formerly off-the-beaten-path destination has recently gone mainstream, but it is very rarely that tourists see the vistas doom-sayers warn against - construction cranes and gaudy mutrobaroque hotels, favored by the nouveau riche and organized crime mobsters, known as mutri, with which they try to prove their wealth.

In Figures

Bulgaria's 2011 Income from Foreign Tourists to Reach EUR 2.7 B

Bulgaria's total 2011 income from foreign tourists will reach EUR 2,7 B, according to estimates from the National Tourism Board, an NGO.

Thus, in 2011, Bulgaria's income from foreign tourists will grow by 4.5%, while the total number of foreign tourists who visited the country will be 14% greater. Earlier estimates put their total number at over 6 million.

At the same time, the total income from Bulgarian tourists will reach BGN 1.5 B, or about EUR 770 M, the Board has estimated.

The highest increase in the number of visitors has been registered by the tourists from Russia, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland, while the increases of the numbers of British and German tourists are smaller.

The tourism experts are pointing out to a growing trend of tourists from Romania and other Eastern European / former communist bloc countries traveling to Bulgaria for their vacations by car.

Summer Tourism Saves the Day in Q3 2011

The tourism sector appears to have saved the economy from the downturn in the third quarter this year. In the summer, the industry recorded a significant growth over the previous year – both in the number of tourists and revenues.

GDP data showed that in the third quarter the sectors of tourism and agriculture performed best – the services sector grew by 2.9% on a quarterly basis, and agricultural production by 0.9%.

Bulgaria's economic growth stood at 0% in the third quarter, which means that without the strong summer season the gross domestic product (GDP) would have shrunken.

Winter Tourism 2011 Full of Promise

The Bulgarian Tourist Chamber has forecast a profitable winter season for the country's ski resorts largely due to the big number of Bulgarian tourists.

The season started with great worries among the Bulgarian winter tourism industry because of the lack of snow in November and early December, but it however was followed by heavy snowfall over the last days of 2011.

People working in the sector say the season ahead of them is not very good, but still a decent one.

The number of tourists visiting Bulgaria's winter resorts is expected to grow by 5%-10% in 2011-2012 year-on-year; the Bulgarian Tourist Chamber has put the number at 7%.

In the 2010-2011 season, the Bulgarian winter tourism industry made a total of EUR 204 M, estimates showed, about ten times less than the summer tourism industry along the Black Sea coast.

Bad News, Worse News, Bankruptcy

Bulgaria's Notorious Alma Tour Files for Bankruptcy

The scandal-hit Bulgarian tour operator Alma Tour and Alma Tour Fly, a company within the group, filed for bankruptcy in October, sending a troubling signal of what may lie ahead for other tour operators.

Problems with Alma Tour surfaced in early September, when close to 1,000 international tourists, most of them Russians, were stranded at Bulgarian Black Sea airports of Burgas and Varna.

Their flights were cancelled by national air carrier Bulgaria Air over what it claimed to be EUR 3.6 M debts from Alma Tour, which had booked the tourists' trips.

On September 13, Bulgaria Air claimed Alma Tour had had problems in repaying its bank loans in the summer, namely a credit in the amount of USD 8 M for the financing of its airline transportation services and in the amount of EUR 18 M for hotel accommodations.

The biggest creditor of Alma Tour was said to be the Bulgarian Commercial Corporate Bank, with which the company had pledged its assets for EUR 13 M.

In the meantime, Bulgarian industrial conglomerate Chimimport, comprising companies like Bulgaria Air, Central Cooperative Bank (CCB) and insurance company Armeetz, rejected claims of eyeing assets of companies within the debt-ridden Alma Tour group.

Chimimport is popularly known among Bulgarians as connected with the famous TIM group operating in northeast Bulgaria, especially second-biggest city Varna.

According to the holding's statement, Alma Tour had grown financially irregular in its relations with CCB and the Armeetz insurance company in the beginning of 2011.

Despite that, the industrial conglomerate stressed, "Chimimport AD and its subsidiaries have always shown patience in their business relations with Alma Tour".

Chimimport insisted that it had never held talks for the acquisition of assets of Alma Tour or for joint activities with the tour operator and that such an option was out of the question at that stage.

On September 21, it was revealed that Bulgarian tourists on Alma Tour holidays in Turkey's Antalya and on the Greek island of Crete would be flown home despite the lack of payment for their tickets and thanks to the assistance of another tour operator.

Bulgaria's Ministry of Economy, Energy and Tourism issued a warning to all customers of Alma Tour to refrain from using the services of the company and to claim their money back from insurance company Armeetz.

Bulgaria's Commission for Consumer Protection (KZP) banned Alma Tour from sealing package travel deals because its financial condition made it impossible for the company to honor its obligations.

Finland Bans Bulgarian Tour Agency after 'Hostage' Crisis

Bulgarian tour agency Alma Tour has been banned in Finland after more than two hundred Finnish tourists were kept hostages at a Bulgarian airport because of the company's outstanding debts.

Alma Tour will not be able to offer it packages to tourists in Finland until it proves its financial stability.

A Finish airline plane rescued more than 200 Finns, stranded in Bulgaria's Burgas Airport after their flight was canceled in the wake of a trade dispute between the country's national airline and the tour operator.

The plane took off shortly before midnight and delivered the unlucky tourists back home three days later than scheduled.

There was a grave problem in finding a flight to transport the tourists headed back to Helsinki, since there were no flights are available and Bulgaria Air had retracted all other crew from the airport.

Some 500 more Russian tourists suffered a similar fate when their flights were canceled, but Russian tour agencies have bought their clients new flights so they might return home.

Currently only 60 tourists from Saint Petersburg remain blocked at hotels along the southern coast.

The scandal broke out after national carrier Bulgaria Air canceled 3 flights to Russia and one to Finland over concerns that tour agency Alma Tour that booked them owed the airline some EUR 3.5 M.

Promoting Bulgaria Abroad

12 Films to Boost Bulgaria's Image

Twelve new films are going to advertise Bulgaria locally and abroad.

The films are going to be created in the frame of "This Is Bulgaria" project of the Globus Media Group, one of the largest producers of documentaries in the country with over 100 titles a year.

The films from the project will be 27-minutes long and will focus on a different topic of life in Bulgaria through its history.

In addition to the history, culture and traditions, one of the films is titled "Luxury Bulgaria," and will showcase conditions for doing business, the country's resorts, opportunities to practice extreme sports and entertainment.

There will also be a 90-minute film presenting overall Bulgaria.

The films will be distributed all over the world in seven languages – Bulgarian, English, French, German, Spanish, Japanese and Russian.

They will show about 200 landmarks with pictures taken from a helicopter and underwater, and will also include reenactments of historical events.

The Bulgarian premiere will be in the spring and the one in Brussels on May 24 – the Day of Slavic Script and Culture.

The budget of the project is currently BGN 1M.

The films will be also made in a version for children to be shown at schools.

Govt: 137 Million Watched Bulgaria's Tourism TV Ads Abroad

Bulgaria's government has reported impressive estimates of the number of viewers who watched the TV ads for Bulgarian tourism on four international TV channels.

A total of 137 million viewers are said to have watched at least four times Bulgaria's tourism ads on Euronews, Eurosport, National Geographic, and Discovery Channel.

The advertising campaign, which spurred some public debate as to the quality and substance of the videos and its general approach, cost a total of BGN 7.5 M funded under the EU Regional Development Program, and took place from September 6 till December 27, 2010, and from January 31 till March 27, 2011.

A total of 561 30-second video ads of Bulgaria were shown on Eurosport, 952 on Euronews, 504 on National Geographic, and 1020 on Discovery Channel. The videos on Euronews and Eurosport were general, while those on National Geographic and Discovery focused on culture and nature.

More than half of Bulgaria's ads were shown in the prime time of the four channels. A total of 14 million page views were generated through Bulgaria's advertising banners on their websites.

All four channels made documentaries about Bulgaria as part of the advertising campaign.

How Foreigners See Bulgaria's Tourism

Bulgarian Resort Shines Brighter than Mallorca for Germans

Bulgaria's largest summer resort Sunny Beach, which has recently made headlines with binging sprees, alcohol-related accidents, crime and prostitution, has ousted Mallorca in the hearts of young Germans.

"The German tourists now prefer to spend their summer holidays in Sunny Beach rather than in Mallorca," says a report of the German ARD.

Data shows that Germans, primarily students, who have come to Bulgaria for their proms, account for 70-80% of the tourists in the resort.

The prices as low as EUR 300 per week for an all inclusive package play an important part in their decision where to spend their money and enjoy the summer sun and the sea.

Germany has traditionally been the primary market for visitors to Bulgaria's Black Sea coast. About half a million Germans come here every year and they are the only one that can fill up hotel vacancies from May till October. German visitors are the largest single country represented within the figure of EU visitors, followed by the UK and Greece.

German tourists have always liked Bulgaria because it offers good value in terms of food prices and accommodation expenses and last but not least has available package tours.

But if a few years ago the German tourists came to Bulgaria with their families, enjoyed the classic combination of hotel, beach and sea, behaved relatively well and were active participants in all the recreational activities on offer, now they are primarily young people on a binging spree.

In fact this is the latest trend in Bulgaria's coastal tourism traditions, which have been invariably linked to the German clients.

The first charter flights from Western Germany to Bulgaria's Black Sea coast were launched as early as 1963, times when Turkey, Egypt and many other destinations were not even on the tourist map.

Even in 1999, which was very difficult for the tourism sector because of NATO air strikes over Serbia, it was only Germany which marked a 5% growth in the number of tourists to Bulgaria's resorts on the Black Sea coast.

Bulgaria Among Top 10 Developing Countries for Adventure Tourism

Bulgaria features on the top 10 of destinations for adventure tourism among developing countries, a survey of George Washington University in Washington DC has found.

Among the developing countries, Israel, Slovakia and Chile have been highlited as the leaders in terms of adventure tourism potential, followed by Estonia, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria and Slovenia.

Switzerland, Iceland and New Zealand have topped the list of developed countries. Canada, Germany and Sweden have been also ranked among the sector's leading developed nations, along with Ireland, Norway, Finland and Austria.

A number of factors were taken into account to rate the different destinations, including safety, natural resources, adventure activity facilities, infrastructure and culture. Sustainable development and the way the country is accepted in the world have also been among the factors taken into account.

New Hotels

DoubleTree by Hilton Varna on Bulgaria Coast Opens to Guests

DoubleTree by Hilton Varna-Golden Sands, the first global hotel brand to enter Bulgaria's Black Sea coast, officially opened its doors to guests just as the summer season kicks off.

"We hope that this first DoubleTree by Hilton hotel open and welcoming guests in Bulgaria will lead to continued and fast-growing popularity of our upscale, full-service hotel offerings across the region and around the world," Rob Palleschi, global head, DoubleTree by Hilton, said at a press conference in Sofia on May 25.

Bulgaria's Black Sea coast, though a popular summertime leisure destination, has seen scarce penetration of global hotel brands. Palleschi however believes that it has developed significantly and is now in a position to attract a global brand.

"We are very confident in this region of the world, particularly in Bulgaria and Romania. The region will continue to grow and tourism is one of the fastest developing sectors," said Palleschi.

"We feel very fortunate that our brand was invited here and I am sure you'll see even more global brands moving in," he forecast.

Tetrareal AD, a company dealing with tourist services, hotel management, and real estate, signed last year franchise agreements with Hilton Worldwide for two Hilton-branded hotels in the Golden Sands resort – the DoubleTree by Hilton Varna, and the Hilton Varna, which is to be opened in a year.

The hotels are Hilton's first properties in Bulgaria outside the capital Sofia.

The hotel will aim to establish itself as one of Eastern Europe's leading leisure destinations for domestic and international travelers, he said.

DoubleTree by Hilton is a member of the Hilton Worldwide portfolio of hotels, whose network spans more than 250 hotel and resort locations across five continents.

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