Bob Miller: Tourism is Critical to Bulgaria's Prosperity

Novinite Insider » INTERVIEW | October 2, 2002, Wednesday // 00:00

Bob Miller was Nevada Governor for ten years (1989-1999), longer than any man in the state's history. For two years before that, he was its lieutenant Governor and chairman of the Nevada Commission of Tourism. Realizing the importance of tourism within the Nevada economy, Governor Miller involved himself more in the production of the Governor's Conference on Travel and Tourism. He is co-organizer of the First and the upcoming Second International Conference on Tourism "Bulgaria Dream Area" (www.bulgariantourism.com). Governor Bob Miller has set a new standard for Nevada's tourism development efforts.

Bob Miller met Milena Hristova, Editor of Novinite.com and the News

Q: As an organizer of the First and Second International Conferences on Tourism, tell us about the new elements in this year's edition?

A: The most important difference is not visible from the outside. This conference is really being structured by tourism professionals in Bulgaria both in the public and private sector. The first session was largely structured by the organizers. This time it is the community itself that has embraced the conference sufficiently to have meetings and to help determine whom to invite and what to speak about. As far as the agenda is concerned the difference will be in the continuing extension into its international nature. We are seeking participation not just of American and international tourism organizations representatives, but by the Bulgarian government extending invitations to tourism ministers from neighboring countries. In part we are focusing on the upcoming 2004 Greek Olympics which are an incredibly important potential enhancement to tourism in the entire region.

Q: The lack of coordination in Bulgaria's tourism efforts was pointed out by you as the main difference between tourism in Bulgaria and Nevada. Do you see any development in that direction since January?

A: Most significantly Deputy Minister Hadzhinikolov is chairman of a combined committee of public and private and the reason is that we have better dialogue already. Nevada serves only as one of potentially many examples as to how to work together. The most important thing is that communication be open and frequent. The committee is an example of that already. In Nevada the structure is much more formal. We have dedicated taxes that are specifically expended by a similar type of group. What works best in any location is determined by the government and the people that will benefit.

Q: Are there similarities between Nevada's and Bulgaria's tourism?

A: Certainly we are both comparatively small in terms of the size of our neighbors and competitors. We are both approximate to very large areas. For example Greece is historically more touristic-oriented. Surrounding Bulgaria there are many countries that offer potential tourism, visits that are even within driving range. In the case of Nevada that is true of California in particular.

But there are a lot of differences as well. Bulgaria certainly has natural beauty and history that is centuries-old. Nevada has no such history and our beauty is certainly of different sort, it is more stark in the desert. People do not come there just to relax, they come there for the artificial attractions that we have created. We had to start from scratch, so to speak, and for the last fifty years we have surpassed everybody else in terms of the attractions that we offer people.

Q: Can tourism be Bulgaria's Number 1 industry?

A: In the United States tourism in only number one in two states, one of which is Nevada. But it is in the top two or three in almost every state. I do not think it has to be number one in Bulgaria, but certainly its relative importance and growth are critical to the economic prosperity of the country. Tourism is a clean industry and one in which everybody benefits. Whether it is number one, two or three is not really the issue. What the issue is can you continue to attract more people. Tourists not only come and spend dollars, and people are employed in providing them services but when they do so, this enhances other business opportunities. Imagine someone who comes and enjoys their time. He may turn around and think about opening up an office or factory there. In short one builds upon the other.

Q: My next question will take you back again to the First International Conferences on Tourism, when you suggested that joint public-private entities are set up in Bulgarian solely dedicated to marketing tourism. How do you see their activities and do you know of any reaction to this idea from the Bulgarian side?

A: The issue has been discussed by me and the organizers of the conference, as well as experts I have contacted in the United States. The way this has worked very successfully in Nevada requires a major other ingredient and that is some dedicated resources - taxes or direct investment. And this keeps building upon each other.

Q: Your tourism development missions abroad were a huge success. How do you think Bulgarian politicians can promote the country abroad carrying the banner of tourism and business?

A: First you have to have the resources to develop, secondly market research as to what really is the best market for Bulgaria right now, what people are looking for. Who comes here now, who might come if something else is offered. This is the type of research that has been done extensively in Nevada over the years in planning, advertising and marketing strategies. The resources here, the infrastructure, are critical in that development. Every time I come I see more and more buildings and improvements, but there is a lot more that can be done.

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