Bulgarians Seek Shift in Attitude to Tourism

Society | November 4, 2002, Monday // 00:00

By Milena Hristova

"Peace with Nature" was among the winners in the Competition for Innovative Ecotourism Projects, held within the framework of the forum "Ecotorism, Mountains and Protected areas - Partners in Prosperity". The competition aimed to provide an incentive to the private entrepreneurs for development and expansion of ecotourism business in little settlements. This is in fact what the project's initiators are up to - to achieve prosperity by joining the efforts of private entrepreneurs from the region of Rila National Park. The name of the project "Peace with Nature, Ways to Improve the Opportunities for Contact with it" speaks for itself and its final goal is the construction of an ecological highway for bicycle riding.

The team of enthusiastic and dynamic men, who came up with the idea for the project, are certain the highway will be beneficial for the forest and will create an alternative means of livelihood for the local people. Family hotels already are a tradition here and offer local cuisine, while craftsmen make unique products and a botanical route crosses the forest. These are facilities that appeal to and can be used by the active ecotourists as opposed to the passive tourists, the initiators of the project say. They recommend that the stress is laid upon more active rest, keeping in mind the options foreigners most frequently prefer - bicycle riding, rafting and climbing.

No doubt they are heading in the right direction since the region in the Rila Park has a tremendous potential for developing ecotourism. Rila Park is situated in the Rila mountain in the southwestern part of Bulgaria. It covers more than 81,000 hectares, which makes it one of the biggest parks in Europe. The region was declared national park in 1992 and the diversity of the habitats ranks it among the most important parks in the European ecological network "Natura 2000".

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