Gill Wilson: Bulgaria's Unique Selling point is Sofia
Mrs. Wilson met Martina Iovcheva
Q: How do you think the international conference Bulgaria-Dream Area helps the development of tourism in Bulgaria?
A: I think conferences are key in any country to wake up people's ideas, to share what is actually available and the opportunities that there are. This is the second time this conference is been on and you can just see the huge potential there is for the future. Once you got the governments working together and you start bringing the private sector, what I see happening to this particular conference is that it should become much more of an international tourism and travel event.
The conference has been terribly well organized. But what it needs is to grab another gear now, it needs to actually really earn the title international with more international press here covering it. I would imagine more international delegates in terms of tour operators within Europe in particular so that they can already capitalize on what they have got. I see this conference as a very firm building block for the future.
Q: What do you think about Bulgaria's image abroad?
A: Well, most people don't know where Bulgaria is. There is a huge education program that is actually required both to the consumer and to the trade. Unless you are actually a worldwide traveler, been to this part of the world down to the Black Sea, I think a lot of people get very confused because of the "Bs" that are in Europe: Budapest, Bulgaria, Bucharest...They all sound similar and unless you are a good traveler you really do not know. People say they don't know where Bulgaria is. If you say Balkans, unfortunately that has a very negative effect because people think of war. People don't always realize that you can be in the country million miles away from any conflict.
So, I don't know about the image of Bulgaria. To me, it is something that I knew that was near the Black Sea. I didn't know it had a wonderful mountain with Sofia, the capital, at the bottom of it. I was surprised at the level of infrastructure that was already here in terms of hotels, transportation. Tell everybody!
Q: What are the specific ways to make all that known abroad?
A: It has to be done through various channels. First of all, you need the press talking about an area. You need the worldwide press to start talking about Sofia as a capital city and Bulgaria as a country. Then you need to get the tour operators from all these countries to come and see the product and actually talk to the operators on the ground and start developing what the consumer wants, not what necessarily the product makes us think. Countries like this have to be consumer land. You have to gear your product to what the consumer wants. You have to be market led in your product, geared out towards your customer wants.
Q: Can you think of a promotional message for Bulgaria abroad?
A: Your key interest has to be Sofia. Sofia has a fantastic name. It sounds romantic, it's soft, there is no conflict in it. I think you need to start talking about Sofia as a destination. Bulgaria is always going to be a strong brand. But Bulgaria on its own sounds harsh. I must say your message has to be Sofia. Secondly, you have to look at all the distribution channels, which are now available like the Internet to make sure that everybody is cooperating and working in partnership. You have to open up and be more creative. Thirdly, you need to attract more events into Sofia. You need to go out there and court major incentive type programs. Once you bring them to Sofia, then it will be easier to sell the rest of the country. Everybody knows the Black Sea is hugely successful. Leave that but start concentrating on your unique selling point, which is Sofia...and the people! All Bulgarians seem to smile... Perhaps you should be saying: Made Your Dreams Come True.
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