Bulgaria Increasingly Popular as Pilgrimage Destination
Bulgaria is expecting a 7% increase of pilgrimage tourist trips in 2012, according to the Director of the Institute for Tourism Analyses and Assessments, Rumen Draganov.
Draganov says the percentage would have been even higher, but the economic crisis and the parliamentary elections in neighboring Greece have reduced the number of Greek visitors at Easter time.
The number one tourist attraction is the Rila Monastery, with 780 000 visits a year, including from Bulgaria, Macedonia, Greece, Serbia, Italy, France, Spain and Russia.
The renovated St. St. Cyril and Methodius Cathedral in the historic coastal town of Sozopol, housing what are believed to be the relics of St; John the Baptist, has been visited by 250 000 people and is seen as Bulgaria's newest pilgrimage tourist attraction.
Draganov says the trend of a stable 7% yearly increase in pilgrimage tourism has been noted since Bulgaria's joining of the EU in 2007. There is an increased interest of tourists from Spain, Italy, Portugal and France. The pilgrims are only 1.8% of all foreign guests, but their expenses are 70% higher, compared to those of common holidaymakers.
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