Bulgaria’s Tourism Minister Nikolina Angelkova boasted about a successful 2014/2015 winter season (December-February), stressing that the period had brought growth of over 9%, with the number of tourists increasing by nearly 80 000.
In an interview for Trud daily, Angelkova made clear that tourism revenues had increased by BGN 34 M during the past winter season.
She said that the number of Turkish visitors had gone up by nearly 30% as a result of the simplification of the visa requirements, while German tourists had increased by 17%, Austrian tourists by over 7%, and Israel by over 20%.
Asked to comment on the upcoming summer season, she argued that the preliminary forecast was optimistic except for the Russian and Ukrainian market.
She noted that arrivals from Germany were expected to go up by around 5%, from Israel by 10%, from France by 4-5%, from Lithuania, Latvia, and Moldova by 40%, and from Poland, the Czech Republic, and Belarus by 5-10%.
Angelkova suggested that the number of tourists arriving from UK and Romania was expected to remain unchanged, while visitors from Greece were to increase by around 10%.
She emphasized that Greece was first by number of tourists visiting Bulgaria as regards year-round tourism in the country, with over 1 million Greek nationals making trips to Bulgaria or spending their holidays here in 2014.
As regards the projected decline in Russian and Ukrainian tourists, she pointed out that a 30% decrease was expected.
Angelkova underscored that a more realistic forecast would available in May on the basis of the processed results from international tourism fairs.
She assured that the decrease in the numbers of Russian and Ukrainian tourists was expected to affect not only Bulgaria but other tourist destinations too, adding that the downward trend had been outlined over a year and a half ago and was nothing new to industry representatives.
Asked to comment on the approach of Turkey and Greece to the problem, Bulgaria’s Tourism Minister reminded that Turkey was not an EU Member State and had developed a special policy in the sector envisaging subsidies for flights and support for the launch of new scheduled flights.
She went on to say that Turkey spent around USD 130 M a year on advertisement and that the service in Greece and Turkey was excellent.
Angelkova announced that the Tourism Ministry would continue to work on the development of cultural and historical routes, adding that promotional material and maps were expected to be available n the second half of 2015.
She said that new advertisement spots would be made, adding that shooting them would take around a year.
Angelkova explained that the promotional strategy had been amended to include an aspect of “personal touch” for the tourists from the different markets.
She stated that Bulgaria would seek to boost its popularity in countries like India, Turkey, and Germany by releasing publicity spots featuring popular local actors, musicians, and athletes promoting Bulgaria as a tourist destination.
Angelkova said that Bollywood actor Ajay Devgan had already agreed to participate in such a spot that would be aired in India only.
She informed that the Ambassador of South Korea in Sofia had told her that airing such a spot featuring a popular local actor had helped Croatia increase the number of visitors from South Korea from 10 000 to 4 million in 4 years.
Angelkova reminded that she and her Chinese counterpart had agreed to sign an action plan for joint tourist products with Greece, Turkey, Serbia, and Romania, adding that talks were underway on the matter with the tourism ministers of Greece, Turkey, Serbia, and Moldova.
She also informed that an open-air tourism fair would be organized in the first week of June in Paris, adding that the location of the exhibition had not been specified.
She explained that the tourism fair, which would last 2-3 days, would seek to promote Bulgaria as a year-round tourist destination.