Sofia. Military Club in the Bulgarian capital city Sofia hosted a meeting of the countries in the Danube Region. The forum was themed “Sustainable tourism through cooperation with European funds and investments” and was organised by the Bulgarian Ministry of tourism.
The event was attended by Bulgarian Minister of Economy Bozhidar Lukarski and Mayor of the capital city Sofia Yordanka Fandakova, while the special guests were representatives of the World Tourism Organisation with the UN, the European Commission (EC) and others.
The programme of the forum included discussions in three panels. The first one was dedicated to the opportunities for financing under the EU’s strategy for the Danube Region, stimulation of the regional development and growth through tourist investments; the second one was focused on the role of the local authorities; while the third one discussed the opportunities for cooperation between the business and the academic circles.
“Presenting the Bulgarian capital city Sofia as a tourist destination is a great challenge,” said Sofia Mayor Yordanka Fandakova, speaking at the meeting.
“As a mayor, as well as a person living in Sofia, I am pleased when the foreign citizens say that the city is very interesting and green and that its citizens are very hospitable,” Ms Fandakova remarked.
She added that she was still surprised with people’s astonishment at the hospitality, beauty, the interesting opportunities provided by Sofia and stressed that she wished for all this to be well-known in advance, before the tourists come one a visit to Bulgaria.
“There is much of work ahead of us in terms of popularising Sofia as a tourist destination,” the mayor commented further.
“Around BGN 3 billion has been invested in European projects in the past programme period, as some BGN 2 billion were gratuitous aid, while BGN 1 billion was provided from our own financing,” Mayor o Yordanka Fandakova said.
“These projects were connected with the construction of Sofia’s subway, the environment and air purification projects. These are also projects connected with the financing of different sites of the cultural and historical heritage,” the mayor explained.
Ms Fandakova commented further that she hoped for the Largo project to be finalised by the end of the year.
“This is some unique treasure, which our city has and it will attract more tourists,” the mayor said.
“Sofia has everything except for a sea, but in fact tourists can reach the Bulgarian Black Sea in three hours using Trakiya motorway,” Ms Fandakova remarked.
“Statistical figures show that the Danube region of Bulgaria is one of the most lagged behind in economic aspect in the EU,” Bulgarian Minister of Economy Bozhidar Lukarksi said.
“At the same time, the natural and cultural features of the region, as well as the strategic geographic location, provide opportunities for development of tourism and other business initiatives,” the minister remarked.
In his words, the encouragement of the economic activity for overcoming the regional disproportions in the development is a priority for the current Bulgarian government.
Minister Lukarski remarked that there was a need of cooperation that would encourage the work of the separate parts of the Danube region, as well as the positioning of the region as an integrated tourist product.
“The Roman Emperors Route is such an initiative. It includes Bulgaria, Serbia, Romania and Croatia.
There are opportunities for tourism development in the Danube Region in terms of the mutual and joint promotion of tourist destinations at third markets,” Mr Lukarski said further.