Ivo Marinov: Rumanian Tourism Increases Markedly, Now Leads the Way
Rumania is a key tourist market for Bulgaria and one of the country’s major consumer targets, as Ivo Marinov, Vice-Minister for Economics, Energy, and Tourism, confirmed recently in Veliko Tarnovo. Mr. Marinov was in the Old Capital to address a forum hosting representatives of Rumanian tourist agencies, tourist industry organizations, and the media. The forum emphasized that Bulgaria is now a modern, four-season tourist destination. The two-day forum was organized by MEET (The Ministry of Economics, Energy, and Tourism), the Bulgarian Association for Balneology and Spa Tourism (BABSPA), and the Bulgarian Association of Hoteliers and Restaurateurs (BAHR). The forum was attended by some fifty Rumanian tour operators, tourist agents, and members of the media, along with Bulgarian experts in the field, along with representatives of municipalities, hotels, specialized companies, and other organizations. This was the second time the event has been held – the first meeting was two years ago in Bucharest. Among this year’s guests was Korina Martin, president of the Rumanian National Tourist Association. Other distinguished guests included Alexander Filipov, Bulgaria’s charge d’affaires at the Bulgarian embassy in Bucharest, Daniel Panov, mayor of the Bulgaria’s former capital, Stefan Sharlopov, president of BABSPA, and Blagoi Ragin, president of BAHR.
Vice-Minister Marinov emphasized that political strategies aimed at placing the brand name “Bulgaria” at the forefront of the Rumanian market is part of the 2012 Bulgarian national program for promoting tourism. Last year the number of tourists from our neighbor to the north – roughly 960,400 – was greater than that for all other visitors, confirming the Rumanian market’s leading position over the past few years, Marinov noted. He added that while Rumanian tourists are mainly interested in sea vacations, Bulgaria now has many other forms of tourism on offer – such as cultural-historical tourist itineraries, spa vacations, wellness and balneology procedures, eco-tourism and village tourism, extreme adventures, golf tourism, congress venues, and gourmet and wine tasting tours.
Mr. Marinov also mentioned the importance of the Rumanian tourists who pass through Bulgaria on their way to visit the country’s neighbors to the south, reminding his listeners that the country can offer them many good reasons to spend a few extra days. This ongoing interest in Bulgaria’s attractions keeps the Rumania tourist market at the top of the list, ahead of Greece, Germany, and Russia. It could be said that Rumania has finally discovered Bulgaria. The two countries have recently collaborated successfully on the European Union Danube strategic initiative, which includes fourteen countries in all. Sofia and Bucharest jointly coordinate the Strategy’s third major area of interest: “Promoting Culture, Tourism, and Contact among People,” with its emphasis on one of Europe’s iconic features, the Danube River. Other joint projects financed by the European Union are “The Iron Curtain Trail,” “The Path of the Roman Emperors,” and EDEN (European Destinations of ExcelleNce).”
Mr. Marinov reminded forum participants that Bulgaria boasts almost 400 kilometers of beaches and more than 200 ski runs of varying difficulty, and so can offer visitors exceptionally diverse tourism possibilities all year long. The potential for developing cultural tourism in the country is equally rich – Bulgaria’s age-old heritage is preserved in more than 40,000 cultural monuments spanning seven historical eras, seven objects listed as UNESCO heritage sites, 160 monasteries, and many museums.
The Vice-Minister also mentioned that Bulgaria has one of the world’s richest collections of thermal springs (close to 800), and is already renowned for its reasonably-priced holidays for nature-lovers. Proof of the country’s potential as a winter tourist destination is the fact that the Bansko ski resort was chosen as the site of World Cup ski races held in February 2012, the same week that the Pamporovo ski resort hosted a European Cup slalom race. Bulgaria is now included among European golf destinations as the association’s newest member, and the country was honored by IGTM at the industry’s largest golf tourism expo, held in Belek, as the world’s preeminent new golf destination for 2012. Along with these facts presented at the Tarnovo forum, Mr. Marinov also pointed out that the forum’s venue, the country’s former capital of Tarnovo, welcomed more than 100,000 Rumanian visitors in 2011 – 27% of all foreign guests. This represents an increase of some 14% and approaches the numbers recorded for 2008, before the onset of the financial crisis. The major attraction for Rumanian visitors to Tarnovo is the city’s cultural heritage – for example, 30% of on-line reservations for the annual Tarnovo “Stage for the Ages” festival were placed by Rumanians.
Tourism is among the country’s highest economic priorities, and accounts for 10.5% of Bulgaria’s annual gross national product. In 2011, some 6,330,000 international tourists visited the country, a 4.6% increase over 2010. An even greater increase (more than 6%) was recorded for vacation and holiday tours. European Union member states continue to provide the lion’s share of the country’s tourism market, at 68%. From January to November 2011, net income from international tourism was more than 2.75 billion Euros, a 3.8% increase over the amount earned in 2010.