Bulgaria relaunches its tourism competitiveness through the Silk Road Journey

Destination Bulgaria’s tourism offer is wide and varied. The Country, in fact, counts on its ancient history, which allowed the development of a tourism offer based on cultural tourism. Moreover, both Sea & Sun and mountain segments were improved thanks to its geographic conformation.

The “Travel & Tourism Economic Impact 2017” published by the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) highlights that Bulgaria’s tourism offer is characterised by the leisure segment, underlining that, in 2016, the tourism expense (both by domestic and international tourists) represented 74,1% of the direct contribution to the Travel & Tourism industry GDP.
According to the National Statistical Institute of the Republic of Bulgaria, international arrivals in 2016 passed 10,5mn units. The main origin markets were Romania (1,74mn arrivals), Turkey (1,31mn), Greece (1,16mn) and Germany (1mln). According to the WTTC’s report, the tourism sector generated a direct contribution of 1,5bn euros circa (BGN 3,115.9mn), namely 3,4% of GDP. The total contribution was 6bn euros circa (BGN 11,617.8mn), namely 12,8% of GDP.

According to the “Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report 2017” by the World Economic Forum, Bulgaria ranks 45th out of 136 analysed Countries for tourism competitiveness. According to the report, this score is supported by the tourism services price competitiveness (37th), mainly by the tourism accommodation prices (6th), by the attention paid to the environmental sustainability (11th) and the quality of tourism service infrastructure (14th). On the other hand, there are some aspects that can be improved, as the Country’s strategies to create a strong tourism brand (103rd) and, at the same time, the effectiveness of the branding and marketing policies to attract new tourism segments (96th).

The Ministry of Tourism published the report“Bulgaria Investment Projects in Tourism”, mapping all the current and future projects in the tourism sector and aiming to attract the interest of potential investors. The map of investments includes 32 projects in total, focused on building of SPA facilities, ski tracks, expo centres, equestrian training facilities, swimming pools and other types of facilities. As reported to Twissen by the International Cooperation and Investments in Tourism Directorate – Ministry of Tourism of the Republic of Bulgaria, the Country has a great potential in attracting investments since it has the lowest cost of doing business in EU for both variable and fix costs, the lowest corporate tax rate and a balanced GDP composition with above average industry and tourism sector contribution.

Source: http://www.tourism.government.bg/en/interactive-map

The Ministry published a National Strategy for Sustainable Development of Tourism 2014 – 2030, which pays a particular attention to the protection of the Country’s natural resources. This Strategy aims to enhance the destination’s tourism competitiveness and appeal, through an active branding and promotion campaign. An important role is given to slow and rural tourism, which are seen as the key to differentiate the tourism offer of the destination.

The number of international arrivals in Bulgaria has been growing by 7% yoy since 2007, year in which it accessed the EU. An important factor has been the solid number of low-cost flights from and to Vrazhdebna International Airport in Sofia. In particular, Ryanair, that established a base in the airport, is connecting Sofia to 18 international destinations.

As it happened with other Countries, Bulgaria recently started initiatives to attract Chinese tourists. As reported by the Ministry of Tourism, arrivals from this Country grew by 50% yoy in the January – August 2017 period, and the Bulgarian Governments aims to keep this trend of growth.
As stated by the Bulgarian Minister of Tourism during the event “Bulgaria and Shanxi, China – two worlds on the Silk Road”, which was part of the “2017 Silk Road Journey” project, part of this enhancement can be attributed to the Silk Road project itself. Moreover, it is foreseen that the recent opening of a Centre for Tourism in Shanghai may lead to wider results. The Chinese ambassador, during the opening of the conference called “EU-China Tourism Year 2018: New Investment Opportunities for the Tourism Sector in Bulgaria”, confirmed a future cooperation in the tourism field between the two Countries.
As reported by Novinite (Sofia News Agency), further cooperation in tourism are planned with Moldavia and Montenegro: in 2016, in fact, their respective Governments signed a Cooperation Agreement on Tourism.

The attention dedicated to the Travel & Tourism industry is confirmed by the list of events organised by the Ministry of Tourism for the semester of Presidency of the Council of the European Union, such as High Level Meeting of the Ministers of Tourism of the EU member states – “Tourism and Economic Growth” and Holiday and SPA Expo in February, “Cultural Tourism” Expo in April and International Forum on Tourism and Energy within the framework of the EU Strategy for the Danube Region in May.

At Twissen we observed that cooperation among destinations has been a key to success for Bulgarian tourism. In particular, the effort of developing the Western part of the Silk Road will allow to attract more flows coming from the East.