BOOM OF FOREIGN VACATIONERS IN BULGARIA RECORDED IN 2001
HOTELIERS DECREASE PRICES2001 was the most successful year for international tourism in Bulgaria, experts from the Ministry of Economy claim. Foreign vacationers in the country increased 17.06% last year as compared to 2000. According to information of the Ministry of Economy, Bulgaria was visited by 2,755,717 foreign vacationers in 2001. The year set a record regarding the absolute number of guests from Germany and Greece, 374,322 and 344,777, respectively, the Ministry of Economy's press service reported. Vacationers from Macedonia, Russia, Yugoslavia, the Ukraine, Great Britain, and Israel followed in number. The Ministry of Economy's information expressly states that the so-called suitcase traders have not been included in the report.An absolute record of proceeds from international tourism is expected for the entire 2001 as well. They are preestimated at some USD1.25-1.3BN.The expectations of the Deputy Minister of Economy Dimitar Hadjinikolv about the present winter season are optimistic, too. At its opening in the beginning of December 2001 in Bansko he promised a 12% growth in the number of foreign tourists in the Bulgarian mountain resorts this winter. But hoteliers in the Pirin region do not see things through rose-coloured glasses, although the Todorka, Balkaniada, Platoto and Chalin Valog ski-tracks are covered with some 30-40-cm deep snow. They are disappointed that their family hotels are almost empty. Their guests are mostly Bulgarians, coming for the weekend.They are convinced that the situation in leisure industry has changed after the terrorist attacks against the US on September 11, 2001. They predict a further worsening of things due to the increased patent tax and the imposed visa regime with Russia. Only 10% of the beds are occupied during weekends. The rooms are empty in the working days, although the ski-tracks are in good condition and the road has been cleaned, Nikolai Kolchagov, who has turned his home in Bansko into a 2-star hotel named Gramy, commented. There were guests from neighbouring Macedonia till January 7th, but the resort is in a lull now and prices for an overnight have drastically dropped to BGN15-20 per bed, he explained. The hotel keeper and his colleagues in the town hope that the real skiers will arrive in February, when winter vacations in Europe begin. Occupancy rate at the Carol and Bisser hotels is 20-25 per cent. The reason, according to their owners, is that no serious tour operator has come to the town. Ninety per cent of our guests come here thanks to our own INTERNET ads, the hoteliers specified.The situation is almost the same in the Borovets resort. The season is week, tourists are few in number, local hoteliers say. They also hope things will improve in February when they expect guests from Turkey and Europe (when students have their winter holdidays). The Mura hotel is half-full. The situation at the Breza club hotel is better due to the contracts it has signed with the British tour operators Thompson and Crystal. Prices have dropped drastically because of the small number of tourists. A double room in Mura costs BGN40 as compared to BGN100 during the New Year holidays. The price decrease amid the high winter season is explained by the not so good conditions for skiing. British tourists stay at Borovets for a week usually. In order to attract guests hotel owners offer for Bulgarians BB plus dinner. Hoteleirs at the Pamporovo also admit a slight decrease in the number of foreign tourists at the resort. This, however, foes not concern the big hotels Pamporovo and Perelik, which are booked till March by top tour operators, such as Balkan Holidays, First Choice, Crystal. Thompson, Nelson, and Balkan tours. Their managers boast of 70% occupancy as of the very start of the winter season. Ninety five per cent of the beds at the Pamporovo hotel are occupied. We have guests from Germany, England, the Netherlands, Denmark, and Russia, Dora Hristova, Sales and Markets Manager of the hotel tolds the BANKER weekly. Bulgarian tourists also stay at the hotel, paying BGN110 for a double room, BB. Prices for Bulgarians are twice cheaper at Perelik. BB at the hotel costs BGN30 and includes fitness and swimming pool, Yordanka Sivkova from the Marketing Department specified.The Malina holiday village counts on Bulgarian tourists mainly, although it welcomed some German and British guests this January as well. About 80% of its bungalows are occupied. I think the present season is better than last year's, both regarding the number of tourists and the excellent conditions for skiing due to the abundant snowfall, Rumyana Obreshkova from the Marketing Department of Vinitsa Tours (the owner of the holiday village) said. This is probably so as a compensation to last winter when there was almost no season, Tsvetan Tonchev, Chairman of the Bulgarian Chamber of Tourism, commented. Therefore, he believes that Deputy Minister Hadjinikolov's forecasts will come true.