FOREIGN TOURISTS IN BULGARIA INCREASED BY 13% IN 2000
Bulgaria is turning into an oasis for tourism - the opinion was shared by most of the participants at the Bulgarian Tourism Forum, which took place in Sofia. Gerd Hesselmann, co-chairman of the Tourism working group with the Bulgarian - German Council for Co-operation explained that the unrest in Macedonia and Serbia, the financial crisis in Turkey and the higher costs of vacations in Greece were directing the flow of European tourists with modest means to the Bulgarian Black Sea coast and to the mountain resourts. The motto of the Forum was Tourism - a profitable investment. The major goal of the Forum was to promote Bulgarian resorts. The governmental forecasts for stimulating of tourism were supported with figures.
According to the Minister of Economy Peter Jotev the 2000 revenues from tourism in foreign currency exceeded USD1BN, and the positive balance in the sector exceeds USD536MN. According to plans 2001 revenues should exceed USD1.2BN. Bulgaria ranks fifth in Europe for 2000 in terms of tourist number increase, immediately after Croatia, Turkey, Slovenia and Iceland. Last year Bulgaria was visited by 13% more foreign tourists compared to 1999. The structure of foreign tourists visiting Bulgarian resorts has also changed. While in 1997 the EU citizens were 20% of the total tourist flow, in 2000 they were 35%.
Direct income from tourism in Bulgaria constitutes 8 - 10% of all budget revenues. More than 130,000 people are directly employed in tourism, while the number of people employed in accompanying activities for servicing the tourists goes beyond 340,000 people. Another achievement which was pointed out was the higher category most of the hotels have acquired compared to 1997. The number of 3-star and higher category hotels at the seaside resorts reached 45%.
According to statistics more than 94.18% of the long term assets in tourism are in private hands. Agreed joint investments in the privatised resorts amount to USD32MN, and the real investments have already reached USD25MN.
Peter Shackleford, the World Council of Tourism regional representative for Europe made the forecast that European tourists will form the most numerous group at the Bulgarian market. According to him the government should think over the VAT decrease for tourist services. He gave as an example well developed tourist countries like Italy and Spain where VAT in that sphere is 7%.