INTEREST TOWARDS BULGARIAN RESORTS GOES UP
Bulgaria is about to make its most serious break-through onto the European leisure industry market in 2003 and the following three or four years. The interest towards Bulgarian seaside resorts is continually going up, and the number of holiday-makers is expected to increase by 4-5% this summer season, hoteliers claim. This will be a considerable achievement on the background of the 1-3% decline, registered in well-known European tourist destinations. The heightened interest towards the Bulgarian resorts is due to the numerous investments along the Black Sea coast and the almost entirely renewed establishments. The resorts now look more European and this is combined with low prices (for the western standards). Moreover, vacationers are offered many opportunities for combining holidays at the seaside and in the mountains, with ecology or hunting tourism, which is highly estimated by foreigners. The first fears have already appeared in the Spanish press that the Bulgarian resorts will be attracting an increasing number of guests at the expense of Spanish resorts. These fears are also connected with the fact that no serious investments have been made in new hotels and complexes in Europe over the last 15 years. Only the existing establishments have been renovated. Europeans also have fresh memories about the sunk tanker Prestige and the danger of pollution of the Mediterranean coasts of Spain and France. Tourists are in search of diversity and they can already get it at coparatively low prices in the eastern part of the Old Continent.The collapse of trust in Turkey after the assaults in the big cities in recent months adds up to the fear of earthquakes, and this is also to the advantage of Bulgarian resorts. It is calm in Greece, but prices are much higher than in Bulgaria, and this may also repel foreigners who seek advantageous offers for holidays. Russian tourists have been affected this year by the depreciation of the US dollar against the euro. It is known that most of the Russians keep their savings in US deposits. Therefore, they will be paying more even if the prices at western resorts do not change. Thus, the offers for cheaper holidays at the Bulgarian resorts stand greater chances to attract more interest.Of course, much more should be done in Bulgaria to improve services and infrastructure (roads, city transport, telephones, etc.). But most of the guests who come to this country book package holidays with meals and transportation from and to the airport, included. Thus, they buy their vacations at lower prices and they practically need no additional money. That is why hotels at Golden Sands were packed to capacity last summer, but almost no people could be seen in the alleys, and the restaurants, cafes, and other catering establishments were almost empty, with a few people sitting over beer, mineral water, or ice-cream.Trips to historical places of interest or shopping tours are already offered against additional payment at almost every hotel along the seaside. A visit to Metro Cash and Carry is a hit in Varna. It is advantageous to both the store and the guests, who could buy there goods at much cheaper prices than in their own countries. VAT is refunded to them, and hotels enjoy preferences when their guests purchase goods worth a certain amount of money. The interest towards Bulgarian seaside resorts will continue over the next three or four years, people from the branch are adamant. They add that the number of solvent vacationers, who are ready to spend more money than the pre-paid services, will be increasing. Thus, proceeds from leisure industry and the additional accompanying activities will go up by 5-8% annually.