Bulgaria is one of the most visited countries in Europe. Situated in Southern Europe and occupying northeastern part of the Balkan Peninsula, Bulgaria has many attractions that keep more than 5 million tourists visiting the country annually. Tourism has been one of the most important sectors of its economy for a long time since it started a revolution about 10-15 years ago. In 2006, more than 6 million tourists visited the country. This number reached about 8 million in 2007 and is expected to rise further in 2008. The country has both old tourist cites and also new sites which draws that attention of many people all over the world. These sites are reinforced with an effective transport system of railways, automobile, air and water. (Bell 1998, p. 45)
Attraction sites in the country
Tourism activities in the country ranges from skiing, hunting, mountaineering, mountain bike riding, caving, bird watching, hiking and walking, and horse riding. These forms the land activities that can be undertaken in the tourism sector in the country. Water activities are diverse ranging from swimming and surfing, rafting, canoying, kaying, and diving. There are also various attraction sites including resorts, national parks, mineral water springs, water parks, Adventure Park and zoo, museums and other archeological sites. Air activities include paragliding in sunny and dry climates.
There are a number of attraction sites in Bulgaria ranging from natural sites to man made sites. There are several sites in Bulgaria that are found in UNESCO list of landmarks. It is a world of world natural and cultural heritage. These forms the general attraction sites like Kazanluk Tomb which is dated 4th and 3rd century B.C. This tomb is located in the Tyulbeto hills near the town of Kazanluk. Ivanovo Rock Churches is a monastery compound believed to of Archagel Michael which contains preserved churches. This is believed to be one of the most significant 14th century Bulgarian arts. The Madar Horseman is a rock reef cutting into the northern slope of Provadiisko Plateau. The Rila Monastery forms an impressive 13th to 14th century architectural work and a spiritual centre for Bulgarian people. Nessebur, forms the old part of the town with architectural, historical and archeological significance situated at the Black Sea coast. Pirin National Park which is a part of the Pirisn Mountain contains plant and animal species. In the UNESCO list there is also Sreburna reserve and Sveshtari tomb.
Also there are several tourist centers in Bulgaria like Borovetz, Bansko, Pamporove, Vitosha and others which are picturesque also popular ski resorts. It also has famous summer resorts like Sozopol, Nessebur, Sunny Beach, Albena, and others. Winter resorts include Bansko, Chepelare, borovetz, Vitosha, and others. Rural tourism attractions include Arbanasi, Madzhorobo, Kumani, and others. It has also developed city tourism in sites like Sofia, Varna, Kardzhali, and others. There is hiking and paragliding in Balkan Mountains. Cultural tourism is greatly developed in Bulgaria. It has been the home of many civilizations including Thracians, Slavs, Romans, Byzantines, and ottomans. People are attracted to Bulgarian to see the architectural and other remains of these civilizations.
There are quality hotels found in major tourist sites in the country. In Sofia there are hotels like Castle Hrankov, Gloria Palace Diplomatic Club, and others. Most of the tourist hotels are found in Sofia. Plovdiv has hotels like Rodopi, Ambassador, Atlantic, and other. In Varna there are quality hotels like City Plane, Elegance, Lukos, and others. Burgas has least number of hotel including Kosmos, Mirage, White Rose, and others. Like in other tourist site in the world, these hotels fall into categories with most of them being 3 star and 5 star hotels. In total there are about 190 000 beds in the Bulgarian hotel sector. Accommodation facilities have grown rapidly in the sector since the government started privatizing the hotel facilities. This has seen a 12% growth in the accommodation sector in the industry.
Tourism in Bulgaria is supported by availability of other facilities which support tourism activities. There are multipurpose halls, conference halls, offices and exhibition areas in major hotels in the country. These facilities are reinforced by technical facilities including simultaneous translation and sound systems, other audio visual facilities including film projectors and video equipments. This ensures that all hotel activities are served with quality services.
Bulgaria has a lot of potential to develop tourism. It has sites that attract people and with little development in some weak areas, the sector can flourish to be an important foreign earner. However there has been criticism that tourism in Bulgaria is underdeveloped. It faces weaknesses which continue to undermine the industry. Seaside tourism heavily relies on short season which make it face stiff competition from other countries offering similar services. The industry is also faced by inadequacy of hotels in the ski resorts and the resorts are also underdeveloped. Support services in the transport are also inadequate and are undermined by low airline services and poor road condition which makes it difficult to access most tourist sites in the country. (Grunt 2001, p. 65)
Tourism business strategies
The state and the private in Bulgaria has done remarkable job in trying to come up with the above marketing requirements. The State Agency for Tourism has made a lot of strategies aimed at marketing Bulgaria as a tourist destination in the world. This has resulted to increased number of tourist visiting the country in the recent past. The government has taken stem in recognizing some of the most potential marketing including other EU countries. With the country expected to join the EU on January 2007, the tourism agency has taken steps towards marketing the country all over the world. This is expected to increase business tourism into the country and the government has undertaken necessary measures to upgrade business support services. (Kaytcheve and Purchell 2006, p. 21)
On of the most important made by the government in promotion of tourism in the country is through privatization of most hotels in the country. Most of the hotels in Bulgaria were state owned which led to poor management and consequently most of the facilities became worn out. From 2001, the government embarked on a plan to privatize most of the facilities. The government also embarked on renovation of most of the tourist attraction sites and facilities. The government has also responded well by holding foreign trade fairs through which it has been able to market its tourism sector. The private sector has also responded very well. With the privatization of most tourist facilities in the country and the consequent renovation and upgrading of the facilities, major international tourist operators has responded very well into acquisition of these tourist facilities. Over the last ten years, accommodation facilities has grown by more than 75% in the country while it has actually doubled in the Black Sea regions due to the concerted input from the government and the private sector.
The marketing strategies in the country have been targeting regions. One category includes markets of the geographical region within the EU. Germany had been a leading market for tourism in Bulgaria but other countries like United Kingdom, Russia, Scandinavia, Greece, ad others have emerged as potential markets as well for the industry. It has held exhibition in these markets which has enabled exchange of information about tourist sites in the country. The other categories include emerging markets where the government should continue to lay more emphases on. These markets are a special market category in which the government has continued to hold special trade fairs and exhibitions. The government has done a lot of promotions for the domestic market which has continued to make contribution to the tourism industry. (Petreas 2007, p.67)
Tourism industry remains one of the most untapped business sectors in Bulgaria. Although it has a lot of business potentials in the tourisms sector, little has been done in order to improve this sector. This is because there have been infrastructure issues that have been the main block in the development of tourism in the country. However the sector has grown in years and has performed relatively well in the past 10 years. The sector has recorded growth with the increasing attention that is being paid to the development of the tourism sector.
In 2007, the industry recorded a 10 percent more booking than it has received in the previous year. This represents a higher growth which is also reflected in earnings from the sector. For the same period the number of tourist increased by more than 5 percent growth margin. This has an effect on financing the income of the population. In 2007, revenues from tourist sector rose by more than 16 percent. There has also been a growing trend in the rise of domestic tourism. A big number of Bulgarians has recognized the importance of domestic tourism and for the period ending 2007, there was 15 percent increase in the number of domestic tourist the country. With the country expected to join the EU, the number of tourists coming in and out of Bulgaria to the EU region increased by more the 11 percent for the same period.
Therefore in terms of important of the sector, Bulgaria has recognized the importance that the sector can play in the growth of the economy. In particular, special emphasis on diversification of tourist sites and other attractions has been very crucial in ensuring that the sectors grow evenly and makes a contribution to the overall GDP of the country.
But there is need for the government to take more bold steps toward improving the marketing strategies in order to ensure that the sector makes more contribution to the growth of the economy in the country.
Social-environmental impact of tourism in Bulagaria
Apart from coming with positive economic impact, tourism has had positive and negative impacts on the tourism business in the country. This has been through the increased number of visitors in the country and the increased interaction between the people of Bulgaria and the outsiders which has brought about cultural interaction.
On the environment impact, there have been environmental issues that have come along with booming tourism business in the country. In a recent study, it was revealed that a total number of 268 000 tourists and 52 150 vehicles visited Rila National Park alone between January and June 2007. This shows that there has been increased number of tourists visiting other parks in the country. Keeping this visitors and ensuing that there is positive environmental impact is quite difficult. There have been environmental challenges that have been encountered in ensuring that the flood of people and cars is kept to the check. (Bulgarian Country Commercial Guide FY2001, 2008)
Environment impacts have been on the increased emissions from the cars that have been used and difficulties that have been enounced in managing the waste from the residential areas where the tourist are housed. The nature has not been spared either as more and more negative impact on the natural environment are being reported in the effort to create more tourist attraction to the country.
On the issue of social concerns, it has been shown that the wave of globalization has not left Bulgaria out and tourists have immersingly contributed. There has been mix up of outside cultures with that of Bulgaria. This has led to efforts which are aimed at streamlining the industry such that the culture of the country is protected. At the same time there have been efforts that are aimed at integrating the culture of Bulgaria with that of the outside world. There have been efforts which are all aimed at ensuring that the culture of Bulagaria and that of the outside world is integrate in aspects of foods, music, and other attraction which are aimed at increasing the level of attraction to the country.
However it has had negative impact of eroding the culture of most Bulagrina community. The once rich culture has been contaminated with external practices which is reducing the value of cultural tourism in the country. The focus in the recent times has been development of cultural tourism in the country. The level of cultural tourism in the country has been very low and the hence the effort are supposed to market the rich cultural mix of country in order to make it a tourism activity. This will help in neutralizing the negative effects that it has had on the cultural of Bulgaria.
There have been other challenges on social issues that have come due to tourism business. Key among this issue has been the ever disturbing problem of underage sex tourism. It has been found the rate of underage sex tourism has been on the increase and it is raising concerns from all quarters. The issues have been the way in which these children are misuse for tourism purpose by some tourism activity which has been seen as bleach on the social right of these children. There have been other issues parting social life of the people that has been interrupted by tourism activity. (European Union, 2006)
Tourism in Bulgaria has been instrumental in contributing to the economy of the country. It has also done a lot to market the country to the outside world. This is because more and more people are becoming attracted to the country. Therefore there are measures that should be taken in order to market the country more to the outside world. Since the country has joined the EU, there is more chance of developing the sector more since it will be supported by EU funds. However there must be systematic effort to improve the attraction sites in order to diversify the number of sites in the country. This will raise the number of visitors and increase the level of tourist activities. Diversifying the number of attraction sites in the country should also take into account the need to give the people more chances to be involved in tourism activist. This is the main focus of recent development in cultural tourism. Tourism support facilities should also be supported by improving their condition. This will also help in diversifying attraction to the country. In conclusion we can say that tourism business in Bulgarai is one of the lucrative investment opportunities for any investor willing to invest in the country.
Annstova, L. & Purchell, K 1997, Human Resource management in Bulgaria tourism, Journal of International Hospitality Management, Vol. 3(3): 34-67
Bell, J. D 1998, Bulgaria in Transition, Wiley, New York
Bulgarian Country Commercial Guide FY2001, Tourism Infrastructure Summary, Retrieved from, http://www.factbook.net/countryreports/bu/Bu_Tourism.htm, on 30th January 2008
Discussion about the Bulgarian Tourism before 2005, Retrieved from, http://220.127.116.11/search?/htm, on 30th January 2008
European Union 2006, Technical Assistant to the Bulgarian State Tourism Agency- Bulgarian State Tourism Agency “Strategy for the Development of Bulgarian Tourism for the Period 2006-2009” Final Report, Vol. 1, Issue 3
Grunt, M.D 2001, Business marketing management: a strategic view of industrial and organizational markets, London, Dryden Press
Kaytcheva, E. & Purcell, K 2006, Tourism Management in Bulgaria: The challenge of change, Oxford University, Britain.
Petreas, C 2007, “Competitiveness of Bulgarian Tourism, in the EU” EU expert for Tourism
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