At the Ministry of Tourism in Sofia, they love numbers. This includes Nikolina Angelkova, the minister herself.
There is a good reason why they throw lots of numbers at people all the time: They are good ones. In the past years they have been pointing upwards constantly. And everyone at the ministry seems to believe this will continue forever.
As it turns out, one of the most important groups of tourists in Bulgaria are the Bulgarians themselves. During the weekend, Angelkova said that last year, a total of 9 million Bulgarians had stayed at hotels within their own country. Sure, there are only 7 million Bulgarians, but this is about hotel stays, meaning nights.
In an interview with Darik Radio she made clear that promoting domestic tourism was just as important as trying to make foreign tourists visit the country. From July to September 2017 alone, more than 1.6 Bulgarians visited places within Bulgaria, while only 300,000 traveled to other countries.
Many Bulgarians who can afford to take trips abroad actually prefer Greek and Turkish beaches to their own. On the other hand, Bulgaria offers a lot more than just beaches. Secondly, vacations in Bulgaria are mostly cheaper.
Nikolina Angelkova is also proud of the fact that almost one third of Bulgarians who travel within the borders of their own country do so in order to visit cultural and historical sites. Tourism of this kind is part of what the minister is promoting, both inside the country and abroad.
Even in the United States the Bulgarian Ministry of Tourism has booked billboards for promotion purposes. The goal is to turn Bulgaria into a year-round destination. It is a big endeavor, but it is going quite well.
Yes, they love numbers because they are impressive. In 2016, 8.251 million foreign tourists came to Bulgaria, in 2017 there were as many as 8.882 million. Will this country hit the 9 million mark this year? It is possible, but not guaranteed.
The fact of the matter is that the Islamist terror attacks in Istanbul in June and December of 2016, as well as on January 1st, 2017, scared tourists away from Turkey. The big tour operators needed a quick alternative: Bulgaria.
Also, Vladimir Putin was angry at Erdogan when the Turkish armed forces shot down a Russian plane in Syria. Therefore Russian tourists who were supposed to go to Turkey were rerouted to a neighboring country called Bulgaria.
Because the long-term memory of vacationers is usually rather weak, they are going back to Turkey now. At least that is what it looks like. Therefore the Bulgarian numbers for 2018 might slump. But Nikolina Angelkova, the very active Minister of Tourism, keeps on doing her job well.
On Friday she appeared in Pamporovo, where she met leaders from within the Bulgarian tourism business. She thanked them for increasing the quality of tourism in Bulgaria, which is another high priority goal of hers.
In the meantime, the next tourism tsunami is only a week away. Almost half a million Bulgarians will hit the country’s roads during the upcoming Orthodox Easter vacation. The few freeways and major roads this country has will for sure be crammed.