Bulgaria: Alarm! The Beach Tourists Are Coming!

Summer just started. Yet there are people in Bulgaria who could use a Valium or two. They should hand them out at the Ministry of Tourism in Sofia and at hotels along the Black Sea coast, where everyone is way too excited.

The sea water is still a little chilly. But there she is, Tourism Minister Nikolina Angelkova, standing there at the beach in Slanchev Briag (also known as “Sunny Beach” or “Sonnenstand”), and predicting new record numbers.

While the first few tourists already have the courage to fry their skin on Bulgarian beaches, from Kavarna in the north all the way down to Sinemorets, Angelkova said she expected yet another 5 percent increase for 2018, regarding the number of foreign beach tourists.

The Beach in the Bulgarian resort Balchik is sandy. Photo: Imanuel Marcus

The first big waves are just some two weeks away. Germans, Brits, Israelis, Poles, Czech and French holiday makers are about to throw their bikinis into their suitcases.

Nikolina Angelkova is even waiting for U.S. tourists. Last year, Bulgaria had placed digital ads in America, promoting Bulgaria as a tourist destination. Now the minister hopes that effort, which did cost money, will pay off.

She told her audience, summer holidays at the Black Sea were “among the most preferred” forms of tourism in this country. Of course, Minister Angelkova chooses her words wisely. Her big goal, which she states about every 5 minutes, is to turn Bulgaria into a year-round tourist destination.

It already is, partially, but this is the moment for the beaches. Millions of tourists will be toasting themselves in the sun. Last year, they counted 5.3 million foreign tourists in Bulgaria, from June to September alone. Some 1.6 million Bulgarians joined them. The ministry is hoping for 1.9 Bulgarians, filling their own beaches this time around.

Ready for some inconvenient truth? Many Bulgarians, those who can afford it, don’t like Bulgarian beach resorts. They prefer Greece, Turkey, Spain, France or Croatia. And they do have a point.

Are there nice beaches in Bulgaria? Yes, sure. They are in Kavarna, Dyuni and elsewhere. There are hidden “paradise beaches” suitable for skinny dipping and other exciting adventures. But there are problems too.

Due to the rather low salaries in Bulgaria, people employed by the tourism industry try to work in other countries, for real money. The Bulgarian service quality is partially shaky. And the Black Sea itself is not in a very good state.

But Bulgarian beach vacations are attractive anyway, also because they are cheap in comparison. From the perspective of the big tour operators, Bulgaria is a good location. This country “has what it takes”, TUI manager Evangelos Georgiou recently told Magazine79 in an interview.

In the meantime, all players are preparing for the first huge swarms of tourists. Some of them are overwhelmed, such as the state railway company BDZ. Their new ticketing system will be launched on July 1st, when the season is already in full swing. The changes will most likely lead to an even bigger chaos than they are causing already.

BDZ is slow. Many of their railway wagons are dirty, to say the least. Also they are the slowest means of transportation in Bulgaria, and they do not have enough sleeper cars. Their communication policy is terrible too. People wait at ticket counters, in long lines. Once it is finally their turn, they are told to go home since there are no tickets left.

The Black Sea in Varna. Photo: Natalie Delphina Abildina

But nothing will stop the fun at the beach. Not even Deputy Prime Minister Valeri Simeonov. The radical right-winger, who is being accused of racism and hate speech on a regular basis, recently clashed with Minister Nikolina Angelkova, since he wanted to fight another personal vendetta against restaurants and shops in Slanchev Briag, which he says are illegal, in a way which could have hurt the tourism this country needs so badly.

No matter how bad Trakia Freeway, the main road to the Black Sea might be, and in spite of everything else, the sea will be wet and salty, and the beaches are as sandy as the Sahara desert. The beer is already being cooled and what the Bulgarians call Schnitzel will feed a lot of tourists, for moderate prices.

They are coming! Sound the alarm!

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