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Bulgarian Tourism Tries to Survive with Domestic Tourism

Sofia, Bulgaria

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Bulgarian tourists are rescuing hotels in Sofia, as they did on the Black Sea, and in the rest of the country.

According to data from the Ministry of Tourism’s Unified Tourist Information System (ESTI), the decrease in the total number of tourists in the Bulgarian capital is over 90%. Since the beginning of the year, 285,000 guests have spent the night in the city. For comparison, in the same period last year, their number was over 3 million. This means that hotels in Sofia operate at very low occupancy.

More than half of the tourists are Bulgarians - nearly 146,000, who come mainly for business in Sofia. Other groups show a lot lower numbers and come from Greece - 13,000, Germany - 11,000, Italy - 9,900, Great Britain - 8,872, the United States - 8,866, Romania - 7,600, Israel - 7,200 and others. The foreigners who arrived were mainly at the beginning of the year, in the period January and February, before the COVID-19 pandemic. Since May, mainly business guests or representatives of companies operating in Bulgaria have been coming, hoteliers report to TravelNews.

h"Foreign tourists aren’t coming this year due to COVID-19. At the moment we rely mainly on Bulgarians who come to Sofia for work ", said the manager of EasyHotel Sofia Tsveta Parvanova, who is part of the international chain of the airline EasyJet. According to her, Sofia has a huge potential to develop as a major tourist destination. The problem is that Sofia Municipality does not hold large-scale international events to attract foreign tourists, she commented.

In recent years, the capital has become an attractive destination for foreigners because of the numerous low-cost airlines that have started flying to Sofia Airport. Crowds of tourists gathered in the center of the city. The number of overnight stays in Sofia increased more than three times for the period 2010 - 2019, increasing from 1,120,755 to over 3 million every year. The tendency was that about 2/3 of the nights were realized by foreigners. This was the reason for the increased interest in building new hotels in Sofia. The five-star Grand Hotel Millennium and Hyatt Regency have already opened this year. The former Rodina Hotel is planned to open after major repairs as well as a site of the Marriott chain.

Sofia Mayor Yordanka Fandakova defines the city as one of the safest for tourists. Good connectivity brings more tourists. In the last five years alone, there have been about 50 new destinations that connect Sofia with various cities around the world. The data of Sofia Municipality show that one tourist stays in Sofia for 1.8 days, with an average of 3.4 days for the country. The aim of hoteliers and tour operators is to keep tourists for longer. Tourists from Italy, Israel, Spain, Great Britain stay the longest - an average of 2.2 days in Sofia. About 40% is the share of holiday tourism, 40% is business tourism, and about 16% is congress tourism.

The municipality plans to complete the restoration of the public baths in Bankya this year, which will become a center for balneal and spa tourism. In addition, they are preparing the restoration of the baths in Ovcha Kupel and Gorna Banya. The completion of the central part of the capital with the projects for Sveta Nedelya Square and the Church of St. Spas is forthcoming. Work is also underway on the Neolithic settlement in Slatina, where archaeologists hope to complete their work this year and build a visitor center.

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