Ivo Marinov, Deputy Minister of Economy, Energy and Tourism with field Tourism, in an interview for Radio Focus.
Focus: The 8th exhibition Weekend Tourism, held in Ruse, ends today. A roundtable – National vision for the development of tourism in less popular destination with considerable tourism potential, was organised within the exhibition. This topic attracted our attention and we invited Ivo Marinov - Deputy Minister of Economy, Energy and Tourism with field Tourism, for a conversation. What are the less popular tourist destinations in Bulgaria?
Ivo Marinov: They are many. I would say that even the popular destinations have objects and attractions, which are still not very known to potential tourists. It is a fact that 85% of the sleeping accommodations are concentrated on 5% of the territory of Bulgaria. This is one of the biggest problems of Bulgarian tourism – the seasonal and territorial concentration of tourist objects, and respectively of the flow of tourists. That is why our aim is to popularise the less popular destinations, and less popular objects, in order to transform Bulgaria in a year-round tourist destination.
Focus: The numbers you mentioned are impressive and they reveal a great opportunity for growth and development of tourism in Bulgaria.
Ivo Marinov: Yes, you are right. If we take the Ruse region, for example, and the exhibition, which is organised for a an eight time, it is a fact that Ruse has a great potential as a tourist centre, but also the municipalities around Ruse have very good tourism potential. These are the Ivanovo, Asenovo, and Tutrakan municipalities. This was a part of the discussion during the exhibition. We can draw several conclusions. First of all, there should be an integrated approach towards the development of tourism in any given municipality. This is extremely important. The municipalities, which are close to one another, should co-operate and work together in order to create a common product and to have a common vision for development.
Secondly, it is very important the local communities to understand the role and importance of tourism for improving the local prosperity of the population, and for providing new employment opportunities. That is why there should be willingness on the behalf of the municipalities and the local communities, in order tourism to be developed and prioritised as an activity.
Focus: How important is advertising and popularisation, I mean on a central level, as an initiative of the Ministry of Economy, Energy, and Tourism?
Ivo Marinov: It is very important. Our ministry has to play a vital part in this regard. What I mean is that we have to popularise Bulgaria, first of all, as an attractive tourist destination. Secondly, we must popularise the different regions in Bulgaria. In this connection, we have envisaged the establishment of tourism programming, its legal framework with functions and tasks, which is included in the project for amendments to the Tourism Act. With the establishment of organisations for destinations management, they will play a key part in the advertising and marketing process of the tourist objects in this region. Moreover, the projects realised with EU financing are also very important. This year we will start the realisation of the second wave of the communication campaign Encouragement of Internal Tourism, where the accents will be placed exactly on these less popular destinations. We also plan to create a TV show for advertising such destinations; as well as organising six journalistic tours of such less popular destinations, which will lead to around 200 publications in the printed media for popularisation of these destinations.
With regards to projects financed by the European Commission, I can give you an example for the realisation of the national competition for EDEN destinations. This is an initiative for less popular destinations, and when we talk about the Ruse region, where the current exhibition is being held, the municipalities here are very close to and strongly related to the Danube. The realisation of the project for development of pedestrian tourism along the Danube, which started in April, is also very important. The project, which started in co-operation with Serbia, Romania, and Croatia, for the roads of Roman emperors, is also very important. The realisation of the Danube Strategy, where tourism and multicultural dialogue are two of the priorities, which are coordinated by Bulgaria and Romania, will be very beneficial for the region.
Focus: The Weekend Tourism exhibition ends in Ruse today, while the tourist season in Burgas also starts today. In this line of thoughts, what are your expectations for the summer season in Bulgaria this year?
Ivo Marinov: We [the Ministry] expect a growth of between 5% and 8% of foreign tourists for this summer season. Naturally, the growth will be different for the different markets, but we expect the highest surge this year to be of Russian tourists, as very good prerequisites have been established for this growth, and the bookings are going well.