Bulgaria's winter tourism is set to surpass 2019 figures, with an expected 1.7 million foreign tourists and 3.5 million local trips, highlighting a significant rebound and growth in the sector.

Bulgaria's Rising Popularity in Winter Tourism

Bulgaria is set to welcome over 1.7 million foreign tourists this winter, surpassing its 2019 figures, according to Rumen Draganov, Director of the Institute of Analysis and Assessment in Tourism (IAAT). This boost reflects a positive trend in winter tourism, with Bulgaria emerging as a favored destination.

In addition to international visitors, around 3.5 million Bulgarians are expected to travel within the country, particularly during the Christmas and New Year's Eve period. This internal movement is a significant component of the country's winter tourism.

According to the Philippine News Agency, the majority of these foreign tourists, about 62%, will come from EU Member States, with the UK and Turkiye being the next largest markets. Despite conflicts in the Gaza Strip, Israeli tourists, particularly older travelers, are choosing Bulgaria for their winter holidays, although their numbers might be half of last season's.

The report also mentioned that the UK market is showing a strong recovery, returning to its 2019 numbers with a projected 20% increase in British tourists this winter season. Turkiye is also expected to see a significant rise in visitors, thanks to the European Union's new digital visa system, which simplifies travel. Annually, around 1.3 million Turkish tourists visit Bulgaria, mainly for business, but the improved visa policy is anticipated to attract more to Bulgarian sea and mountain resorts.

Bulgaria's Winter Tourism Outshines 2019 Figures, Drawing Millions
(Photo : Suzi Kim via Unsplash)

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Bulgarians themselves are set to make more than 3.5 million trips, with a focus on visiting family and friends, and enjoying spa, wellness, and ski resorts.

Draganov mentioned that guesthouses, small hotels, and villas are the accommodations of choice, often booked a year in advance. There's a growing trend among Bulgarians to combine winter leisure with spa treatments and to opt for seaside holidays, especially in resorts with hot springs like Saints Constantine and Helena Resort, Pomorie, Kazanlak, Sapareva Banya, and Sandanski.

Bulgaria's investment in tourism advertising plays a crucial role in promoting winter tourism. The country spends about EUR 36 million annually on marketing, roughly EUR 3 per tourist. This investment is higher than in neighboring countries and has been pivotal in making Bulgaria a popular choice for winter tourism, attracting 12 million tourists annually.

Bulgaria Boosts Winter Tourism with New Initiatives

Bulgaria's Tourism Ministry, along with major winter resorts, is gearing up for the 2023-2024 winter season with a focus on modernizing and boosting competitiveness in winter tourism. Tourism Minister Zaritsa Dinkova and industry representatives, including those from Bansko, Pamporovo, Vitosha, and Rila ski resorts, discussed preparations for enhancing the country's winter tourism offerings.

Key changes being planned center on addressing long-standing issues that have affected the resorts' global market positioning, as per The Sofia Globe. These include infrastructure improvements and clearer road signs directing visitors to the resorts. Additionally, to attract more tourists this winter, an advertising campaign targeting international and domestic markets started in October.

Efforts are also underway to extend the winter tourism season by promoting specialized tourism activities available year-round. Dinkova emphasized the importance of collaboration for a successful winter season and maintaining Bulgaria's reputation as a safe, quality destination known for hospitality.

Upcoming initiatives for winter tourism include support for the Snowboarding World Cup in Pamporovo and the Alpine Skiing World Cup in Bansko, using these events to market winter tourism and Brand Bulgaria.

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