With the first days of December expected to bring Bulgaria its first snowfalls of the season and the ski season scheduled to open on December 15, tourism authorities are expressing optimism that tourist numbers will grow this year.
Roumen Draganov, head of the Institute for Tourism Analysis and Assessment, said that if the harsh winter weather conditions of early 2012 were not repeated, this winter season in Bulgaria should see growth of four to five per cent.
Speaking to local media, he said that prices would be increasing this year, but added that they had hardly risen significantly in recent years, because of the impact of the global financial and economic crisis from 2009 onwards.
Anelia Genova, head of the marketing, advertising and tourism information department at the tourism ministry, told public broadcaster Bulgarian National Television that there had been a 10 to 15 per cent increase in pre-booking of winter holidays in Bulgaria by foreign tourists, mainly from the UK, Russia and Ukraine. Advance bookings by Bulgarians also had increased, she said.
Separate local media reports said, however, that hoteliers in Bansko, Borovets and Pamporovo had said that bookings were proceeding at a pace similar to last year, with small increases in some cases.
Several individual resorts have reported that new facilities will go into operation in the 2012/13 winter ski season.
Borovets, which has a 40 million euro investment programme, will be adding new artificial snow machines and is boasting of its Borovets Snow Park to attract snowboarders. Two new webcams have been installed at the park to enable people to check conditions online via www.borovets-bg.com, while, reports said, steps also have been taken to reduce queues, improve the efficiency of street cleaning and augment ski equipment facilities.
Investments of five million leva have preceded the opening of the ski season at Pamporovo this year. The season there is scheduled to open on December 15 or 22, depending on weather conditions. Use of the ski lifts will be free of charge on the opening weekend and for a week after that will cost a promotional price of 29 leva, rising to 50 leva daily for adults during the season.
In Pamporovo, some tracks have been widened, 10 new artificial snow machines have been added, and machines installed to sell lift passes with payment by debit or credit card. Digital information boards have been set up on the approaches to the slopes to advise on the status of ski facilities. Steps have been taken to ensure a supply of water in emergencies and some trees cleared away to reduce the risk of power cuts caused by trees falling on powerlines, reports said.
The official opening of the season in Bansko will be on December 15 but, again depending on weather, snow machines may go into operation before then. Bansko will host the European Biathlon Championship from February 18 to 26 and the Snow Polo World Cup 2013 from March 8 to 10.
Sofia’s Vitosha mountain, at the centre of a dispute that saw facilities closed last season, will be offering ski and snowboarding opportunities – with working lifts – this year, but because of the dispute, there had been no new investment in facilities, reports said.
(Photo: Noel Abejo/sxc.hu)