As Bulgarian summer holiday resorts begin announcing discount specials with the advent of September, the first assessments of the performance of the tourist industry this season are beginning to come in.
Sunny Beach at Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast already had announced discounts, with prices 10 to 15 per cent lower than in July and early August, public broadcaster Bulgarian National Television said on August 25.
Currently, hotels in Sunny Beach were full and the resort had drawn more than 450 000 tourists, the report said. Swimming pools were crowded and there were queues for boat rides.
Sunny Beach hotelier Malina Stratieva said that the 2013 summer season would see a better performance in terms of visitor numbers than last year, with an overall increase of seven to eight per cent in the tourists.
Most tourists at the resort were from Germany, the United Kingdom, Sweden and Finland, while the number of tourists from former socialist bloc countries was continuing to rise, made up mainly of tourists from Russia.
Sunny Beach company chief executive Zlatko Dimitrov said that the highest rate of increase in tourist numbers was visitors from Russia, who in turn were buying real estate, including holiday homes, in the Sunny Beach and Nessebur areas.
September would see further price reductions and initial predictions were that about 210 000 tourists would come to the Bulgarian Black Sea coast resort as summer made way for autumn.
In an August 23 article, local newspaper Kapital said that there had been a drop in the number of tourists from Western countries, with a steady decline in the numbers of tourists from Germany, the UK and Scandinavian countries, while Russian tourists were on the increase. The article cited hotel industry people without offering new statistics.
As to the domestic tourism market, local media quoted the National Tourism Board’s Roumen Draganov as saying that this summer, Bulgarians had spent an average 550 leva (about 225 euro) a person on their summer holidays. Some, rather than an extended stay at the seaside, went over a series of weekends, while some combined domestic tourism with visits to other destinations, notably Greece and Turkey.
Meanwhile, there was negative publicity for some Bulgarian Black Sea hoteliers who allegedly were ripping off customers by offering “all inclusive” packages that did not actually include everything, with “hidden” fees – not disclosed beforehand – for items such as cable television, parking, linen changes (10 leva a day for fresh sheets and towels, in one case) and mineral water.
A large number of complaints had led to investigations and inspections by the Consumer Protection Commission, including 600 in Varna alone. Inspectors reportedly found “dozens” of breaches of the rules.
In another case, on Bulgaria’s southern Black Sea coast, a hotel ran an advertisement offering five nights, full board, free alcoholic hard drinks, all for 300 leva – but the ad failed to mention that the offer was valid only for the month of June, after which the price became 500 leva.
Another trick at restaurants in resorts was for inexpensive dishes never to be available, forcing holidaymakers to choose from main menus where dishes were two to three times more expensive, the commission found.
According to Bulgarian law, fines for misleading consumers range from 500 to 10 000 leva.
(Photo, of a pier close to Bourgas sea garden: Leah Sawyer)