One swallow may not a summer make, but once again mid-April has seen a flight in of the early birds of Bulgaria’s Sunny Beach tourism season, a group of 360 Austrian pensioners.
This is the second consecutive year that a group of Austrian pensioners makes up the first set of arrivals at Sunny Beach, and by mid-May 2014, a total of 6000 Austrian tourists are expected to have made their way to the Black Sea resort.
The week-long programme of the first group of arrivals includes trips to Nessebur, Pomorie, Sozopol and Zheravna.
An earlier report by Bulgarian National Radio said that the tourist industry in Bulgaria’s main Black Sea city of Varna expected a good tourist season in 2014, with the first organised groups due to arrive in the area at the beginning of May.
This past Easter, large groups of tourists, mainly Romanians, came to the city and surrounds.
Bulgaria’s northern Black Sea coast expects to see tens of thousands of German tourists, as well as holidaymakers from the United Kingdom, Scandinavian countries and Poland. Preliminary data suggest that bookings from countries in Western Europe and Scandinavia are proceeding at a pace equivalent to that of last year.
However, the Bulgarian tourist industry continues to view with concern the possible negative impact from the crisis in Ukraine on the number of tourists from Russia and Ukraine.
The number of Ukrainian tourists who came to Bulgaria in 2013 was a 13 per cent year-on-year increase, while numbers from Russia have been increasingly steadily in recent years. Bulgaria’s Foreign Ministry is deploying additional consular staff to Russia, Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus to expedite the issuing of visas. However, Russia has cautioned its citizens against travelling to countries such as Bulgaria that have extradition treaties with the United States.
Apart from political uncertainty, the crisis also has had a negative impact on the spending power of Russians and Ukrainians because of the depreciations of their currencies.
Bulgaria’s tourist industry is hoping that if there is a reduction in the number of visitors from Russia and Ukraine, the shortfall will be made up by tourists from Bulgaria’s neighbouring countries, in particular Romania.
While any effect is yet to be seen, some new air routes in the region have opened or been announced for the 2014 summer season, including a new air link between Belgrade and Sofia, while airBaltic has announced six new destinations for summer this year, including Varna and Bourgas.
Domestic tourism in Bulgaria could be set for a short-term boost from the continuous special public holiday between May 1 and 6, but the effect might be less than overwhelming, given the revival of the already considerable popularity of neighbouring Greece as a holiday destination, and the non-performance of Bulgaria’s current government in dealing with the domestic economy.