Bulgaria’s Tourism Minister Nikolina Angelkova has estimated that the number of tourists that will visit the country’s second city of Plovdiv in 2019, when it will hold the European Capital of Culture title, will rise by 10 per cent.
That estimate is much lower than some other forecasts, which project that the number of visitors to the city could double next year, creating a challenge in providing accommodation in a destination already seeing sharply higher tourist numbers in recent years.
At a tourism industry even in Plovdiv, Angelkova quoted statistics that said 399 000 people had stayed in hotels in the district of Plovdiv in the first nine months of the year, an increase of nine per cent over the same period of 2017. Total overnight stays were up four per cent to 824 000 and revenue from such stays was 10.9 per cent higher at 38.9 million leva.
But the figures were based on stays in lodgings with 10 beds or more, which would exclude some smaller hotels or private residences offered through booking platforms like Airbnb.
Angelkova said that Plovdiv’s period as European Capital of Culture would give the city both nationwide and international recognition as an European cultural centre, which would contribute to making Bulgaria as a whole a more attractive destination for foreign tourists.
So far, the highest interest came from British and German tourists, but also visitors from neighbouring countries – Greece, Romania, Turkey, Serbia and Macedonia – which were among the main markets for the Bulgarian tourism industry, Angelkova said.
Plovdiv also helped boost Bulgaria’s appeal in the cultural tourism segment, which tied in with the tourism ministry’s efforts to attract attention to Bulgaria’s inland areas, not just its seaside resorts, she said.
Bulgaria was already making progress in that regard, with official statistics indicating that the number of foreign visitors to the country in the first nine months of 2018 was 31 per cent higher than in 2015, which translated to 1.9 million people visiting Bulgaria in January-September than in the same period of 2015, Angelkova said.
(Photo: Clive Leviev-Sawyer)