The digital transformation in tourism has been the main theme of a discussion organized by the National Tourism Board and the Ministry of Tourism in Sofia. A number of experts and entrepreneurs took part in the forum and presented their experience and problems they face with regard to promotion of Bulgaria as a "four-season destination" on the European and world markets. The overall opinion was that the national tourism strategy needed updating in line with the digitalisation of the sector and new IT realities. Deputy Chair of the National Tourism Board, Martin Zahariev, recalled of other urgent changes, delayed for years:
“We need new mapping of digitally presented routes - pedestrian, bicycle or horse trails, as well as spa and wine destinations. It is necessary to develop a modern web site with own reservation system; to redesign the country’s profiles in social networks. We need regular updating of the information in our official tourist portal, as well as creation and maintenance of information and advertising sites at the main entry points of the country. It is especially important to plan and implement online campaigns to promote different types of tourism, such as festival tourism. There are nearly 370 festivals in Bulgaria, which is a huge magnet for local and foreign tourists. Last but not least, there should be a partnership with mobile operators to allow Bulgaria's advertising as a destination, for example with a text message to welcome every foreigner arriving in Bulgaria.”
International studies show that in 2017 46% of tourists in Europe organized their vacation online. According to forecasts, over the next two years, this figure would reach 60 percent. This is mainly due to the good performance and increased presence of countries presenting their travel services and landmarks online. The Ministry of Tourism is aware of the importance of online presence and has been working hard in this direction. According to Minister Angelkova, this is seen in the successful project for creating a mobile application called“ I love Bulgaria”, which contains information about tourist sites and landmarks all across the country. The app is being actively used by 16,000 people per month. The Minister of Tourism has also announced a new service created for the benefit of business:
“Although the Ministry of Tourism is one of the youngest one, it would be one of the first administrations to allow businesses to use face identification in addition to electronic signature, so that people can submit documents using their smart phones. This will make it easier for entrepreneurs and investors, while providing various administrative services will require much shorter time. The beta version of this service will be presented in mid-November.”
In order to highlight the significant contribution to the development of tourism of various institutions and public figures, the National Tourism Board chose to close the event, with the annual awards for the most significant contribution in the sphere. The coin with engraved rose is presented in 15 categories. The symbol was not chosen by accident, because this magnificent flower decorated a coin discovered near Kazanlak and dating back to 389-356 BC. Among the winners were the municipalities of Kazanlak and Pomorie, as well as several national daily newspapers, because of their campaigns related to the promotion of various tourist sites and the preservation of cultural heritage.
English: Alexander Markov