What is the kind of vacation Bulgarians can afford?

In recent years, salaries in Bulgaria have been rising by an average of 7-10% annually, but they remain the lowest in the EU and the average monthly wage is about 600 euros. According to trade unions, a four-member family in Bulgaria needs at least 1,251 euros a month but 71.3% of Bulgarians have lower income. However, wages have increased and this has allowed Bulgarians to recall of the charm and temptations offered by domestic and international tourism, largely forgotten during the crisis. According to Eurostat, 70% of Bulgarians can afford a one-week vacation and this percentage is close to the average for developed Europe. Assuming that money is no longer the only factor in deciding whether or not to vacation, then the issue of choosing a tourist destination and category of hotel in line with the modest vacation budget most Bulgarians have comes at the forefront. In practice this means people usually choose to spend their one-week summer vacation close to home and not enjoying excessive luxury.

This is exactly what a Market Link survey shows, according to which most Bulgarians choose the Bulgarian Black Sea coast, but the interest in neighboring Greece and Turkey has been growing. This can also be seen from the kilometers of queues of vehicles at border checkpoints with Bulgaria’s southern neighbors. At the height of the summer, people often need to wait for several hours for border control, with tens of thousands of Romanians, Ukrainians, Polish and other tourists from Central and Eastern Europe added to the big number of Bulgarian travelers, as well as Turkish workers returning home from Western Europe. The Bulgarian, Greek and Turkish authorities make sure checks are as fast as possible, but their efforts are not always appreciated by the anxious vacation goers in the summer heat.

But there are other reasons for Bulgarians' growing preference for Greek and Turkish beaches. Bulgaria is a very beautiful country with excellent hotels, delicious cuisine and fine wines. The golden sandy beaches are in close proximity and surrounded by green forests and mountains. Although Bulgarians show dissatisfaction with services, they admit Bulgarian nature is beautiful and love it. However, successful tourism also requires good organization, strict rules and market-oriented behavior of hoteliers and restauranteurs. It seems it is here where most of the problems that annoy and repel Bulgarians from their native Black Sea lie. Complaints and media reports about expensive umbrellas and sun loungers on concession beaches, costing 20-30 euros a day, continue.

It is true that the summer holiday season in Bulgaria lasts just three months unlike the neighboring countries to the south – Greece and Turkey. And these 3 months are vital for the tourism business in Bulgaria because of hopes that the income from the summer would be enough to make it to the next summer, which results in higher prices.

Overall, despite ever-rising prices, Bulgaria remains a relatively inexpensive tourist destination. But this mostly stands good for tourists coming from richer countries. For Bulgarians, this country is becoming more expensive and inaccessible destination, especially compared to the nearby world-renowned tourist destinations Greece and Turkey, where prices are slightly higher than those in Bulgaria, but are readily accepted at the backdrop of many other natural, cultural, historical and climatic advantages. This makes many people prefer vacationing abroad, which is also confirmed by official statistics, according to which Bulgarians traveled abroad more in June compared to the same month last year. The number of trips totaled 717.1 thousand (10% of the country's population), or 5.9% more than June 2018. The highest growth was recorded in trips to Turkey – 15.4%, Romania – 7.8%, and Greece – 6.2%.

English: Alexander Markov

Photos: library

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