Since the beginning of the pandemic, uncertainty and ever-changing anti-epidemic measures have forced people to look for new ways to relax - away from the crowds and closer to nature. Camping has thus gained new relevance.
In Bulgaria, camping has a decades-long tradition and was much more popular in the past. In 1984 alone there were 117 functioning campsites in the country. By comparison, today there are only 47 listed in the National Tourist Register.
The country has all the right conditions for the development of this type of tourism - mild climate, picturesque Black Sea coast, unique mountain landscapes. These natural advantages make it attractive to tourists from neighbouring countries, Europe and Israel.
"In the last two years, given the complex situation we had to live in, the number of camper vans on Bulgaria's roads has increased tremendously. In addition, the number of campsites in the country is growing every year. I am convinced that recently this kind of travel and holidays close to nature have gained popularity"- said Mariana Valcheva, organizer of the Fifth Camping & Caravaning Expo in Sofia. There are already Bulgarian caravan manufacturers, says Mariana Velcheva.
A survey by Radio Bulgaria shows that Bulgarians are looking for a romantic camping holiday, but are not satisfied with the conditions in Bulgarian campsites.
"Camping tourism in our country needs to improve overall. In the last 2-3 years there has been development, but otherwise we are very far behind," says Dimitar, who is an avid camper and loves to go camping with his family.
Where do the problems lie?
First of all it is the lack of an adequate camping policy. In the last three decades Bulgarians have witnessed a large-scale development of the Black Sea coast with hotel complexes, while the existing campsites from the times of the socialist regime have been abandoned without the necessary upkeep.
Few coastal spots have survived unscathed by concrete. It is in these pristine areas that new campsites have "sprouted" in the last two or three years. In general, these campsites comply with Bulgarian legislation, but not with European standards. That is why many Bulgarians choose to go abroad with their camper or tent.
"I haven't been camping in Bulgaria in a while. Three years ago we went camping in Greece for the first time, and we decided to continue camping there. The facilities in Greece are definitely very good," says Svetla, another participant in the Radio Bulgaria poll.
The Ministry of Tourism is currently working on a regulation that sets the rules for camping in the country. And people like Svetla, for whom this is the best way to relax, are likely to have better reasons to pitch their tent in Bulgaria:
"This year I will probably be camping in Greece again, but I hope to combine it with a camping trip, albeit shorter, in Bulgaria. We hope that Bulgarian campsites will impress us and that we will be here more and more often," Svetla commented.