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Post-pandemic: Huge interest in exotic destinations and cruises among Bulgarians

Which are the most preferred destinations?

Photo: Private archive

Bulgarian tour operators are monitoring a stir in the tourism sector. Bulgarians ‎travel more and more, more and more often abroad and for the purpose of ‎tourism. In the first month of the year, half a million Bulgarians  (504 ‎thousand) travelled abroad, which is an increase of as much as 7.2 compared to ‎‎2022, according to data from the National Statistical Institute. ‎

What are the favourite destinations of Bulgarians? First, these are Turkey, ‎Greece, Serbia and Romania, followed by the Republic of North Macedonia, ‎Germany, Austria, Spain, Italy and the United Kingdom. Meanwhile, the ‎prices of tourist packages have risen by 10-15%, and according to some ‎tour operators, the increase is even greater and ranges between 20 and 40%. ‎

However, this does not particularly affect the desire of Bulgarians to travel the ‎world. "People's incomes have started to rise, which is good for everyone," ‎says Pavlina Ilieva, chairwoman of the association "Future for Tourism" in an ‎interview with Plamen Kotsev from BNR Vidin. "What is happening to us this ‎year has never happened to us before. Colleagues can tell you that they are now ‎even surpassing 2019 in terms of the volume of tourists," claims Ilieva and ‎adds:‎
"People want to travel and what drives them is their curiosity and the desire for ‎mobility. And as long as there is such desire, we will continue to exist and ‎work. The good thing is that the situation with Covid-19 has now passed and I ‎think that this year there will be a much greater movement of people, regardless ‎of whether it is in Bulgaria or abroad. In this regard, I think that 2023 will be ‎much more successful, we look forward to it with hope."‎

During the pandemic, tourism was one of the most negatively affected sectors due to the ‎social isolation and restrictive measures. "We were able through several programmes to be assisted ‎to be able to recover the amounts owed to customers in 2020 as we were shut ‎down during Covid-19. So the industry managed to get back on its ‎feet," says Pavlina ‎Ilieva. And more:‎

‎"The purposes of travel are tourism, and what we are seeing right now is more ‎and more charter travel and long-haul destinations. This year we have a ‎boom in cruise travel. This great growth is perhaps due to the fact that it is a ‎new product, a new way of traveling for Bulgarians. Until now, there has been ‎no such interest in these sea and river cruises. This is something new for our ‎market."‎

Judging by the results in the first two months of 2023, Presiyan Lozanov's tour ‎operator company expects a double jump compared to 2022. "And the prices ‎are between 20 and 40% higher than last year," says Lozanov and adds:‎

‎"There is definitely an increase in the demand for travel by Bulgarians. Most of ‎them are for the purpose of tourism, and the more interesting thing is that the ‎interest in exotic destinations, such as Zanzibar, the Maldives, Mexico, the ‎Dominican Republic, Cuba, is starting to grow. Now Thailand has become ‎super popular. Of course, mass destinations continue to be a priority - these are ‎Egypt, Tunisia, Italy, Greece, but the interest in the exotic places has also ‎increased... We certainly no longer feel what it was last year and the year ‎before, and the stagnation that was before is gone," concludes Plamen ‎Lozanov.‎

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