Bulgaria, Republic of Macedonia to set up working groups for promoting mutual tourist flow

02 February 2016

Republic of Bulgaria and Republic of Macedonia will work actively towards expanding bilateral cooperation in tourism and strengthening mutual tourist flow. This was agreed in Skopje by the Bulgarian Minister of Tourism, Nikolina Angelkova, and the Minister of Economy of the Republic of Macedonia, Bekim Neziri, during a working visit. The working meeting was also attended by the Mayors of the Bulgarian municipalities of Smolyan, Blagoevgrad, Chepelare and Bansko and the Mayors of the Macedonian municipalities of Skopje, Ohrid, Tetovo, etc. The discussion was joined by business representatives from both countries.

 „Thank you for this meeting that has further consolidated our good relations in tourism. Albeit more than 470 thousand Macedonians have visited Bulgaria last year, there is room for much more”, Minister Angelkova said after the discussion. She explained that during the talks they had agreed with Minister Neziri on concrete measures to stimulate the exchange of tourists from both neighboring countries. “Within two weeks we are going to designate members of joint working groups that will focus on measures to promote the tourist flow as well as on the positioning of Republic of Bulgaria and Republic of Macedonia as a common tourist destination for distant markets”, Nikolina Angelkova said. Furthermore, the working groups will channel their efforts towards creating a single “Balkans” destination, encouraging partnerships with other countries in the region, the Bulgarian Minister went on to explain.

Bekim Neziri confirmed that tourism is a key priority for his country and expressed hope for the number of Bulgarian tourists to the Republic of Macedonia increase as a result of the future cooperation. In the words of Minister Angelkova the format of the working meeting is very effective as it provides for an intensive dialogue between state administration, municipalities and business. Active part in the talks was taken by the Mayors of Bulgarian and Macedonian cities who supported the proposed steps for expanding bilateral partnership. The Mayor of Bansko, Georgi Ikonomov, pointed out that the Republic of Macedonia is the second largest market in the region and that so far feedbacks from Macedonian tourists are extremely positive. Measures have been undertaken to turn Bansko into a year-round destination whereas the Balkan Summer Festival "La Boheme", first launched in Bansko last year, represents yet another attraction expected to induce more tourists from Bulgaria’s western neighbor off the high season.

The proximity to Republic of Macedonia is a prerequisite for increasing the number of tourists from this market. This became clear from the words of Blagoevgrad Mayor Atanas Kambitov. “We have almost 12 thousand Macedonians living here. The city is university center, which also makes it an attractive destination for the Balkan countries”, he went on to inform. According to the Mayor, the "Francopholie" festival which is held every May 19 and 20 attracts numerous admirers of French culture, including Macedonian tourists. The municipality works actively to the development of sports tourism as well.

The Mayors of Smolyan and Chepelare, Nikolay Melemov and Slavka Chakarova, presented the opportunities for ski tourism in the region and the prospects for development of year-round and rural tourism. They shared the idea of connecting the ski runs of the two popular winter resort.

 “To us it is important to work in cooperation with Bulgarian cities, because relations between the Balkan countries are strong - we share common traditions and customs,” said the Mayor of Skopje, Kotze Trajanoski. His colleague from Ohrid, Nikola Bakracheski, stressed that Bulgarians are familiar with the city as a tourist destination, but the last five years have seen a decline in the domestic market. He welcomed the idea the two countries to present a joint product at the tourist fairs which in order to attract visitors from distant markets and Scandinavia. The Mayor of Tetovo, Teuta Arifi, added that the city, located only 40 km from Skopje, boasts of over 20 thousand university students and is a well-known winter destination.

Industry representatives from both countries presented concrete ideas for collaboration. According to the Director of the Macedonian Tourism Promotion Agency, Lela Krstevska, tour operators in her country are urging for more active contacts with their Bulgarian colleagues. The Agency is a traditional participant in the International Tourism Fair VACATION/SPA EXPO, held under the patronage of the Ministry of Tourism. Mrs. Krstevska invited Bulgarian businesses to tap into local specialized forums, closest in time being the conference on prospects of tourism in Ohrid from 10 to 12 May.

In her turn, BATA Deputy Chairperson Donka Sokolova noted that Bulgarian tour operators have been working successfully for years with the Macedonian business and are currently ready to float concrete ideas for creating a single “Balkans” destination to be offered to third markets.

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