Minister Nikolina Angelkova: Danube region is visited by 120 million tourists, income is more than 70billion euro

08 June 2015

An international network of tourist observatories is initiated in Bulgaria.

“Tourism is without doubt the main economic pillar of the Danube region. For last year alone, more than 120 million tourists have chosen it as their destination and revenues exceed 70 billion euro” said the Minister of Tourism Nikolina Angelkova at the opening of the Danube countries’ meeting “Sustainable Tourism through cooperation in the field of European funds and investments”.  The meeting is organized by the Bulgarian Ministry of Tourism and it was attended by Taleb Rifai – Secretary General of the World Tourism Organisation (WTO), the Deputy Prime Minister for EU funds and Economic Policy Tomislav Donchev, the Minister of Economy Bozidar Lukarski, the Mayor of Sofia Yordanka Fandakova, the Directors General of the European Commission, Walter Defa and Daniel Calleja, central government representatives from the  Danube region, local authorities, academics,  tourism industry representatives and others.

 “It is highly important for us to work on the development and establishment of a Danube brand, so that we become more recognizable worldwide” Minister Angelkova added. She explained that the EU general budget breaks down into three categories – 33% or over 325 billion euro is allocated to cohesion policy, 4% (40 billion euro) is invested in Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) projects, and 63% which is about 650 billion euro is intended for other policies. “The tourism sector is the only one that can benifit directly or indirectly from these funds” stated Minister Agelkova.

“I hope that together with our neighboring countries we will start to effectively use the funding for cross-border cooperation. Bulgaria and Romania can rely on almost 260 million euro while Bulgaria and Serbia will be funding projects worth about 34 million euro. A great amount of these funds is allocated for tourism projects” announced the Bulgarian Minister of Tourism.

The Secretary General of the World Tourism Organisation Taleb Rifai praised Bulgaria's and the Ministry of Tourism’s contribution for boosting the country's image on the international market. “Your country is praiseworthy hence we need to make it more recognizable to the world”, noted the Secretary General. He also mentioned that for the last 10 years Bulgaria has shown a 50% increase of tourists and a 7% income growth, which testifies to a rapid and steady progress. Bulgaria has a great potential and can help foster the development of the Danube region which boasts exceptional natural assets. “52% of world’s tourists come to Europe and tourism is a key factor for Europe’s readjustment after the crisis, but we need to become more unified and increase competitiveness” added Rifai.

Director-General DG “Regional and urban policy” of the European Commission, Walter Defa, greeted us on behalf of the Commissioner for Regional Policy Corina Cretu, and outlined the importance of "the most international river" for the development of the region. He outlined that the Danube Delta is the third largest biodiversity in the world. Defa pointed the opportunity of Bulgaria being actively involved in joint efforts for development of hiking and biking tourism as well as improving the navigability of the Danube River. The Director-General specifically thanked Bulgaria and Romania for the development of new cultural and historical routes and for the attempts to reconcile international statistics.

“Tourism is the third largest economic sector involving 12 million people, who make 9% of Europe’s GDP” said Director General DG “Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SME’s” Daniel Calleja. He focused on the main priorities of the sector including the need to increase flights to Europe, encourage competition, anhance the tourist product diversification, overcome seasonality, simplify the administrative procedures, digitalize the sector, provide continuous staff training and others.

The Danube River Region has great potential for tourism development. Bulgaria alone has about 4000 tourist attractions and more than 670 of them are located within the region. The mineral water sources  exceed 600 and boast a rich water variety.  Indeed, any form of tourism can be dveleoped in Bulgaria – mass summer and winter tourism or specialized tourism including spa, eco, golf , gourmet, wine and many more.  The Ministry of Tourism aims to make the country more recognizable worldwide through focusing on cultural tourism.  Moreover, Bulgaria ranks third in Europe, following Italy and Greece, in the number of uncovered artifacts with about 40 000 cultural monuments scattered throughout the country.

The Minister of Tourism Nikolina Angelkova and the UNWTO Secretary General Taleb Rifai signed an agreement of intent for the establishment of an international network of tourist observatories. These facilities will consist of academic and research center as students and faculty members will work on the monitoring of a set of indicators following the WTO methodology. The data obtained will be used to study trends and identify ways of improving the tourism product and services of a particular country. Plans are to launch the network in several places in the middle and lower course of the river. The launch will also be used to foster the development of the Danube brand.

The Forum was attended by: Denitsa Nikolova, Deputy Minister of Regional Development and Public Works; Clara Dostalova, Deputy Minister of Regional Development of Czech Republic; Frantisek Palko, Deputy Minister of Tourism of Slovakia; Eva Starus Podlogar, Director-General of "Tourism and International Relations” Ministry of Economic Development and Technology, Slovenia; Daniel Panov, Mayor of Veliko Tarnovo; Julian Naydenov, Mayor of the Municipality of Silistra.





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