The Ministry of Tourism held a number of bilateral meetings in the framework of the Sixth UNWTO Global Wine Tourism Conference in Alba, Italy

22 September 2022

Minister of Tourism, Ilin Dimitrov, PhD, held a number of bilateral meetings in the framework of the Sixth Global Wine Tourism Conference of the UN World Tourism Organization in Alba, Italy.

Minister Dimitrov held a meeting with the host - the Minister of Tourism of the Italian Republic Massimo Caravaglia. The importance of the tourism industry for the economies of both countries was discussed. Italy is Bulgaria’s third most important trading partner in the EU and an important destination for inbound tourism, Dimitrov said. He informed his colleague that more than 250,000 Italians had visited Bulgaria before the pandemic, and for the first half of 2022 their number is close to 60,000. Minister Dimitrov highlighted the opportunity for both sides to work on strengthening the human resources of the sector.

Students, employees in tourism, academics are among the best ambassadors of the sector, Minister Dimitrov pointed out. The capacity of programmes such as Erasmus Plus should be used in this aspect of university cooperation and student exchange, he declared. A willingness was expressed to set up working groups and share experiences between the two countries.

The Minister underlined the fact that after Italy and Greece, Bulgaria is the third country in Europe in the number of cultural and archaeological artifacts and can use the rich experience of the hosts in the cooperation between the two countries for the development of cultural tourism in Bulgaria. He expressed the readiness of the team of the Ministry of Tourism to work with their colleagues from Italy on joint projects and initiatives within the formats such as EC, WTO, OECD, etc.

For his part, Minister Caravaglia pointed out that it is important for the two countries to jointly promote each other in distant destinations such as the USA, Japan, South Korea, Australia, etc., as we represent Europe to them. He expressed the readiness of the representatives of private and public institutions in the sector, such as the Italian National Tourist Board, to cooperate with their Bulgarian counterparts. At the meeting, Minister Caravaglia asked for Bulgaria’s support for Italy’s bid to host Expo 2030.

During the forum, Minister Dimitrov discussed the opportunities for more active cooperation in tourism with his Serbian counterpart Tatjana Matić, focusing on cross-border cooperation. They expressed satisfaction with the excellent interaction between Sofia and Belgrade. Previously, the Bulgarian Deputy Minister prof. Mariela Modeva, who is part of the conference delegation, held an official meeting with the Serbian Minister of Trade, Tourism and Telecommunications Tatjana Matić.

Prof. Modeva pointed out that it is important for both countries to continue working under the motto “The Balkans - a safe destination for tourism” and stressed that Serbia has traditionally been in the top ten of the top tourism markets for Bulgaria. Both sides expressed their readiness to work on joint cross-border projects in the field of tourism. Prof. Modeva invited Minister Matić and a delegation from Serbia to participate in the 68th meeting of the Regional Commission Europe of the WTO, which will be held in Bulgaria next year. The good cooperation and the importance of the joint platforms of interaction between the countries, such as the WTO, the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organisation, the EU Danube Strategy, etc. were underlined.

Mutual participation in exhibitions, fairs and other similar events was mentioned as a fruitful field of interaction. The Serbian side invited Bulgaria to join common wine routes between Albania, Serbia, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Romania, thus enabling the development of various joint cross-border projects. It is important for Serbia to have good relations with its neighbours, Matić stressed and said: “Our relations are traditionally good, we have many common interests in tourism with Bulgaria.”

Another key meeting was that of Minister Dimitrov with the representatives of Greece and Deputy Minister Sofia Zacharaki.

He congratulated her on the remarkable recovery of our southern neighbour’s tourism industry after the COVID pandemic. We are extremely pleased to register more than three times more Greek tourists in Bulgaria in 2022 compared to last year, Minister Dimitrov said. He stressed that “Bulgaria and Greece are not real competitors as our tourism products are very different and specific to each country. There is a lot we could learn from each other”, Minister Dimitrov underscored. He further added that we could start thinking about a common Balkan product, common advertising and promotion of our common Balkan destination. “We need to act as a united front”, Sofia Zacharaki also said. She shared successful practices in the post-COVID recovery of the local industry in the sector, such as those related to advertising, the role of business and government and the structuring of activities in relation to it, the use of tourism vouchers, etc.

Zacharaki said that Greece is preparing major infrastructure projects to improve traffic across our common border. They exchanged information with the Bulgarian minister, discussing the potential of new forms of tourism and cooperation, such as pilgrimage and religious tourism, which is seriously developing in our southern neighbour, or gastronomy and travel in this regard. The two stressed that cultural tourism is very important for both countries and Sofia has a serious potential to be part of the gourmet map, attracting guests for short city trips. Sofia Zacharaki shared the good impressions of many of her compatriots who were pleasantly surprised by the rapid progress and positive changes they have noticed in the Bulgarian capital.

In the informal atmosphere of the forum, Minister Dimitrov also held meetings with his counterparts responsible for tourism in Portugal, Georgia and San Marino, as well as with the Minister of Culture of Moldova. Some of them responded to Minister Dimitrov’s invitation to visit Bulgaria for the planned conference on digitalization in tourism at the end of October.

Minister Ilin Dimitrov is in Alba at the invitation of UNWTO Secretary General Zurab Pololikashvili. “We have a great dialogue with him and have discussed setting up a training centre with the UNWTO ACADEMY brand. We need to improve the quality of our service and this is part of the way”, said Minister Dimitrov, who spoke informally with him.

In connection with the theme of the Sixth Global Wine Tourism Conference in Alba, Minister Ilin Dimitrov gave a special interview to Italian television. According to him, Bulgaria has ancient traditions in the production of wine, but for many it remains a surprise and that is why there is still a lot of work to be done to promote this type of tourism in Bulgaria so that our country takes its rightful place.

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