Past year accomplishments in tourist sector and priorities for 2016 presented by Minister Angelkova before 30 Ambassadors and a total of 50 Diplomatic Corps members

10 November 2015

Secondary legislative framework for sector functioning in place with 12 regulations drafted, 5 already in force; amendments to Tourism Act and Black Sea Coast Spatial Development Act finalized; approach to country promotion completely changed; first online tourist attractions registry introduced; eight new cultural and historical destinations developed, encompassing the entire country; tourist regions established to improve marketing activities; participation in 35 international and 5 national tourism fairs; work on three projects with European funding totaling some BGN 17 million. These are but a few of the activities the Ministry of Tourism has completed during its first year of existence. The institution's performance was presented earlier today by Minister of Tourism Nikolina Angelkova at a working breakfast attended by more than 30 ambassadors and a total of over 50 representatives of the Diplomatic Corps in Bulgaria.

“That has been a difficult first year, because to establish a new institution and endeavor to meet everyone’s expectations for us is more than a challenge”, said Minister Angelkova. She stressed the importance of the fact that for the first time the Government has placed development of tourism high on its priorities by deciding to set up a dedicated ministry in charge of the sector. “That has motivated us to quickly show results, though some of the problems in the sector have been accumulated in the course of decades”, she underlined. When the Ministry of Tourism was established none of the 12 regulations provided for by the Tourism Act and needed for the sector functioning had been adopted or prеpared. “This has entailed serious problems and gaps in the work of both sector and institutions. Our top priority was the entry into force of the Regulation on categorization of places for accommodation and catering, as it sets out most of the rules for sector operation”, said Nikolina Angelkova. The regulations on the safety of ski runs and ski patrols, on the activities of huts, on the single tourist information system and on the activities of tourist information centers are also a fact. The rest are either in process of finalization or at various stages of interdepartmental coordination. Amendments to the Tourism Act have been drafted in parallel, aimed to provide for strengthening of Ministry’s control functions by setting up a tourism inspectorate to it, by consolidating branch associations in several national representative organizations, etc.

“The first phase in reforming beach management, renting and concessioning is coming to a close. Draft amendments have been prepared to the Black Sea Coast Spatial Development Act, providing for transfer of beach management to the Ministry of Tourism at the end of current year. In parallel to that we are working on the second phase of reform that will enable us to change as of next year the mode of management of Black Sea beaches, our aim being to encourage the lease of more beach services that will improve the quality of tourist service and reduce its cost. Our plan is to divide beaches by functionality into four groups and four subgroups thereunder”, said Minister Angelkova.

“Over the past year we have completely changed the way of promoting out country in the world. For the first time the National Promotion Program was adopted almost six months prior to the onset of its implementation and we have focused on our target markets undertaking strategic steps in this regard”, said Nikolina Angelkova. As a result of the talks held with the Chairman of the Association of French Tour Operators, next summer Thomas Cook France will open a charter line to Burgas. Preliminary talks have been held with the management of TUI, based on which for the summer of 2016 we expect a 35% increase in charter flights from countries where TUI-Central Europe operates (Germany, Austria, Poland and Switzerland), as well as from UK, Netherlands, Belgium and Scandinavian markets. Soon to be launched is a series of roundtables on all major generating markets, the first being with Russia. “Over the past year we have not only managed to ensure continuity of Bulgaria's participation in all major tourism fairs, despite limited resources and lack of prior preparation, but have also succeeded in imposing a single vision of our shelves”, said Minister Angelkova.

“Each country has something to show, but in order to stand out in such a diverse world one must be innovative. Hence, in our promotional strategy we have put all the stakes on personal touch. One of our new marketing products is a trailer featuring some of the biggest Hollywood stars sharing their experience of Bulgaria”, the Minister added. In her words, the very fact that within only a few days the trailer reached over 2.5 million people on the Internet and that the Bulgarian spot was the only one shown before more than 50 ministers and deputy ministers from around the world at the largest tourism fair - WTM London, is indicative of being on the right track. “Future lies with digital marketing and in 2016 we are planning to heavily stake on it by organizing expedient tours for journalists and unfolding strategic partnership with low cost airlines and major tour operators”, summed up Minister Angelkova.

“A major problem in the sector and one we have been tackling from day one, is the status of national resorts. We have set up a working group with representatives of the sector and I believe we have found a compromise and workable solutions for their operation”, Minister of Tourism explained. One of the problems requiring long-term measures is the adequate staffing of the sector. With a view of addressing this issue a Council of Ministers Decree is being prepared to provide for the establishment of a Tourism Personnel Board, which will be composed of representatives of various stakeholder institutions and organizations. “Another challenge is the share of shadow economy in the tourist sector, which hinders the sector development. We have joined CEIBG & CITUB’s “Business at a daylight for a better future” campaign and have stepped up work on the establishment of a single tourist information system. Our goal is to be able in real-time to exchange on secure channels information between the institutions involved and hotel reservation systems”, the Minister went on to explain.

“We are actively pursuing a roadmap elaboration for the sector development; we have stepped up work on joint tourist products with neighboring countries – thus for example, Bulgaria has hosted an international forum on development of tourism in the Danube region, with the participation of the World Tourism Organization and the European Commission; we have prepared an investment map of the country; we have finalized the regionalization of Bulgaria… to mention just a few of our activities“, reported Nikolina Angelkova.

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