The Successful Presentation of Bulgaria at the ITB International Exhibition in Berlin is Over

13 March 2023

The successful participation of Bulgaria and the Ministry of Tourism in the world's largest and most prestigious tourism exhibition — Internationale Tourismus Börse /ITB/ — Berlin, Germany, which took place last week, has ended. For the past three years, the show has only been held in a digital format due to the pandemic, and as of this ITB has returned in a new format designed just for travel industry professionals.

Bulgaria presented itself with one of its best national stands so far — with the most modern vision according to the general business assessment, located in an extremely communicative place in one of the 35 chambers of Messe Berlin. Despite the participation of a huge number of exhibitors, the Bulgarian stand was next to the partner country of this exhibition — Georgia, which organized the opening gala evening; it was next to the stand of Poland, which is one of our top priority markets in tourism and in the same exhibition hall with the host Berlin.

Our stand received special attention from the Secretary General of the World Tourism Organization at the UN Zurab Pololikashvili, who congratulated the Bulgarian Minister of Tourism Ilin Dimitrov. They visited the stands of Bulgaria and Georgia, held informal talks during the exhibition days and discussed Sofia's upcoming hosting of the 68th session of the Regional Commission for Europe of the WTO in the first days of June.

Travel is back, the world unites for peace through tourism, let's turn crisis into opportunity — these were some of the messages of the Secretary General of the WTO to the participants in the exhibition. Zurab Pololikashvili said that by the end of the year, the UN World Tourism Organization expects a full recovery from the pandemic with projected levels of 80—95% by the end of 2023.

The Bulgarian stand, prepared by the Ministry of Tourism on an area of 500 square meters, was located in the new Hub 27 hall of the Berlin Expo Centre. It gave 44 Bulgarian tourism companies and municipal administrations the opportunity to make contacts and hold business meetings in a friendly working environment. At the stand, besides the digital mobile screens and the large advertising visions of destination Bulgaria, presenting the unique and diverse Bulgarian nature, there was an opportunity to take a virtual tour, a coffee bar was located, and in the afternoons Bulgaria was professionally presented with high quality Bulgarian wines, which guests could taste at specially organized wine tastings. Part of the feeling of Bulgaria was created by the world-famous jazz musician Vladimir Karparov, winner of numerous awards, who has been part of the multicultural artistic jazz scene of Berlin for two decades. Away from his homeland, where he has collaborated with a number of famous musicians, he has made Bulgarian folk music an essential ingredient of his improvisations and his trademark. This was discreetly presented at the Bulgarian stand as well as during the Bulgarian participation in the traditional Danube Salon at the Baden-Württemberg representation in Berlin, on the second evening of the exhibition.

In the packed programme during ITB Berlin, Minister Dimitrov held over 25 meetings with some of the biggest representatives of the tourism business in Germany: with the leadership of the Association of German Tour Operators DRV, which represents the largest and most influential tour operator association in Germany, with a number of tour operators, including all major ones operating on the Bulgarian and German market — such as Der Touristik, FTI Group, Alltours Flugreisen GmbH, Schauinsland Reisen, etc., as well as with air carriers, with whom opportunities for increasing flights to Bulgaria were discussed. All shared optimism that enrollment numbers are on an upward trend, albeit so far below pre-pandemic 2019 levels. The aggregate growth figure expected for summer 2023 compared to last year, based on bookings to date, is over 20 per cent. The meetings were also attended by our country's tourist attaché in Berlin, Tihomir Patarinski.

The Acting Minister of Tourism Dr. Ilin Dimitrov also held a meeting at political level with the representative of the state responsible for tourism in Germany — he discussed topical issues of mutual interest with Dieter Janecek, Coordinator for Tourism at the Federal Ministry of Economy and Climate Change, accompanied by his team.

In the series of talks Minister Dimitrov pointed out that Germany is Bulgaria's most important trade partner and one of the top markets in the tourism sector. Our country is consistently working to restore it through the organization of a number of activities to promote destination Bulgaria and the rich opportunities we offer — such as the recently completed ‘roadshow’ in a series of German cities, conducting expedition and journalist tours, institutional contacts and business-to-business communication (with a series of B2B meetings) between the two countries. Bulgaria's participation in all the major popular and specialized exhibitions in Germany is also an important part of the work, and by the end of the year they will become five in total — all this is done with the ultimate goal of bringing back an increasing number of German tourists to our country, after the serious crises that have changed the traditionally good numbers of tourism — the pandemic, the proximity of the war in Ukraine and the economic consequences of them.

Minister Dimitrov stressed that German tourists are important for Bulgaria because they stay the longest, fill the wings of the seasons and have a good culture and consumer attitudes. The focus of the Ministry of Tourism is to work on rebuilding trust and a different and more aggressive approach in promoting Bulgaria, and this change is already producing results that will be best felt in the long term next year.

In the talks, at a meeting with a representative of the management of CMT Stuttgart, Bulgaria stated its intention to apply as a partner country at the largest tourism exhibition for mass audiences in Europe CMT Stuttgart for 2024 or 2025 — and respectively at the three tourism fairs they organize during the year — in Stuttgart in January, in Hamburg in February and in Leipzig in November, each with a different focus in the industry.

Minister Dimitrov also discussed the possibility of presenting Bulgaria as a destination for alternative tourism with the representatives of ATTA — the International Adventure Travel Trade Association. Minister Dimitrov presented Plovdiv's ambition to host a forum for alternative and adventure tourism in 2024.

During the visit to Berlin, a special event was held at the Bulgarian Cultural Centre, where the cooperation in the field of health tourism and the rich opportunities that Bulgaria offers as a leading spa destination and the country ranked second in Europe in the number of mineral springs was presented.

'To drive transformation’ that was the motto of this year's ITB Berlin 2023 international trade fair, after the travel industry's buzzword 'change' was key for the past year.


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