ECONOMY

Bulgarian tourism shines

SOFIA (Reuters) – Bulgaria said yesterday its tourism revenue is expected to rise to $1.3 billion in 2001 from $1.1 billion in 2000 and was expected to grow further in 2002 despite a global industry slowdown after the September 11 attacks. «Preliminary estimates show revenue in 2001 increased by 20 percent from last year’s $1.1 billion,» said Dimitar Hadzhinikolov, the deputy economy minister in charge of tourism. «We expect revenue to rise by 10 percent this year despite the global industry fall. The growth would have been much higher if the attacks (against the US) had not happened,» he said. A total of 2.8 million foreign tourists visited Bulgaria in 2001, up from 2.354 million the previous year, Hadzhinikolov told an international conference to promote tourism in Bulgaria. Out of the total, 1.4 million came from European Union states, with 375,000 from Germany. Many tourists also came from neighboring Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, as well as from Russia. Tourism is among key sectors for Bulgaria, a small Balkan country with Black Sea and mountain resorts, which offer skiing, nature preserves and more than 1,600 spas. The tourist sector, which is among the main sources of revenue for the country, posted a surplus of $614.4 million for the first 10 months of 2001, up 18 percent year-on-year, and helped cover a widening current account deficit. Some 70 percent of the revenue in tourism is generated by Black Sea resorts, while mountain resorts account for around 10 percent, Hadzhinikolov said. Most of the money was generated in July and August. To counter tough competition from neighboring Greece and Turkey, Bulgaria will work to promote itself as a favored destination for ecological and historical tourism, making it a year-round industry, Hadzhinikolov said. He said Bulgaria would also actively work to attract foreign investment in the sector, which since 1997 totaled only $137 million, including $40 million in green-field investment. Bulgaria’s new government of Simeon Saxe-Coburg, which took office in July, has set tourism, along with energy and telecommunications, as a priority sector for securing growth. It is preparing a special strategy on the development of the sector.