Increase in alternative tourists visiting Bulgaria
by Sofia Echo
During the past few years, the number of people visiting Bulgaria for tourism opportunities other than the main attraction of the Black Sea has increased to about 35 000 a year, Lyubomir Popyordanov, chairperson of the Bulgarian Association for Alternative Tourism, said as quoted by Dnevnik daily.
More than 90 per cent of the alternative tour groups are from Europe, while the remaining 10 per cent are from Japan, Korea, Australia and the US. The number of independent tourists also increased by 15 to 20 per cent, Popyordanov said.
The tours are usually between 120 and 180 euro a day, including food, transport, hotel, guide, sightseeing costs and logistics.
Tourism agency Spatia Wildlife manager Dragomir Domouschiev said the alternative tour packages usually attract people with high incomes. Travel agencies from the UK offer two-week package deals for about 1000 to 2000 pounds, while Bulgarian companies offer two-week tours for 1500 euro per person.
According to the Tourism Investors Union, smaller companies are more engaged with alternative tourism. They are often owners of eco-houses in the mountains, away from the typical tourist areas. However, larger tour operators have also noticed this market niche and have started to develop there own expeditions around the mountains but have also managed to develop alternative tourism opportunities near the Black Sea.
“The total number of alternative tourists visiting the country per year is much less than regular tourists, but the amount they spend is considerably larger as the services offered to them are much more costly,” Andrey Ralev from Balkani Wildlife Society said. According to Domouschiev, the ten companies currently running on the Bulgarian market are very successful, earning enough to pay their employees a decent salary.
Alternative tourists often prefer mountain biking, horseback riding, climbing, spelaeology, hang-gliding, hiking, canoeing, kayaking and rafting. Others visit Bulgaria to observe endangered birds, rare plants, as well as butterflies.
Alternative tourists are especially interested in visiting local archaeological sites and monasteries, Domouschiev said. Some of the foreign tourists prefer to devote their holidays to learning traditional Bulgarian crafts as well as Bulgarian cuisine. Wine and village tourism are also widely developed.