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Competitiveness of Bulgarian tourism in the new European Union by Christos Petreas

On January 1, 2007 Bulgaria will join the European Union, a long awaited event, also expected to affect the tourism future of the country – on one hand presenting a psychologically closer destination for many Europeans, on the other hand making it more difficult for non-Europeans to enter.

Bulgaria has had tourism for many years. Actually, in pre-1991 periods the number of tourists was larger than in the recent years, and also many and extensive facilities were developed. In the last 15 years, Bulgaria has been experiencing a come-back and 75% of the sector professional organizations state that the potential for further development is high.

Bulgarian tourism has been recently the subject of much discussion not only because of the importance as a sector, but also because both the Government and the sector are aware of vast unrealized potential and a variety of resources. Tourism is recognized as a priority in the Operational Programme for Regional Development for the next few years.

When considering the most significant factors that have to be supported for the future development of tourism the opinions of different stakeholders coincide to a great extent. First in significance is the environment (53%), next comes hospitality (41%), followed by the value for money products and services, and the marketing and promotion of the destination (29% each). Second in significance are considered the potential of the mountainous regions (35%), the value for money products and services (29%), the cultural factors/local traditions (24%), and the mineral springs and balneology (24%).

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