This is a best prospect industry sector for this country. Includes a market overview and trade data.

Overview


Bulgaria’s tourism industry plays a critical role in the country’s economy. Over 9.3 million international tourists visited Bulgaria in 2018, up 4.4 per cent year on year. The tourists came to experience Bulgaria’s beguiling blend of nature, history and culture with mountains that rival golden Black Sea beaches, the Danube River and cities that hum with nightlife and the arts. Bulgaria’s top market for inbound tourism in 2018 was Romania, with a total of more than 1.3 million visits, an increase of close to 21 percent compared with 2017. Greece and Germany ranked second and third among top markets, respectively.
Bulgaria is internationally recognized as competitive all-year-round destination.

Tourism in Bulgaria is a large and a fast-growing sector, and an important driver of national economy. Recently the tourism ministry announced that the sector accounted for 11.7 percent of GDP and 11 percent of jobs in 2018. Bulgaria, like the rest of the Southeastern Europe region, is a promising market for hoteliers as it offers totally new destinations to both business and leisure travelers.  New local and international investors are supporting projects in the hospitality sector because Sofia has many picturesque and attractive locations. Plovdiv has seen a boost to visitor numbers in 2019 because it was designated a “European Capital of Culture” -  the first Bulgarian city to have been given the title. The designation is made by the European Union for one year.

U.S. chains Holiday Inn and Best Western are present and have added new franchises over the last three years.  The new boutique Holiday Inn in Plovdiv has been well received. Ramada is also in two locations throughout Bulgaria. IHG/Intercontinental just opened in April (a former Ramada), and the Marriott and Hyatt have highly anticipated openings in 2019 and 2020.
The Black Sea coast summer resorts, award-winning existing golf courses (see www.thraciancliffs.com ), and new golf courses and spa and recreation resorts, as well as winter mountain resorts (many close to Sofia) are Bulgaria’s main attractions and destinations.

With over 700 natural mineral and hot water springs, Bulgaria is a spa paradise famous in Europe since ancient Roman times. In spring, the mountain regions where most spas are located are blossoming and blooming, with the mountain tops still covered by a shining blanket of snow.

Sofia, the capital, was among the world’s top 10 fastest-growing destination cities by international overnight visitors for the period 2009-2016 (Mastercard). Sofia is one of Europe’s oldest cities, with sweeping boulevards, cobbled streets and a surprising amount of Roman ruins.  It recently became an alternative city break for many European and Asian tourists.

Bulgaria's capital is often overlooked by visitors heading to the coast or the ski resorts, but they're missing something special. Sofia is no grand metropolis, but it's a modern, youthful city, with a scattering of onion-domed churches, Ottoman mosques and stubborn Red Army monuments that lend an eclectic, exotic feel. Excavation work carried out during construction of the metro unveiled a treasure trove of Roman ruins from nearly 2000 years ago, when the city was called 'Serdica'. Away from the buildings and boulevards, vast parks and manicured gardens offer a welcome respite, and the ski slopes and hiking trails of mighty Mt Vitosha are just a short bus ride from the center.
https://www.lonelyplanet.com/bulgaria/sofia

EU membership has had a positive impact on Sofia’s and Bulgaria’s tourism markets, providing improved facilities, affordability, accessibility, and increased exposure.

Opportunities do exist for U.S. companies, joint venture partners and investors in Bulgaria’s travel and tourism sector. Areas of opportunity include:
•          Design, branding, and management services for hotels, as well as hotel equipment supplies;
•          Continued investment for upgrading tourist facilities and infrastructure;
•          Equity investment and joint-ventures in the hospitality sector;
•          Innovative online sales/booking platforms;
•          Development and management of golf courses;
•          Development and expansion of marinas;
•          Development of Spa and Wellness Tourism;
•          Best US Practices in City Breaks and Short Breaks;
•          Best US Practices in all-year-round tourism destinations;
•          Development of the Agritourism niche;
•          Software (Content Management Systems and Customer Relationship Management) exclusively for tourism websites.

Trade Events

May 29-30, 2019 • National Palace of Culture, Sofia, Bulgaria
HOTEL &TOURISM INVESTMENT FORUM (HTIF) http://horeweek.com/samo-8-dni-do-htif-2019
A networking and deal-making conference on major industry trends for hotels and tourism investments.

November 6-9, 2019 • Inter Expo Center, Sofia, Bulgaria 
HOTEL Restaurant Exhibition and conference https://10times.com/sihre
Specialized International Hotel & Restaurant Exhibition with significant participation of local and international suppliers of hotel/motel and restaurant equipment, technologies and services.


Web Resources

•          www.tourism.government.bg/en  (Ministry of Tourism)
•          http://investingintourism.com/bulgaria-tourism-investment-brief/


U.S. Commercial Service Sofia Contact Information
Name:              Ms. Emily Taneva
Position:           Commercial Specialist 
Email:               Emily.Taneva@trade.gov
Phone:              +359-2-939-5770

Prepared by the International Trade Administration. With its network of more than 100 offices across the United States and in more than 75 markets, the International Trade Administration of the U.S. Department of Commerce utilizes its global presence and international marketing expertise to help U.S. companies sell their products and services worldwide. Locate the trade specialist in the U.S. nearest you by visiting http://export.gov/usoffices.



Bulgaria Travel and Tourism Trade Development and Promotion