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Bulgaria Tries to Save its Hospitality Industry with Domestic Tourism

News With the lockdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, tourism-related companies around the world suffer from the falling revenues and lack or complete absence of guests. Hotels in Sofia and other destinations across Bulgaria are not an exception. However, domestic tourists try to help the industry to survive.

The decrease in the number of guests in Sofia hotels is depressive – according to the Ministry of Tourism’s Unified Tourist Information System (ESTI), it is more than 90%. Only 285,000 guests have spent at least one night in the capital of Bulgaria starting from the beginning of 2020. This is significantly lower than during the same period of 2019 when this metric was over 3 million. Today, hotels in Sofia have at least some guests mostly thanks to domestic tourists. Almost 146,000 guests, who stayed at Sofia hotels, were Bulgarian business travelers.

The number of international guests is really small – 13,000 guests from Greece, 11,000 guests from Germany, 9,900 guests from Italy, 8,872 guests from Great Britain, 8,866 guests from the United States, and over 7,000 guests from Israel and Italy. These foreigners visited the country mostly at the beginning of 2020 when it was still possible to travel abroad.

Today, hotels in Sofia clearly state that they only rely on domestic travelers in this tough situation. That being said, business travelers cannot offset the losses. Sofia is not a popular destination for business guests as the capital of Bulgaria doesn’t hold any big international events. It recent years, there has been a rapid growth in the popularity of Sofia mostly due to low-cost airlines. It became cheap to visit the capital of Bulgaria, and so the number of overnight stays in Sofia tripled in 2010 – 2019 from 1.1 million to more than 3 million.

Foreigners are responsible for the two-thirds of the nights spent in Sofia hotels. Of course, hotel companies answered the growing demand, opening many hotels in different categories. Some of them, like the 5-star Hyatt Regency and Grand Hotel Millennium, opened this year. Today, the Mayor of Sofia thinks that keeping tourists longer can help to increase hotel bookings. An average tourist spends 1.8 days in Sofia, with tourists from Italy, Great Britain, and Israel staying the longest – 2.2 days. To keep tourists longer, the capital plans to complete the restoration of baths in Bankya, restore baths in Ovcha Kupel and Gorna Banya, and build a visitor center in the Neolithic settlement in Slatina.


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