Travel On The Home Front – BALKAN NEWS MAGAZINE

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What is happening to the world of travel, in Bulgaria?

A lot is happening on the home front, here is a run through of what’s what in the local travel world: –

Finally, a new road to Sofia Airport; It only took 11 years but better late than never! The new road to the airport was supposed to be opened along with the opening of the new terminal 2 back in December 2007 – just before Bulgaria joined the EU, but land issues delayed that until January 2018 when, by coincidence, Bulgaria became president of the aforementioned EU! The new link takes drivers direct to Terminal 2 via a road bridge whilst those using the de-facto ‘” Low Cost ‘” terminal 1 take the slip road just before the new bridge. Let’s hope any further development does not have to wait until Bulgaria is once again president of the EU.

Talking of airports, the two Black Sea airports of Bourgas and Varna are churning out record numbers again with overall growth being an impressive 8.42% combined. A total of4.95m passengers used the two airports and things look set to continue on an upward growth cycle as Ryanair announced that it will open a new base in Bourgas in March 2018 with 11 new routes being introduced.

As we mentioned, Bulgaria is now the President of the EU for the next six months and this means lots of regimista’s  landing on our shores. Its been a long standing question as to whether or not the local upmarket hotels benefit from this influx or will the Marinella take most of the cake with their heavily discounted government rates? Certainly some local hotels seem to be shrugging their shoulders and I refer here to the Intercontinental located in arguably the best central location opposite the Parliament building, except that is, it isn’t open! The former Radisson hotel has not seen occupants for several weeks now as it prepared to change management but equally the new managers i.e. the Intercontinental, are not prepared to open their doors until all the renovation work is done to their spec, which is already several weeks late! Meanwhile, the local media has announced something that we have kept under wraps for several months now and that is that a new Marriott is planned for Sofia on Hristo Botev Blvd.  whilst this is due to open in 2020, only a fool would bet that this will actually come to fruition on time or at all! By the way don’t forget we also have a Hyatt coming along at Levski Monument just as soon as they sort out what to do with the Roman ruins. So all in all it looks like a lot of branded international hotels will be on our door step soon: will there be the demand for them is the big question?

Perhaps the biggest talking point in the local domain recently has been the “supposed’” agreement whereby a second much needed gondola lift will be built in the ski resort of Bansko.  That’s the good news but the bad news is that this has riled the Green brigade who fear – perhaps with some justification – that this will open the door for even more construction in what is actually a National Park! Bansko already has far too many beds for the size of the ski/resort area so it’s difficult to imagine anyone being so stupid to build yet more hotels and thus increase the supply which struggles to marry with demand. Yet the same argument could have been said five years ago but people still build empty hotels. On the other side, how does Italy, France and Austria successfully manage its resorts that dwarf the size of the Bansko area but yet find the balance between nature and human recreation?

Mark Thomas

Managing Director

HRG Bulgaria