Winter season opens in Bulgaria
While Turkey is experiencing problems with all of it neighbors, for now and God-willing, the springtime continues in the relations between us and our neighbor Bulgaria.
These are the words of the head of the Rumelia Balkan Strategic research Center (RUBASAM) Özcan Pehlivanoğlu.
His impressions about Bulgaria are as follows in a nutshell: “Even though Bulgaria is a European Union member, because of economic problems and heavy unemployment, it experienced intense migration. One of the biggest income sources of the country is tourism. However, because there is a visa requirement for Turkish citizens, they are deprived of a huge amount of tourism revenue… Turkish citizens, on the other hand, are complaining a lot about the difficulties that come up while processing their visa applications. Despite this, about 200,000 Turks visit Bulgaria every year and there has been a 65 percent increase in the number of Turks coming to the ski resort area of Pamporovo.”
“The Bulgarians are working on a project to make a winter tourism center, the biggest in Europe in this area, which also includes Chepelare, a ski center very near to Pamporovo. They have succeeded in entering several winter sports into the international calendar.”
A Bulgarian Turk himself, Rıfat Yakupoğlu, who is the head of the executive committee of Koşukavak Tourism Company, carries significant numbers of Turkish citizens to Pamporovo. Yakupoğlu said there was a huge demand for Bulgaria this season and this stemmed from the particularly low prices and quality of service offered.
Bulgarian Deputy Tourism Minister Irina Georgaviya opened this winter’s tourism season. She said, “Lift the visas and millions of Turks would come to Bulgaria.”
“Another noteworthy point is that everybody is talking about the successful work of our Plovdiv Council General Alper Aktaş. We should also keep in mind that Plovdiv has been declared the 2019 European Cultural Capital of Europe. In Plovdiv, which in Turkish is called “Filibe,” there are approximately 15,000 Turkish inhabitants. About 3,000 young people from Turkey are attending the universities of the city. In Plovdiv, there are several Turkish cultural historical structures still standing intact. We do hope that Turkey, Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TİKA,) Presidency for Turks Abroad and Related Communities, the Yunus Emre Institute and Turkish universities take their place in the activities that will be held in this neighboring city in the year 2019.”
“One other nice event is that the City Hotel in Plovdiv owned by the industrialist Keser family is also hosting the Bulgarian Turkish Businessmen Association. The City Hotel, together with other businesspeople has been transformed into a Turkish Cultural Center. We should not only talk about the dismal events in foreign relations; we should also talk about the nice events.”
If we look at tourism figures and number of tourists, there are differences in the data provided by the Turkish Travel Agencies Union (TÜRSAB) and the Bulgarian side.
According to 2014 figures, 438,000 tourists have exited Turkey. Bulgaria states that this figure is 1,106,000. In other words, exits from Turkey have increased 14.8 percent and exits from Bulgaria have increased 14.3 percent. Bulgaria, a country of 7 million is attracting 8 million tourists, more than its population.