Rituparna Chatterjee – Mumbai
Since early 2014, Bulgaria has been witnessing an increasing number of organised MICE tourists from India where previously, the country received Indian tourists largely from the unorganised tourism sector. “In beginning of last year, Bulgaria received its first organised MICE group from India. But since this year, the country has been receiving at least three organised MICE groups from India every month. The reasons being affordability of the destination as compared to other eastern European countries, presence of large convention centres; availability of organic cuisine; a range of shopping and sight-seeing options; and a vibrant nightlife,” stated Stefan Ionkov, head of commercial and economic office of Bulgaria, Embassy of the Republic of Bulgaria adding that, the MICE groups are usually of 30-100 pax. The MICE destinations that have been attracting tourists include – Sunny Beach, Golden Sands, city of Sofia among some.
The southeastern European country has also recorded a significant increase in tourism arrivals from India. In 2013-2014, Bulgaria welcomed around 5000 Indian tourists out of seven million international tourists, a 50 per cent growth in arrivals from the previous year. And this year, the Embassy is expecting the numbers to increase further. To cater to this growing numbers, Turkish Airlines recently launched a flight from Istanbul to Varna, Bulgaria which is already effective from May 30. The airline company recorded a 40 per cent increase in outbound tourists from India to Sofia in 2013. As for their marketing strategies for the India market, Ionkov opined, “We send educational newsletters to travel agents, organise FAM trips for media, corporates and travel agents. This August we are organising FAM trips for top travel agents from northern and eastern India, since Mumbai and Delhi are our major source markets.” Moreover, the Embassy is also promoting other tourism segments like golf, Bollywood, spa and wine tourism.
“We are the oldest producer of wines in the European Union. Burgas, Varna are famous wine producing regions. In addition, recently there has been a Bollywood film shooting in Bulgaria, through which we are expecting more visibility of the destination and increased tourism inflow from India,” mentioned Ionkov. Presently, tourism contributes 13 per cent to the country’s GDP.