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Bulgarian Resorts Competitive for All Seasons

Source: Financial Times
Published Date: 12 Jul 2006

Foreign holidaymakers have been rediscovering Bulgaria as a tourism destination, making the tourism industry the country's biggest foreign exchange earner.

It has grown also to one of economy's largest - albeit seasonal - employers, the Financial Times wrote on Wednesday releasing an extensive 4-page report on Bulgaria.

Tourism accounted for as much as 13% of gross domestic product in 2005 and earnings from travel services have been growing steadily since 2001. The number of visitors is also rising - from 3.2 million in 2001 to 4.8 million in 2005.

With one of the world's highest concentrations of hot mineral springs and a centuries-old tradition of herbal therapy, Bulgaria has plenty of potential for developing "wellness" tourism, the report said.

FT quoted Mario Al-Jebouri, the new head of the State Tourism Authority, as acknowledging the country's potential to become a year-round tourist destination.

While the country, struggling to meet its EU deadline for reforms, the Socialist-led three-way coalition government is kept together by its mandate to take Bulgaria into the EU.

Reform of the police, prosecution service and judiciary will take time to become effective, regardless of how much pressure is exerted by Brussels.

While Sofia-based bankers and investors agree the business climate does improve, deals involving the government continue to be fraught with uncertainty, FT concludes.