Despite the many challenges Sofia has as a travel destination, tourists who visit the Bulgarian capital are pleasantly surprised and impressed by the diversity and opportunities that the city has to offer. That was the general opinion of travel industry professionals who took part of the Travel Massive event “Is Sofia tourist-friendly” that was held in Bar ПЕТЪК on November 15th in Sofia.
More than 50 Bulgarian professionals who work in the tourism field in the country attended the networking event. The participants of the panel discussion about the friendliness of Sofia as a tourist destination were:
- Christine Milner, organizer of Sofia Restaurant Week;
- Stefan Ognianov, president of the executive board of 365 Association (Free Sofia Tour, Free Plovdiv Tour, etc.);
- Georgi Zahariev, owner of short-term rental apartments in Sofia;
- Maria Stoyanova (moderator & organizer) – a Bulgarian travel blogger at Travelling Buzz.
All of the participants shared their opinion and experience in working with tourists which gave us a good insight about the tourist image of Sofia.
The tourism problems in Sofia
Generally speaking, most of the attendees at the Travel Massive event shared the opinion that Sofia is not considered yet as friendly enough tourist destination. The main tourism problems that were outlined during the discussion were: the inconvenient public transportation system in the capital; the poor accessibility of Vitosha mountain – the green treasure of Sofia that can become a great advantage for the city; the poor biking conditions in the city; Vitosha boulevard not being the best representative spot in Sofia; and the service not being the best one that we can offer to our guests.
What makes Sofia attractive
Despite the problems, Sofia has a great potential to grow as a preferred travel destination and to offer a quality product. A shared opinion was that one of the greatest impressions tourists have when they first visit the city is definitely the food. The culinary image of Sofia is rising also thanks to events like Sofia Restaurant Week – a week-long festival promoting the diverse culinary scene in the Bulgarian capital.
People of Sofia also make a great impression to Sofia’s visitors. “Tourists are surprised how many young people live here and most of them speak English which is of great value for the city”, said Chrisitne Milner who have lived in Sofia for 25 years.
With his experience with Free Sofia Tour – the top recommended tour of Sofia in Trip Advisor, Stefan Ognianov said that many people also find the city livable. Tourists come without any expectations and are impressed by the way of life in the capital.
The main drivers for tourism in Sofia
The participants also discussed which are the main drivers of tourism in Sofia and what makes the capital attractive in the last few years. First, that is definitely the rise of international low-cost flights from and to Sofia that gives the city easy access to many European and world destinations. But that is not the only reason. The word of mouth of travelers who’ve already been in Sofia is also a very strong attraction factor for new tourists.
Also, Sofia has a “novelty value” that should not be underestimated. Tourists are curious and interested to see how a Balkan capital with thousands of years long history has developed over the years. Being part of the EU is also a huge advantage for the friendliness of Sofia.
How can Sofia be a better travel destination
The challenge for the industry professionals now is how to convince people to come back to Sofia. Moreover, tourism business owners should focus on increasing the quality of the service. There should also be more experiences and activities available for tourists.
Another idea that was shared during the discussion was to have more events and festivals in Sofia which are becoming a big attraction and image-shaping factor.
Get updates for future events, join the Travel Massive Sofia community and connect with other industry professionals here: https://travelmassive.com/chapters/sofia
Mentioned projects and useful links
- Christine Milner – Sofia Restaurant Week, http://restaurantweek.bg/
- Stefan Ognianov – 365 Association, http://www.365association.org/
- Georgi Zahariev – Sofia Green Apartments, https://www.facebook.com/GreenSofiaApartments/
- Maria Stoyanova (moderator) – Travelling Buzz, www.travellingbuzz.com
- Travel Massive Sofia Facebook group – https://www.facebook.com/groups/102593120315482/
- Association of tourism real estate and innovations (Асоциация за туристически имоти и иновации) – www.atii.bg
- Shape Style Studio – photography and videography –http://shapestyle.eu/home-bg.html
- “Sofia in figures, 2016” (Report about the tourism industry in Sofia, available in Bulgarian) – https://www.visitsofia.bg/images/pdf/tourism-in-figure-2016-bg.pdf
- Project “Vision for Sofia” – https://vizia.sofia.bg/
- Interesting upcoming event – Discussion „Is the city of Sofia ready to receive the increasing tourist and business flow?” as part of Sky Forum 2017 – https://skyawards.eu
Do you want to host the next event in Sofia? If you own a place, or you know a guy who knows a guy who owns an event space, you want to host the next meeting, get in touch at [email protected].
Any ideas for next topics, events or projects? If you have any ideas for the next topics, any feedback, any interesting projects you want to share, get in touch on the mentioned email above.
Many thanks to the Travel Massive Sofia team and partners! Connect with Travelling Buzz on Facebook.