Cultural tourism 2019 – overview

Author: Gavrail Gavrailov, Founder Rural Balkans

The cultural tourism in Bulgaria is a broad concept, with many different interests behind it. Undoubtedly, its management is entrusted to the Ministry of Tourism, and as far as cultural events are concerned, they are under the authority of the Ministry of Culture. At the regional level, the cultural calendar is managed by the municipalities as well as by the hundreds of cultural operators in the non-governmental sector.

According to the Cultural Heritage Act, there are 18 different cultural heritage positions in Bulgaria – from archeology and history, through traditions, customs, architecture and parks to food, wine and modern digital forms. All this is a subject of interest for tourists, but many of the resources are still not fully utilized.

The year 2019 began with great hopes for Bulgarian cultural tourism, but very soon the sector was shaken by scandals. The tensions came from the city of Plovdiv, bearing the title of European Capital of Culture for 2019. There were doubts about poor management decisions, opaque management and waste of funds. The prosecutor's office also intervened. Another scandal came as part of a draft of wine and culinary map of Bulgaria. The wine industry has expressed its utmost negative opinion on the proposals of the Ministry of Tourism, for which the resignation of Minister Angelkova was requested. The year proved unsuccessful for Bulgarian tourism, with most branch organizations periodically requesting her resignation, but she has retained her post for another year.

In the spring, scandals moved to the private sector. Key figures from Bulgarian tourism – major owners of hotels and holiday complexes – were arrested. Then came the news of the construction of Europe’s largest Historic Park. Situated on a green meadow near the village of Neofit Rilski in Varna region, the Historical Park was the number one topic in touristic branch until the beginning of the summer. By the time of its official opening, time had passed in controversy and media scandals. The conflict arose from a funding model that generated doubt for legal misbehaveour. This prompted the Financial Supervision Commission to make an inquiry. Ultimately, the first summer tourist season for the Vetrino Historical Park may be considered unsatisfactory, given the expectations and shareholder ambitions declared.

Of course, there are also positive things happening in Bulgaria’s cultural tourism. These are the big summer folk festivals. Traditionally, the events of Rozhen and Gela in the Rhodope Mountains, as well as at the Petrova niva in Strandzha, have traditionally attracted the greatest interest. The event in the village of Zheravna is still gathering its audience, despite the high ticket prices and the strict conditions for clothing in the Bulgarian Revival era.

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