ARTICLES 
RURAL TOURISM IN BULGARIA
ODYSSEY MAGAZINE (issues 3, 10 & 11, year 2003)
Rural and Eco-tourism are forms of tourism, practiced by inquiring tourists, who while travelling and exploring new and not very popular places, preserve and respect the natural beauties, the culture and traditions of the places they visit. These forms of tourism are the challenge that faces Bulgaria now.
Bulgaria has a problem with the bad infrastructure and the lack of experience of the local people and contractors, who work in the sphere of rural tourism but seem not to know how to offer their services or in other words how to make business. These people very often do not know any foreign languages, which makes the communication between the two parties very difficult.
According to Mr. Francesko Frandjali, the General Secretary of the World Tourism Organization, who visited Bulgaria in September, in the recent years Bulgaria achieved a lot in the sphere of tourism. The results are better than the average World results shown in this sphere. Bulgaria is a small destination, but despite the terrorists attacks stagnation of the market, it shows increase in the number of tourists. He figures out that at the moment the bigger part of the tourists that visit Bulgaria come to the Black Sea or the Mountain resorts. According to him, the Bulgarian tour agencies have to put a stress on the cultural, rural and Eco-tourism. The General Secretary advises the agencies to increase the quality of the services and to lengthen the tourist season all year round, if that is possible. If the infrastructure were improved, a lot of Western Europe tourists would gladly come for a one-week rural holiday. Attention has to be paid on the traditions, folklore and different crafts, which are all parts of the rural tourism.
A new project will start in the beginning of next year and will continue to the end of year 2005. It includes eleven municipalities, which plan to invest in alternative forms of tourism. The Ministry of Agriculture, the OON program for development and the municipalities themselves will sponsor this program. The regions that won the contest and were approved for this project are in the areas of Pernik, Montana, Blagoevgrad, Kurdjali and Haskovo. The villages of Ardino, Kirkovo and Ivailovgrad will try to impose alternative forms of tourism. The municipality of Trun will develop a visiting center Eco-path at Erma River Gorge. The municipality of Yakoruda will create an Eco-center for breeding of Balkan trout in conformity with nature.
The Ministry of Environment plan to build new Eco-routes in the municipalities of Smolyan, Devin and Chepelare in the Central Rhodopa Mountain. The total sum for the project is at about 160 000 BGN. The municipality of Smolyan has revived, cleaned and marked the routes to the natural landmarks Nevjastata, the Smolyantzi waterfall, the Smolyan lakes, the Kusinsko Swamp, Uhlovitza. New information boards with maps for the tourists routes and Eco-paths are put at many places.
The municipality of Chepelare has 5 tourists routes restored, which put a stress not only on nature, but also on the history, culture and folklore of the regions of Kosten Stone, Duplevo, Skakaloto and Chudnite Mostove.
Devins municipality has also new Eco-paths in the Trigrad gorge and the Chairski lakes, as well as in the Bujnorsko gorge, Devils Bridge and Stroilski ravine. All these places are equipped with information boards, fountains and places for recreation.
The nature of Bulgaria is magnificent and breath taking, but as Prof. Bernar Lori, a teacher of history and geography of the Balkan countries in Paris says, Bulgarians can not attract tourists only with beautiful nature. It is not a secret that the average tourist, who comes to this part of the World, thinks of the Balkan countries as one area and does not separate them. In order to choose Bulgaria for his/her holidays, the tourist has to be won with good accommodation and services.
The rural and Eco-tourism is facing a small number of people and will not bring masses of tourists to Bulgaria, but they are a good means of living and occupation of the local people. Bulgarians have to show to the curious tourists the ancient monasteries and small villages. The small family hotels, for example, are perfect places for the French tourists, who like to travel alone and stay at places, which offer not only bed & breakfast, but also a real cozy home atmosphere.
Peter Hets, the manager of the Bulgarian Project for preservation of biological species diversity and economic growth, advises people who work in the sphere of rural tourism in Bulgaria, to work in cooperation and to offer different activities mountain-bikes, extreme sports and riding, even hunting and fishing.
The tourism in Bulgaria is seen as a major brunch of the countrys Economy. Last year was very successful for the Bulgarian tourism; now the tour agencies and hotelkeepers have enough money to invest in yet undeveloped areas of tourism. These investments will soon attract new tourists and they will surely bring along others.
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