As the arrival of warmer weather beckons, hotels lining the Bulgarian Black Sea coasts are gearing up to welcome the first wave of sea tourists, with an expected surge in visitors around the Easter holidays, coinciding this year with St. George’s Day on May 6. Anticipation is high as the tourism sector eagerly awaits the return of holidaymakers, primarily from Greece, Romania, and Macedonia, along with domestic travelers.

The onset of the tourist season sees hotels opening en masse at the beginning of May, signaling a renewed sense of optimism after the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, tourists should expect prices to be 10-15% higher than usual, attributed to increased operational costs and the sector’s ongoing recovery efforts, as highlighted by Stanislav Stoyanov, vice-chairman of the Union of Hoteliers in “Golden Sands.”

The later timing of Easter this year is seen as a boon for the tourism industry, aligning holidays closer to the start of the active summer season. Consequently, over 90% of resort complexes are poised to commence operations earlier than usual, aiming to capitalize on the extended season.

In “Sunny Beach,” the season officially kicks off on May 1, while individual hotels in the south of Burgas plan to open their doors a week prior. Encouragingly, early bookings indicate robust interest, with anticipated growth of 10-20% in tourist numbers compared to the previous year, signaling a promising start to the season.

Notably, there’s a resurgence in interest from tourists hailing from Great Britain and Germany, with double-digit growth in summer vacation bookings recorded towards the end of last year. Additionally, Polish and Czech tourists have shown significant interest in visiting Bulgaria since the onset of the pandemic.

Despite these positive indicators, the aviation industry’s struggle to recover from the pandemic-induced downturn poses a new challenge. Tour operators warn of potential limitations on tourist arrivals due to insufficient airline capacity worldwide. The sector continues to grapple with the aftermath of flight suspensions and workforce reallocations, exacerbating the shortage of available flights.

Consequently, charter programs for the upcoming summer are prioritizing destinations with longer summer seasons and state aid provisions, such as Turkey, Spain, and Greece. This shift presents a setback for Bulgaria, as it faces increased competition from neighboring countries for tourist traffic.