Moving bookings to a later date and postponing the winter holiday. Between these extremes are the winter resorts of Bulgaria this season. So far, only in Pamporovo hoteliers calmly say that the resort is full and only the lack of natural snow at the moment will prevent it from scoring a stronger than last year’s record good season.
In such a situation, alternative entertainment and the programs of restaurants and clubs come to the fore. The picture in Europe is not much different.
When there is no snow – cinema and wine
“We do not guarantee snow, our services are hotel and restaurant services and the tourists showed understanding.” This is what Malin Bistrin, chairman of the Union of Tourism Businesses in Bansko, says. It said that many of the bookings that tourists wanted to cancel were being rescheduled for later dates that local businesses were “almost certain” that there will be snow in February and March.
“Otherwise, the shock has generally been overcome, given that a lot of snowfall is expected in the next 10 days, so we got a chance,” he described the mood among his colleagues.
He does not commit to data on how many tourists are in Bansko and its surroundings, but defines the decrease in their number as “almost imperceptible” and says that Bansko in particular is full.
He adds that, however, hoteliers have approached most of the skiers’ free time creatively because not all slopes are open. Alternative activities include wine lees painting, home cinema and more.
“There are occasional cancellations, but that’s life, business adjusts.”
He indicates that businesses has no useful course of action but to adapt to the situation. “I’m not worried, I rely on my knowledge and skills, which I’ve been accumulating for 30 years.”
Hardly anyone is happy
The cancellation of reservations started already last year, when it was seen that snow was not expected, says Margarit Tsonev from “Ela” in Borovets. In addition to the lack of snow with his colleagues are unable to respond to inflation and increased prices for energy, food and almost everything. The reason is that the tour operators from the main market – the British one – have not shown any inclination to reflect the high inflation in the prices for the season.
“The season is starting to get unpredictable,” he concludes. He says restaurateurs at the resort are trying hard and putting on good evening entertainment, but “traffic is not as expected”. These are the weeks when there should have been a lot of people, he reminds.
He explains that packages for foreign tourists – mainly British and Irish – are sold a year in advance and cannot be easily moved over time. In addition, bookings reflect vacation plans at a specific time and cannot be responded to at another time.
He says that pre-pandemic prices were updated a little each year, during the pandemic they were pressured by tour operators to keep prices from bookings in 2019. However, humiliating increases have been proposed for this winter amid huge inflation and energy prices.
He believes that those who decided to work both sold at low prices and did not have good attendance. He calls the year “very bad” and doubts that snow after January 15 will make things fixable.
He says that in the mass case, tourists give up on ski vacations altogether, and some are the ones who have gone to much more expensive resorts just so that their ski vacation doesn’t fail.
The benefit of temperature inversion
At this stage, they seem to be genuinely happy only in Pamporovo. Mariyan Belyakov, executive director of “Pamporovo” AD, is optimistic not only for this season, in which he says that the resort is full and rather needs free beds, as well as for the coming years. He does not think that the lack of snow that resorts across Europe are suffering from will especially hurt those located lower. He explains this by the increasingly frequent occurrences of a temperature inversion, where cold air is lower and warmer higher up.
“We somehow managed to secure seven tracks with artificial snow, to plan very well the short time not only to produce it, but to determine the exact places where it will be made”, Belyakov explained. He sees this as a big test for the company.
“The season did not fail. We saved the small and medium-sized businesses in the region, people were able to earn a living, not a single domestic or foreign program was canceled,” he emphasized. He spoke of a “fairly large volume” of new demand for the resort. With a capacity of about 8,000 beds in the resort, he points out that several thousand are tourists who have moved to Pamporovo from other Bulgarian and foreign resorts.
“It couldn’t be better given the situation.”
He analyzed that bookings in some markets have shown growth above pre-pandemic times, and in other markets it is at pre-pandemic levels, which he says shows a lasting and sustainable recovery of the resort. “As a result, the resort is full, Chepelare is full and it is very difficult to find places until the end of February,” he added. He says that half of the guests are Bulgarians.
However, this resort is also counting on the predicted cold and snow to open all the slopes and make winter look real.