At the beginning of the summer, there was a serious discussion about the crisis of summer tourism in the country. The discussion began in late June and early July, that is, it focused entirely on the state of summer tourism in June. The main ones are that 1) the summer tourism in June is in crisis (the beaches are empty) and 2) the Bulgarians are fleeing the native Black Sea coast and massively prefer Greece (congestion at the border). Today we already have the NSI data for tourism in June and we can shed light on how much the above statements are true.
Let’s start with some clarifications. First, we will be able to comment on the summer season as a whole when we have data for June, July, and August – June is the weakest of the three months and does not always accurately predict events during the season. However, the broad discussion of the June events deserves a reasoned response with data. Secondly, we use the official NSI data for all accommodation units with more than 10 beds – the smaller single beds do not fit here, which hides some of the data, especially for the nights spent by Bulgarians. Third, we are focusing not on the general data for the country, but specifically on tourism in the sea regions – these are Bourgas, Varna, and Dobrich. In places, we collect Varna and Dobrich as indicative of the North relative to the South (Burgas). The specific indicator we are looking at is not just the number of overnights, but the actual nights spent in accommodation in the three areas – can be seen as an indicator of tourist man-days at sea.
Before we get into the details of tourism in June 2019, it is good to make two general observations. The first is that summer tourism in Bulgaria is much more dependent on foreigners compared to Bulgarians. The nights spent by foreigners are five times more than the Bulgarians in Burgas and eight times in Varna. The difference in the income of the accommodation establishments is even bigger – seven times in Burgas and 10 times in Varna in favor of the income from the nights spent by foreigners. The second is that we should also take into account the longer trends, not just look at the change this year from the previous one. The latter is especially important when looking at the North’s representation of the South and the opening of a peculiar scissor between the two.
The overall picture for June 2019 (compared to June 2018) shows different developments in the three areas. In Burgas, for example, there has been a decline in the number of nights spent by Bulgarian citizens within 22 thousand nights (-7.1%), which is, however, completely offset by an increase in the number of foreigners by 35 thousand nights (+ 2.2%). Revenues from accommodation in June also increased by nearly BGN 6 million, reaching BGN 92 million, both because of most foreigners and some price increases.
The North is in the opposite situation – a fall in the number of overnight stays with foreigners and in Varna – by nearly 48 thousand (-5.3%), and in Dobrich – by about 25 thousand (-6.9%). In the north, however, an increase is registered in the nights of Bulgarians – despite a slight decrease in Varna within 1 500 fewer nights of Bulgarians (-1.3%), there is a solid increase of nearly 12 thousand nights of Bulgarians in Dobrich (+ 16.9%). The good news is that the growth of overnight stays of Bulgarians in Dobrich (the maritime municipalities are Balchik, Kavarna, and Shabla) has been going on for the third year now – from 51 thousand nights in June 2016 to 81 thousand in June 2019. in the North, in June they are BGN 73 million, while in Dobrich they remain similar, while in Varna they decrease by over BGN 2 million due to the smaller number of foreigners.
Despite some positive developments – the growth of the foreigners in Burgas and the growth of the Bulgarians in Dobrich, overall there has been a decline in the number of nights spent in June, provoked mainly by the smaller number of foreigners in the North. However, it should be noted that this slight decline comes after a period of three years of stable growth. This is clearly seen in the graph showing the movement of the realized nights in the North and South, with a division of Bulgarians and foreigners. In this general context, one can hardly talk about the drama in summer tourism, especially against the background of the tangible decline in foreigners since 2015. The chart also shows the opening of the scissors between North and South, both in the last year for foreigners and in general for foreigners. the Bulgarians. In June Burgas hits Varna and Dobrich seriously with regard to Bulgarian tourists – at 166 thousand nights of Bulgarians in Burgas compared to 152 thousand in Varna and Dobrich in June 2012, now they are 292 thousand to 190 thousand in favor of Burgas (June 2019).
It remains to answer the last question, namely, whether the Bulgarians have fled en masse to Greece? For this purpose, we use the data on trips of Bulgarian citizens abroad. They show that in June 2019, 135,000 Bulgarian citizens traveled to Greece, which is a real increase over the previous 3-4 years. However, keep in mind that before the crisis (2008-2009), these trips in June reached over 180 thousand – provoked by a large number of business trips to our southern neighbor 10 years ago.
To make a comparison with the Bulgarians’ trips to the Black Sea we will use the number of the overnights, not the realized nights. The overall picture shows that in June 2019 146,000 Bulgarian citizens stayed overnight on the Bulgarian Black Sea coast and 135,000 Bulgarians traveled to Greece. However, it should be borne in mind that not all travel to Greece for vacation – 75 thousand of these 135 thousand have explicitly stated this reason, while others have indicated either “business purpose” or “other purpose”. Looking back to June 2016, the overnight stay of Bulgarians on the Black Sea coast was 117 thousand, while those traveling to Greece were 99 thousand. In other words, Bulgarian tourists in the three maritime regions of the country still beat as many as those traveling to Greece in June. In general, the tendency for both is up, so it is debatable whether the relationship will turn at some point.