East Europeans most impressed by the delicious food, clean beaches and the authentic atmosphere of Nessebar and Sozopol
European tourists are overwhelmingly happy with their experience in Bulgaria, according to a study by Perceptica.
Online coverage and social media comments paint a rather positive image of Bulgarian resorts and the country’s largest tourist attractions, Perceptica found. The study encompasses 82 662 online mentions in European media between February and July of 2016. There was a noticeable upward trend in the last two months of the analysed period, when tourists started actively livestreaming their experience in Bulgaria (particularly on Social Media such as Twitter and Instagram).
It comes as no surprise that Russians, who also represent the largest group of tourists in Bulgaria, left the highest number of online comments. The share of comments from Russia comprises a staggering 43% of all online conversation on the topic. In recent years, Bulgaria has become a major destination for Russians, many of whom have even bought real estate along the Bulgarian Black Sea coast. The trend only intensified with the recent events in Turkey (another major target for Russian tourists).
Overall, 3 of the 4 top countries in terms of the sheer volume of comments are part of the ex-USSR: Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus. Romanians generated 7 886 comments, while Russians grabbed the lion’s share with 35 532 publications. Judging by the amount of content generated online (8 847 mentions), the number of Belarussians coming to Bulgaria could also hardly be described as insignificant. As a whole, the coverage in non-EU countries accounts for two thirds of all online mentions of Bulgaria as a tourist destination.
Some 68% of the Russians who expressed an opinion praised Bulgaria as a tourist destination, compared to 71% of positive comments from Belarussians. Negative opinions represented 16% of comments by Russians and just 6% of those shared by Belarussians. Meanwhile, about one in six Serbian tourists expressed their dissatisfaction with Bulgaria as a holiday destination.
Unsurprisingly, large summer resorts such as Sunny Beach and Golden Sands were discussed the most, as the highest share of foreign tourists chose to spend their summer holidays there. However, tourists coming from countries that have beach resorts themselves (Spain, France, Portugal, Croatia) chose to visit other parts of the country, most notably the cities of Plovdiv and Veliko Tarnovo.
Who enjoyed Bulgaria the most?
There was a notable difference between the perception of Northern and Western Europeans and that of tourists from Central and Eastern Europe. The former were often influenced by news from Bulgaria that were not directly related to tourism. The most salient negative factor for Bulgaria’s desirability was the way the country treats refugees and migrants. A number of Dutch, Belgian and Norwegian users chose not to visit a country with such an appalling record in its treatment of refugees. The widely publicised cases of gun violence also did not help Bulgaria’s reputation, especially amongst British tourists.
Eastern Europeans, on the other hand, seemed to enjoy pretty much every aspect of their holiday in Bulgaria. Online comments were full of praise for the clean beaches, the delicious food, the nice, authentic atmosphere of towns such as Nessebar and Sozopol, and even the above-par roads.
Bulgaria was often described as cheaper than Greece and safer than Turkey. Still, users from Serbia and Hungary were not as impressed as tourists from most other countries, as they had had some negative experience with Bulgaria. Hungarians in particular were unhappy with the long waits at the Serbo-Bulgarian checkpoint and the generally inadequate quality of service offered in Bulgarian establishments. Some Eastern Europeans, including Romanians and Poles, also complained of the price surge in Bulgarian resorts over the recent years.
What about Bulgarians?
Perhaps curiously, Bulgarians were the only group that spoke predominantly negatively about tourism in their own country. Over half of all online opinions criticised the Bulgarian tourism industry and what it had done to the Black sea coast. Users evidently disliked the overbuilding, the pollution and the ever-increasing prices which do not correspond to the subpar service being offered. Many said they would rather go to Greece or, before the attempted coup in July, Turkey. Greece’s clean, pristine beaches were counterpoised to the present state of the Bulgarian seaside, and especially its Southern part. Choosing Bulgaria over a holiday abroad became even harder with the cheap international tickets offered by low-cost airlines.
The Northern Black sea coast was mentioned as the exception with its remote, untouched beaches. However, many saw the very imminent danger of even those secluded getaways becoming crowded and polluted as well in the near future. Users often distinguished between holidays at the seaside and in the mountains, with the latter receiving much more favourable comments. The Rhodope Mountains in particular were often mentioned as a great place to spend a summer vacation in. As a whole, positive comments of tourism in Bulgaria described places that were not so popular and offered a peaceful and relaxing holiday, as opposed to the party-focused seaside. The other type of positive posts accused those who disliked the local tourist industry of lacking patriotism and of trying to undermine Bulgarian businesses.