Communications' role in the tourism industry

Creating a unified, positive and sustainable brand for Bulgaria - am (im)possible misssion for communications specialists

What is the role of communications - media, PR, marketing and advertising - in creating a unified, positive and sustainable brand for Bulgaria? What is and what should Bulgaria's communications strategy be as a tourist destination. These questions were at the focus of the Comms Talks: Tourism discussion which took place on 28 June at Sofia's SOHO coworking space.

Although, according to data provided by the Minsitry of Tourism, tourism in Bulgaria is on the rise, the discussion went through several questions, including if the growth in question was accidental, what kind of tourists does Bulgaria currently attract and what kind it wants to attract, as well as what needs to be done for this to happen.

"The global trend in tourism includes three main components: ecology, sustainability and bio, and we have to conform to them if we want to respond to expectations. Tourism from neighbouring countries is also unexplored and is not utilized fully, bad infrastructure adds to this", Perceptica's Product Director Georgi Auad said. "We have We have many problems, including in communications. We don't advertise, we're yelling. A tourist from Britain can only know about Bulgaria and its attractions from the media, and that's where our country gets mostly negative coverage. A good example is Sunny Beach - about 70% of published articles last year discuss the resort on the Black Sea in a criminal context", he added.

Who do we want to attract - the wealthy Romanian, Greek or Serbian tourists, or the en masse western tourists, who only come to Bulgaria for the Sunny Beach type of tourism? "Today the entire industry is focused on the mass tourists", ad agency Nitram's Executive director Martin Dimitrov said. "People are looking less and less for all inclusive hotel-based tourism, they don't much care for destinations. People don't want to feel like tourists when they are on vacation."

According to Perceptica's research, presented at the event, Rila Monastery is the most preferred destination in Bulgaria among foreign tourists, but has 20% less reviews in TripAdvisor than the Sunny Beach Aquapark. Tourism in Bulgaria has the potential to increase its influence on the British market, but the question is this: do we really want more tourists that recognize Bulgaria as a cheap destination, offering cheap pleasures, and how could we change the country's image on the international scene.

The event participants rallied behind the opinion that tourism should be segmented into types - culture, extreme, countryside, wine and golf tourism, amongh others, and that's the trend globally, this is what's most sought-after, but without missing key elements like delicious food, well-developed infrastructure and high-class service.

Experts concluded that tourism's main problem is not one of communications, but rather of state - how the government develops sustainable models and policies in the tourism field (or how it doesn't). Along with that, another issue which largely defines the type of tourists we attract and the way they remember our country: can we, and should we be more hospitable, so as to create a more sustainable type of tourism which doesn't rely on season-based activities, but instead relies on experience and hospitality.

The speaker line-up included: Martin Dimitrov, Executive director of Nitram advertising agency; Vesela Nikolaeva - Editor-in-chief of Severozapazenabg.com and co-author of "Ot Balkana do Dunav"; Ivan Radev from the Association of European Journalists; Desislava Olovanova - Executive director of McCann Sofia, and Georgi Auad - Product Director of Perceptica.

Comms Talks: Tourism marks the finale of Season 1 of the Comms Talks series, to be continued with a fresh three editions as of September 2019.

The complete media coverage report, which includes monitoring and analysis of the 23 most popular culture and eco destinations, including Plovdiv and Sunny Beach, is available for free and you can download it here.

Comms Talks returns from September 2019 with three new editions. Follow us on Facebook and never miss a thing.