Priority Axis 3: Sustainable Tourism Development


Tourism is perceived as one of the priority sectors of Bulgarian economy. Its potential is demonstrated by its contribution to GDP, export and foreign exchange receipts as well as job creation.

The analysis of Bulgarian tourism development shows that in comparison with the competitiveness, quality and diversification of services of recognized destinations at international market, Bulgarian tourism takes the average level towards the developed tourist countries. This necessitates:

a)      purposeful and controlled exploitation of all cultural, natural, geographic, socio-economic and other resources in compliance with the recommendations of the world organizations (UN, World tourism organization), EC documents and other institutions. This concerns the preservation of the environment, preservation and development of the cultural and historic heritage, traditions, natural resources, etc.

b)      development of the tourist-related national, regional and local infrastructure for development of the various forms of tourism – seaside, skiing, cultural, eco-, rural, spa- and balneology tourism, as well as development of human capacity in the field of tourism

c)      effective marketing and advertising of Bulgarian tourism and established image of Bulgaria as a destination, offering diverse viable and attractive tourist products in the field of sustainable tourism

The country relies and will continue to rely further on both the seaside and skiing tourism. Despite the recommendations and good intentions to diversify the traditional tourist products, the development of such kind of tourism (cultural, eco, health, adventure, etc.) has been limited. For many potential attractions it has not been possible to exploit their potential (to be able to ensure enough visitors with longer stay) and the related local tourism infrastructure is incomplete, outdated, worn-out or missing. In addition, Bulgarian inland areas are not very popular tourist destinations and there is a need to create positive regional image. At the same time the developed areas are facing difficulties in product diversification, extension of market segments, ensuring higher revenues, longer season and increased accommodation occupancy rates. In this sense, investments in diversification, for instance, of the seaside tourism with cultural and spa attractions, of the skiing tourism with cultural and ecological products or the development of Sofia, Plovdiv and Varna as destinations for city-breaks will contribute to extension of the active season, increase of the bed occupancy rate, higher revenues from a tourist, etc. The new untraditional tourist products (cultural, eco-, health, adventure, etc,) have the potential to become an alternative for better exploitation of the local resources of a specific territory, thus adding higher value, economic benefits and sustainable approach. They are necessary both for the seaside and skiing tourist regions, as well as for the remaining less developed tourist regions within the country.

Moreover, the existing attractions and products are promoted separately and not as a part of bigger regional products. Cooperation and joint efforts for tourism development at local, regional and national level remain limited. As a result many areas are developed mainly as “stops” and not as real tourism destinations, thus not be able to ensure longer visitors’ stay and related economic benefits.

Thereof, the rationale of the priority is to develop the tourism product in an environmentally and economically sustainable way: The aim is to contribute to the economic diversification of the regions and to ensure opportunities for sustainable growth both at regional and national level. The focus will be at sustainable tourism development based on product and market diversification and better use of tourism potential. The priority seeks to improve the business environment and to provide investment solutions that promote tourism and business development by developing tourist attractions and related infrastructure, socialising and modernizing tourist sites, broadening and improving destination marketing, enhancing the market intelligence within tourism industry and policy and strengthening partnership between different actors. Without this support the prospected level of tourism and business development would take place much later (if at all) but not in such a comprehensive and complementary way as envisaged in this priority axis.

An essential element of the priority will be to maximize the impacts of implemented activities by prioritising bigger projects that contribute significantly to competitiveness and income generation for the regions. The new tourist products have to be developed on the basis of the existing resources, considering the value of a cultural or natural site, its uniqueness and attractiveness at tourist market as leading principles in territorial aspect. 

The selection of the priority corresponds to the National Regional Development Strategy, which strives to achieve dynamic and balanced development of the individual NUTS II regions and looks at tourism both as a tool for “preserving and valorising of natural and cultural heritage” and for “strengthening the urban-region relations and enhancement of socio-economic cohesion”.

All tourism policy relevant documents incl. the National Strategy for Sustainable Tourism Development 2009-2013 (envisages the development of sustainable tourism as one of the national priorities, as well as the product and market diversification and improvement of destinations marketing. OPRD is broadly in line with the “geographical segmentation” proposed in the report on the National Tourism Strategy. According to the afore mentioned Strategy, the main objective for the tourism development for the period up to year 2013 is “to increase the competitiveness and effectiveness of the tourist sector in Bulgaria through efficient exploitation and preservation of the existing natural and anthropogenic resources in compliance with the principles for sustainable tourism development”. Therefore, OPRD corresponds to the strategic aims, which contributes to implementation of the main objective of the Strategy for Sustainable Tourism Development, namely: positioning of Bulgaria as a higher class tourist destination at the world tourist market in terms of quality and added value; improvement of infrastructure on national, regional and local level; unified implementation of international standards and best European practices and introduction of innovations regarding products, technologies and human resources in tourist sector in Bulgaria; preservation, protection and improvement of the qualities of the tourist resources, including natural, cultural and anthropogenic ones.

The priority axis is in full compliance with the sustainable development principles and directions and its environmental aspects incorporated in the draft Strategy for Sustainable Development of Bulgaria (2007). The Strategy is based on the renewed Strategy for Sustainable Development of EC and the Lisbon strategy, recognizing tourism as an important factor for increasing quality of life and business competitiveness through development of sustainable forms of tourism (cultural, eco-, balneo/ spa, etc.) and introduction of environmentally friendly practices.

The priority axis contributes to the objectives of the the National Strategic Reference Framework that emphasizes the rich and diverse natural and cultural heritage, recognizes tourism’s contribution to national growth, interprets tourism as one of the main elements of the local development potential and one of the engines of regional and local development and calls for strengthening the regional dimension of product development, emphasizing on its role for economic diversification especially in rural areas as well as for the protection and utilization of natural and cultural heritage.

The priority axis is in line with the Community Strategic Guidelines on Cohesion interpreting tourism as one of the measures to stimulate economic growth, and preserving historical and cultural heritage as potential for tourism development. The Guidelines also emphasize the role of tourism in development especially of rural areas and the need of an integrated approach dedicated to quality, focusing on consumer satisfaction and based on the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development.

Specific objective

Enhancing the regional tourism potential to develop and market sustainable and diversified, territorially specific and higher value-added tourist products and increase the sector’s contribution to sustainable regional development.

Operations to be supported

Activities to be supported under this priority are structured in 3 operations that are described in more details below. The operations are:

Operation 3.1. Enhancement of Tourism Attractions and Related Infrastructure

Operation 3.2. Regional Tourism Product Development and Marketing of Destinations

Operation 3.3. National Tourist Marketing


Municipalities, associations of municipalities; Ministry of Culture (specific beneficiary), local, regional and national tourism associations registered in the National Tourism Register, public bodies managing cultural monuments of national and world importance, Ministry of Economy, Energy and Tourism (MEET) (specific beneficiary).

Last modified: Wednesday, September 14, 2011 3:52 PM