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Invest Sofia’s Third ‘Sofia Tourism and Air Transport Market Report’ 2019 – Now Available for Download

The third edition of the annual report Sofia Tourism and Air Transport Market Report is available for download from our website.

Sofia Tourism and Air Transport Market Report 2019 takes a close look on the tourism sector in Sofia as of September 2019. The aim is to provide potential investors and all stakeholders interested in the development of the tourism sector in Sofia with comprehensive and accessible information.

The document presents an overview of the latest data, analyses and reviews of the key tourism indicators, as well as current statistics on Sofia Airport aircraft movements, the number of tourists by country of origin and by the purpose of their visit, the accommodation capacity of the city, the development of the urban environment in Sofia, the potential of the MICE industry, and the most important trends in the sector today.

Sofia Tourism and Air Transport Market Report 2019 is prepared by the Investment and Business Development Department of the Sofia Investment Agency.

 

Here are some of the key points from the report:

  • – The number of nights spent in Sofia increased by 122% and the number of tourists – by 110% since 2010. There is a tendency that annually around 60% of Sofia’s visitors come from abroad, and around 2/3 of the number of nights are spent by foreigners.
  • – In 2018, Sofia Airport serviced almost 7 million passengers, a 7.3% growth on 2017. In the last five years the total number of passengers has doubled, making Sofia Airport one of the top airports in terms of passenger increase among the top 100 busiest airports in Europe. This growth can be attributed both to the opening of 44 new destinations since 2015, mainly by low-cost carriers, and the improved performance of the Bulgarian economy.
  • – The ongoing urban rejuvenation projects like the expansion of Sofia’s metro, which now connects Sofia Airport’s Terminal 2 with all of the key destinations in the city, are another important factor for the tourism growth in Sofia. The extension and modernization of the Sofia Metro plays an important role in the currently developing concept of intermodal urban transport: by 2020 the first 12 kilometres of the third line of the subway are expected to be completed, and will be later connected with the Vitosha lifts.
  • – The hotel market in Sofia is still recovering from the setback experienced during the global financial crisis in 2008. Sofia’s hotel revenue per available room (RevPAR) dropped by over 30% in 2008 because of very significant decreases in both occupancy and average daily rates (ADR). It was not until 2014 that the city’s RevPAR started to recover, and by the end of 2018 it reached almost €51– a 4% growth on 2017.
  • – As of the summer of 2019, there were around 4 916 four- and five-star hotel rooms and more than 10 five-star hotels in Sofia, some of which belong to the biggest hotel brands worldwide.
  • – There is a renewed interest in the city from hotel investors and the number of available 4- and 5-star rooms is expected to increase by over 1 200 rooms by 2021. The demand and interest in opening new hotels in Sofia are expected to gradually shift to the three- and four-star segment.

 

 

 

What to expect in the future:

After the particularly strong period Sofia experienced in 2016 and 2017, the tourism growth continued, and is expected to continue in the next few years, although at a slower pace.

The growing number of tourists in Sofia is expected to have a strong positive effect on the further growth of the sector, including the modernization and development of the offered services and the elimination of the currently existing gaps in the overall tourist product in the city. It is expected that it will also put an upward pressure on the prices of accommodation, food and entertainment services.

Following the record growth of the total number of passengers in 2017 – 30.3%, the growth at Sofia Airport continued, but slowed down. Sofia Airport is currently operating at close to full capacity, and the new concessionaire of Sofia Airport will play a crucial role in the Airport’s renovation, expansion and modernisation in the coming years. 

A continuing increase in the number of short trips outside the active tourist seasons (city breaks) is expected in the coming years also due to the entry of low-cost carriers and charter flights and the reorientation of tourism from a ‘service economy’ to an ‘experience economy’, focused on the quality of the offered attractions and the experiences created by them. The demand for more specialized types of tourism (e.g. MICE and congress, weekend, youth tourism) will increase. Information and communication technologies will be increasingly used as effective.

Sofia’s SPA and mountain tourism is still underdeveloped. In the long run, the city could benefit from its over 30 thermal springs by expanding the currently existing infrastructure. Vitosha could also offer new types of tourism products and experiences.

The importance of congress and MICE tourism is expected to further increase in the coming years. The growth of the IT sector leads to the organisation of large international congresses and festivals in Sofia (e.g. Webit, DigitalK, etc.), attracting business tourists from all around the world. Sofia has the potential to catch the attention of and to accommodate foreign IT specialists participating in international entrepreneurial or exchange programs, as well as foreigners who want to start a business and move to Sofia. 

 

More detailed data, charts, analyzes and trends can be found in the full version of the report.

 

 

Sofia Tourism and Air Transport Market Report is based on data from the National Statistical Institute (NSI), Sofia Tourism Administration, Sofia Airport, the Ministry of Tourism of the Republic of Bulgaria, and various global, regional and national market analyses.

Our team would like to thank Mr. Ivo Marinov and Sofia Tourism Administration, the Ministry of Tourism of the Republic of Bulgaria, Sofia Airport, Mr. Emil Shukadarov from the Bulgarian Convention Bureau – BGCB, Mr. Boris Pavlov from the property management firm Flat Manager, Mr. Rosen Grigorov and Mr. Daniel Yordanov from the full-service real estate company MBL, Mr. Plamen Bachev from the commercial real estate advisory company Cushman & Wakefield Forton and Mr. Kaloyan Vangelov from the business development consulting company Synovent for their help and valuable insights.

If you have further questions regarding the report or other data on the investment climate in Sofia, do not hesitate to contact our team at contact@investsofia.com.

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