On July 20 Sofia Airport was awarded the first prize for fastest growing traffic in the category from 3 to 5 million passengers from the online magazine for aviation news and analysis www.anna.aero. The EURO ANNIES award was given because of a record increase of 21.8% of passengers in 2016. The awards are given for the eighth consecutive year after an analysis of the results of more than 350 airports across Europe.
The number of passengers traveling through the airport is increasing again this year, and the trend is expected to continue in 2017 and 2018. A record number of 4 980 387 passengers passed through the two terminals in 2016. Mid July, Wizz Air, which had the largest market share for passengers to and from Sofia in 2016, announced it would increase its passenger capacity to 2.54 million in 2018, an 12% increase over 2017 and 40% over 2016. In early March, the carrier launched the first Sofia-Varna domestic line and plans to launch two more destinations from Sofia Airport – to Lisbon and Nice next year.
Since 2009 the tourist flow to Bulgaria has been growing steadily. The number of tourists and the revenue from the sector has also grown. In 2016 Bulgaria welcomed a record 8 252 000 tourists and the revenue from international tourism was EUR 3 151 900 000. This year a further 10% increase in number of tourists is expected.
A Deutsche Welle report recently highlighted the reasons why Bulgaria is expecting yet another great summer. According to the report, Bulgaria remains one of the most preferred tourist destinations for families from the Russian Federation (71 000 tourists from Russia visited the country for the period January-May, which is a growth of 6.4% compared to the same period in 2016).
The growth from the German market is even greater – over 15%. According to tour operators most inquiries about holidays in Bulgaria come from Germany.
Rural tourism in Bulgaria has also reported nearly 20% growth since the beginning of the summer, according to the Association of Bulgarian Villages. For August 85% of the accommodation capacity for weekdays is filled, and it is approaching 100% for periods of national holidays. Foreigners in rural tourism account for 20% of all tourists in the sector and from the beginning of the season there is an increase in the number of visitors from Romania, Russia, Germany and France.
Sofia has registered 17.87% growth of visitors for the first four months of the year, while the increase of revenues is 25%. In a media interview, Ivo Marinov, director of the Municipal Enterprise “Tourism” announced that by June Sofia was visited by 630 635 visitors. The number of days for which tourists stay in the city has also increased – the nights spent were 20.6% more than the same period last year. The markets that generate the largest number of tourists are also shifting. The first place is held by Italy, followed by Great Britain, Germany, Greece, Israel, USA, Turkey, France, Spain and Romania. Thirty percent of the foreigners are attracted by the cultural and historical sites, followed by business trips- 20%.
With the upcoming Presidency of the Council of the European Union, growth is expected to continue steadily in 2018. Major international chains such as Hyatt and Intercontinental have announced their intention to enter the market next year.