Photo: Yordan Simeonov (EU2018BG)
Ministers responsible for tourism from EU member states discussed in Sofia the establishment of a European Tourism Fund. It will promote the sustainable development of the sector and will help resolve any arising issues in areas like funding, staffing, the creation of joint projects, and others.
The Croatian Tourism Minister Gari Capelli presented the idea during an informal meeting on Tourism and Economic Growth in Bulgaria’s capital. He also requested support from his EU peers for the creation of a special operating authority for tourism in Brussels due to the sector’s importance for the development of the European economy.
The meeting participants also discussed a proposal by the Bulgarian Minister for Tourism, Nikolina Angelkova, to create a Sofia Map of 100 major European tourist attractions. Its purpose would be to serve as another driver of interest in Europe among tourists and draw more visitors to the Old Continent from remote destinations such as China, Japan, India, and the USA. The idea is based on Bulgaria’s successful experience with a map of the 100 most important national tourism sites.
“The purpose of the Sofia Map is to support the development of tourism, which is a key driver of economic growth. We expect the map to contribute to the sector’s long-term sustainable growth on a national scale and at European level”, commented Minister Angelkova.
The Minister referred to data from the European Travel Commission, according to which international tourist arrivals in Europe in 2017 stood at 671 million, an increase of 8.4 % compared to the previous year. Revenue from tourism in Europe in 2016 exceeded USD 440 billion (approximately EUR 359 billion).
“Tourism also provides 12% of European jobs. Thus, the sector is among the top three economic sectors contributing to the generation of gross domestic product”, Minister Angelkova stated further.
“During the meeting we discussed the prerequisites for upgrading the quality of tourism as a product and for creating extra connectivity, especially on the Balkans, where integration in tourism has already been achieved”.
Tourism is an important economic factor for Bulgaria and has developed positively in recent years. The total number of international tourist visits in 2017 was 8.88 million, registering a 7.6 % growth compared to the previous year. The highest share of visitors came from EU Member States. In 2017 their number exceeded 5.45 million, accounting for over 61 % of all international travel to Bulgaria. Revenues from international tourism in Bulgaria grew by 9.1 % during the period January-November 2017, compared to the same period of 2016. In absolute terms, proceeds from international tourism during the first 11 months of 2017 exceeded BGN 6.6 billion.
The forum on Tourism and Economic Growth was attended by Elżbieta Bieńkowska, EU Commissioner for Single Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SME’s, Zurab Pololikashvili, Secretary General of UN’s World Tourism Organisation, and European ministers and delegates from 30 countries. Also participating were representatives of the European Parliament and the European Committee of the Regions.