Grand Montana - Bansko

Grand Montana - Bansko

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Lubomir Popiordanov, Chair of Alternative Tourism Association: Bulgaria Must Be the Most Desired Village of Europe

Interview with Lubomir Popiordanov, Chair of the Bulgarian Association for Alternative Tourism (BAAT), and owner of the tour operator "Odysseia-In". BAAT is a non-profit public benefit organization established in 1998. It has over 90 members: national and regional tourist councils, nature parks, tour operators for specialized tourism, family hotels, guest houses and individuals. It is member of EUROGITES and official partner of ECEAT.

What is defined as "alternative tourism"? Would you say that it is better than the mainstream or "mass" tourism, and why?

Tourism is part of the worldwide democratization and new opportunities. For some people, the mass tourism might be good, and it won't be right to say that it is worse. Today the cheaper flights and the Internet are also a cause of concern for tourist companies because people can now travel without them. This is true for both the alternative and the mass tourism.

We at the Bulgarian Association for Alternative Tourism do not say that there may be many high-quality offers in the field of the mass tourism. What we say that the alternative tourism is the most appropriate type for Bulgaria. Bulgaria is a country with modest resources and modest in scale, and its tourist business must be as environment-friendly and sustainable as possible.

The mainstream or "mass" tourism in Bulgaria is connected with quantity not quality, it lacks in added value, it is a marginal product of beds, sheets, and cheap bars, which sometimes offer unlicensed alcohol.

Luckily, this is not the case with the alternative tourism. We say it is good because it is more suitable for the Bulgarian reality. It is crucial for Bulgaria to change the geography of its tourism. You know, the mass tourism is concentrated at certain spots around the country.

The alternative tourism offers an alternative to this patched-up development of tourist spots. It is possible in over 50% of the country. It is not just possible, it is developing. And it is developing without any support by the Bulgarian state. Can you imagine what would happen if the mass tourism was not propped up by the state? It would collapse. The lack of infrastructure would be fatal for it, which is not necessarily the case with the alternative tourism.

A foreign tourist using alternative tourism services spends at least EUR 50 per day in Bulgaria on average, whereas a foreign tourist in a resort such as Sunny Beach spends a lot less than EUR 30, plus they create a lot of pollution, a lot of problems that Bulgaria does not have the capacity to cope with.

How should Bulgaria balance between the development of the mainstream tourism and the alternative tourism?

We are not calling for putting an end to the mass tourism because this is not realistic; we just demand that it is not favored - because the state's focus has been on it for 50 years - and to pay attention to the alternatives. These alternatives would lead to solving crucial social issues such as the development of the rural regions, the mountain regions, creating new forms of employment - all governments have declared their interests in that in the recent years but these have been just declarations.

Every guest house, every adventure park is something different, outside the standards. Their clients are people who do not care for the distribution of the lamps in the room but that does not mean they are not looking for good food and high quality service. To the contrary. And they pay a lot more for that than those with the mainstream tourism and the all-inclusive packages.


Author: Ivan Dikov
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