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Promoting Bulgaria

There are many ways - some traditional, some alternative - to promote Bulgaria as a tourist destination, with various original undertakings being demonstrated since the beginning of the month.

The first to embark on a different approach was the national flag carrier Bulgaria Air, which on March 1 launched a series of initiatives to present Bulgaria to the world.

The company management and Transport Minister Petar Mutafchiev announced the start of a project entitled The Spirit of Bulgaria on Board Bulgaria Air.

On March 1, the Bulgaria Air planes were decorated with “martenitsi” - red and white tassels believed to bring health and good luck - that Bulgarians traditionally exchange on the date. All passengers were acquainted with the tradition and each given a martenitsa.

However, the project did not end with the red-and-white decorations. Throughout the campaign, there will be a series of one-month events focusing on various aspects of the Bulgarian identity - the national cultural and historical heritage, the Bulgarian language, sports, nature, Bulgaria’s faces and others.

The events will be implemented through changing the outside decoration of the aircraft and organising special experiences on board the planes. This way the message will get directly to 40 000 passengers a month, and hundreds of thousands of foreigners, who will see the planes at airports all around the world, will get it indirectly.

According to Zlatin Surustov, executive director of Bulgaria Air, wherever they are, with this carrier Bulgarian nationals will feel closer to and more frequently at home. In his words, the company is Bulgaria’s natural envoy, and the ambition of its management is that their aircraft turn into a kind of a visit card Bulgaria presents to the rest of the world.

Furthermore, Bulgaria Air is the initiator and sponsor of the Days of Bulgarian Culture in Rome. The company’s participation consists of providing transport for Bulgarian performers, the stage property and cultural artefacts.

“I believe that similar initiatives, directed by the company’s management, will not only help raise the image of the carrier at its privatisation but will also be instrumental in the attainment of the great goals it has set itself: more destinations and more customers for this new and small but stable company,” Mutafchiev said.

In his view, the initiative gets off ground at the right time - on the eve of Bulgaria’s accession to the European Union (EU), which would give the EU citizens the opportunity to get familiar with the country in advance.

Bulgaria Air said it would operate flights to new destinations in the summer season: Sofia-Dublin (Ireland) and Milan (Italy)-Varna (on the Black Sea).

The service to Dublin will be opened in April, and at the beginning of the summer season the flights will be between Dublin and the Bulgarian Black Sea airports (Varna and Bourgas). A new service between London and Bourgas will be operated in the summer, too.

Another opportunity for bringing Bulgaria closer to foreign holidaymakers is already being provided by Bulgaria’s second largest GSM operator, GloBul.

The company and the Bulgaria in Miniature project (that has so far hosted an exhibition of miniature copies of Bulgarian historical and cultural buildings) have started their co-operation with the launch of a mobile guide of the most significant historical, cultural and natural landmarks in Bulgaria.

Via the Bulgaria in Miniature Mobile Guide (called Bulgaria Na Dlan, translating as “Bulgaria in your palm”), Bulgarian and foreign tourists will have access to mobile telephone lines with comprehensive information about the most important historical monuments and natural phenomena.

Signboards with the respective numbers at the sites will inform tourists of the info-line numbers of in Bulgarian and English. The info hotlines will be accessible from anywhere in Bulgaria for all GloBul subscribers at 1.20 leva (about 0.60 euro), VAT included, for a call. GloBul would donate all revenue from the hot lines to the further development of the Bulgaria in Miniature project, the mobile operator said.

Turnovgrad (now called Veliko Turnovo), the capital of Bulgaria between the 12th and 14th century; Arbanassi (on one of the hills around Veliko Turnovo), known for the legendary collection of murals in the Nativity Church; and the Black Sea’s Kaliakra Cape are the first historical monuments included in the mobile guide initiative.

The project authors, Sunny Suninski and Stefani Racheva, elected the first three sites as symbols of the history, the invincible spirit and faith of Bulgarians.

The respective mobile numbers are: for Turnovgrad - 1300 001 in Bulgarian and 1300 002 in English; for Arbanassi - 1300 003 in Bulgarian and 1300 004 in English; and for Kaliakra Cape - 1300 005 in Bulgarian and 1300 006 in English.

A total of 20 sights of the capital Sofia will be included in the mobile guide by Easter, and by June some 50 sights from all over the country are expected to become part of the project.

However, the crown for the most alternative way of alternatively promoting Bulgaria as a tourist destination did not originate in Bulgaria.

More than 60 000 Germans paid a virtual visit to the north-western Bulgarian town of Vratsa at in the end of February due to a radio quiz of the German Antenne Bayern radio.

The radio announced a prize of 80 000 euro for the listener who first translated into English or German the Greek word “orivasia”, which means climbing. Hundreds of thousands of listeners rushed to find the translation. Those who had access to the internet googled the word and so came across the Greek version of Vratsa’s site with a description of the rock gorge Vratsata (doorway), from which Vratsa takes its name.

Peak time the visits exceeded 300 a second, the total reaching 66 140 at the end of the day. The site received dozens of letters where the German entrants in the radio game expressed their amazement with beauty of the place and asked for directions on how to reach it.

The discovery of the site triggered discussions in hundreds of internet forums in Germany where users argued that the word was most probably Bulgarian and denoted the name of a resort or town in Bulgaria.

Awed by the beauty of Bulgarian nature, the mountain climbers who virtually visited Vratsa wanted to come and see it in person as well.