Not so long ago, Bulgaria was considered a treasured secret of the savvy travelers set. A land of soaring mountains, fascinating culture and history, and not to mention pristine sun-kissed beaches along the country’s Black Sea coast, all largely off the beaten path of mainstream Western tourism. But all of that has now changed. Last year, travel industry body ABTA listed Bulgaria in its 12 global destinations to watch in 2019, partly on the back of the beautiful ancient city of Plovdiv being named the European Capital of Culture. Overall, ABTA estimated that summer visitor numbers to the country would be up by 30% or more this year compared to 2019.
This can be seen as final confirmation of a long-running trend. Over the past decade or more, word about Bulgaria – the beautiful scenery, the excellent beaches, the cheap prices – has gradually been filtering out. It is no longer a secret in-the-know travelers can keep to themselves. Bulgaria is now without a doubt entering the holidaymaking mainstream.
There are all sorts of theories as to what has driven the Bulgarian tourism boom. Low prices are certainly a factor, with the country now offering the kind of bargain getaways that first attracted throngs of visitors to places like Greece and Spain. Another is the fact that Bulgaria offers a genuine all-year-round destination, with ski resorts like Pamporovo and Borovets in the mountainous interior proving as popular in the winter months as the Black Sea resorts are in summer.
Boom in older travelers
One interesting factor that is only just coming to light is the influence of older travelers on soaring visitor numbers to the country. A recent survey from UK travel insurance company Avanti, which specialises in policies for senior travelers, reveals the massive growth in the number of over-65s heading to Bulgaria over the past 20 years – a hike of 1398%.
This is worthy of attention because the rise in the numbers of older people traveling abroad is a key trend influencing growth in overseas tourism in general. Avanti’s study confirms this, showing that the number of UK residents aged 65 and over traveling abroad each year has increased by 35% since 1998. The main beneficiaries are more ‘traditional’ holiday destinations for UK travelers like Italy, Spain and France, which between them account for more visits from senior travelers than the rest of the world combined.
Related: How to choose the right travel insurance for your next adventure?
But while these countries have seen the numbers of UK tourists aged 65 and over soar by upwards of 200% each in the last 20 years, that still pales compared to the enormous rate of growth seen in Bulgaria. It could be argued, of course, that Bulgaria started from a much lower base, with visitor numbers from Western Europe still just a trickle in the decade after the fall of communism. But with a rate of growth in the number of older tourists almost seven times what it is in more established destinations further west, it won’t take too long before Bulgaria is rivalling the likes of Italy and Spain as a preferred choice amongst over-65s.
Helpful resources for visiting Bulgaria
If you need to rent a car for your Bulgaria trip, use this Sixt coupon and get 15% off on all car rentals.
For the cheapest flights to Bulgaria, use this special offer by AirFrance. I booked my flight through it a few times and saved at least $50 every single time.
For the best travel insurance deals for your trip to Bulgaria, check out World Nomads.
If you’re looking for some great tours in Bulgaria, Insight Vacation is a great choice. This offer gets you 10% off on all of their tours in Bulgaria.
Finally, if you want to save on accommodation, use my Booking discount code to save 10% on all accommodation rentals in Bulgaria.
Alternatively, if you’re looking for some luxury, this offer will get you the best deals for all IHG Hotels in Bulgaria.