Bulgaria On Course to Rival Spain as Destination of Choice for Older Travelers

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.

Plovdiv old town

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?

Burgas Bulgaria

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.

Bulgaria for older travelersBulgaria for older travelers

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14 thoughts on “Bulgaria On Course to Rival Spain as Destination of Choice for Older Travelers”

  1. This was really interesting to read about. I hadn’t considered the trends of older travelers increasing tourism in general but there is certainly an effect from it from the data you shared, and it makes perfect sense. It seems that travel has become more accessible in general as well, especially for my own generation. It will be interesting to see if this has any affects on Bulgaria over time, if it will become as you say a classic holiday spot, and if the prices will remain low.

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  2. Wow, I had no idea Bulgaria was becoming so popular among older people. That is a huge increase! But the way you describe it, it makes total sense, it sounds like Bulgaria has a lot to offer. Do you think older travelers are also becoming more adventurous and willing to think outside of the box when it comes to holiday destinations? I’ve only ever been to Sofia but I would love to explore more of Bulgaria, especially the countryside. Even though I am definitely not an older traveler 😉

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    • IDK about most of the travelers but there some ardent travelers who are always in a hunt of less frequented destinations and I am surely one of them.

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  3. Bulgaria is high on our bucket list and I’d love to plan a trip to this beautiful country next year. I had heard about the Black Sea resorts that are great for summers but hadn’t known about the ski resorts Pamporovo and Borovets until I read your post. With relatively low prices for now and year-round attractions, it’s not surprising that it has started to attract more and more tourists now.

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  4. This is quite interesting, I must say. I would have never imagined Bulgaria as a destination for older travelers especially because it is still very offbeat for the younger crowd. But this is enlightening. Would love to see further insights from you as to what is causing this shift.

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  5. This is good to read this topic related with older traveler. If I have to find a place to my parents , Bulgaria is the interesting one. Thank you for remind of insurance during the traveling especially for older traveler. Also the accomodation , tour guide and flight links are easy to contact and survey cheaper rate.

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