What do Foreign Tourists Like About Sofia?

Opinions | March 27, 2019, Wednesday // 09:26|  views

Cultural tourism and exploration, combined with easy accessibility, low prices, variety of restaurants and local cuisine are the advantages of Sofia as a tourist destination. The capital is visited mainly by young people who have come for a short vacation with friends, but there is also a high share of re-visiting visitors of Bulgaria with business purposes.

According to foreign tourists, which according to statistics are more tourists from other parts of our country, Sofia is cheap, there are well-meaning people, many parks and green areas and delicious food. They do not like the dirt, cold weather, urban transport, and not enough English speakers, especially from the older generations. 

Dirt, along with traffic and dusty air, are the problems highlighted by Bulgarian tourists in the capital. According to them, the main advantages of Sofia as a tourist destination are the easy movement, the beautiful architecture, the variety of restaurants and the well-meaning people. For them the capital is not so cheap.

These are some of the conclusions of a report on tourism in Sofia, prepared by the team of Vision for Sofia, whose vision is the creation of a long-term strategy for the development of the city and the change of the overall development plan. The results for the satisfaction of the tourists and the purpose of the visit are based on a poll among them.

Among the challenges and areas for improvement are the capacity of the metropolitan airport, the access to tourist attractions on the outskirts of the capital, as well as the problems of "false" taxis that overcharge pointed out foreigners.

The main direction of development is the persuasion of tourists for longer stays. Currently they average 1.8 days, with over 70% of the respondents being short-term guests (1-3 days). Moreover, they are not very pleased with the opportunities for recreation, sports, cultural life.

According to the analysis, tourists compare Sofia with other Central European cities. The authors recommend taking the best experience in tourism from Prague, Budapest and Zagreb.

Vacations with friends

Sofia is mostly a youth destination for excursions with friends with cultural purposes and exploration. The largest number of visitors to the capital (45%) come with such goals, followed by business goals (23%) and entertainment (20%), according to the analysis. Most tourists come for the first time and the city is their only destination in the country.

Although the main reason for the visits is interest in Sofia, second place is the cheap airline tickets. And the greatest advantage for the tourist product offered in Sofia is its low price. The city strengthens its image of a "budget destination" with a dominant share of tourists who spend a day at up to 50 leva.

The opinion and recommendation of relatives and friends have the greatest importance as a source of information about Sofia (50% of all respondents). However, recommendations from acquaintances are important for Bulgarians (91.9% of tourists in the country), people with secondary education (82%), and not for foreigners (only 29%). They use social networks and tourist blogs as a source of information about Sofia.

Poor public transport

According to the analysis, the foreigners are more satisfied with their transportation to Sofia, which is mainly by airplane. And here the competitive advantage is the price.

Bulgarians travel by bus and are less satisfied with the service.

Controversy remains the assessment of airport infrastructure and bus and train stations. The report makes recommendations for improving links between stations and the city, for improving adult service and for easier and more convenient access to information.

Unlike the Bulgarian tourists who appreciate the public transport, the foreigners are mostly satisfied with its price. Overall, the quality of public transport is not among the strengths of the capital. Negative views concern how to change transport, lack of sufficient information, and very poor infrastructure. Foreigners are also complaining about taxi drivers who are lying with bills.

According to the Vision for Sofia analysis, information on public transport as a whole and buses to key tourist sites outside the city center such as the National Museum of History, the Boyana Church and Vitosha Mountain are more difficult to access without a car.

Accommodation - in private apartments

As far as accommodation is concerned, the data shows a large share of leased homes mainly via the AirBnB platform. This trend has replaced traditional hotel accommodation within a few years. Renting an apartment is the most preferred option for foreigners (37%) and second place among Bulgarians (19%).

Cheap hotels, apartments, hostels are once again the highest rated rate of accommodation. Guests are more critical about the quality of the service, the variety and the availability of information.

"Improvements are needed by translation of websites in foreign languages, improvements in the distribution and quality of information related to accommodation in Sofia via different communication channels," Vision for Sofia said.

The foreigners eat in restaurants, the Bulgarians - in bakeries

Dining options in the capital are better appreciated than other tourist services. While foreign visitors rely on a higher category of catering establishments, unlike Bulgarians, they are slightly more unsatisfied by specific indicators such as quality of service, availability of information.

On the other hand, the prices, which are again well appreciated by the foreigners, are a bit high for the Bulgarians, the oldest visitors and the ones working in the city.

Tourists from abroad visit mostly traditional Bulgarian restaurants with folklore programs and restaurants with international cuisine. Bulgarians eat at their relatives and friends and in fast food restaurants.

Improvement of tourist attractions

"The analysis finds that the quality of services in tourist attractions has the greatest need for improvements in the sphere of time, such improvements could include investments in modernization and new technologies, improving the quality of tourist experiences through additional services, for the purchase of mixed sightseeing tickets, etc. ", the report said.

The level of satisfaction with the night life in Sofia is average. The quality of the products and services provided, the service, the qualification of the personnel, the information should be improved.

The sporting and recreational opportunities of the capital bring the tourists the least satisfaction. In general, they are not popular among short-term tourists. In the long run, creating more recreational opportunities as well as attracting international cultural events would improve the city's image.


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