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In Bansko, 2022/2023 Winter Tourist Season Kicks Off to Snowless Yet Optimistic Start

Despite the lack of snow, the 2022/2023 winter tourist season was formally launched in Bansko’s town square on Saturday evening in the presence of Bulgarian Tourism Minister Ilin Dimitrov, Youth and Sports Minister Vesela Lecheva, three-times Olympic champion and two-times world champion Maria Hofl-Riesch, and five-time World Cup overall champion Marc Girardelli.
Lecheva said during the opening that she was proud of the fact that Bansko is one of best hosts of world-class skiing competitions, referring to the World Cup and European Cup events.
Dimitrov stressed that the resort town offers a varied tourism product: a majestic mountain with breath-taking views and exciting year-round adventures for trekkers, climbers, photographers, thrill seekers and golfers, every kind of extreme sport, hot curative mineral water and clean air as a prerequisite for the development of hydrotherapy and health tourism, a unique and irresistibly delicious cuisine, wine tasting, an authentic atmosphere, architecture and folklore to augment the experience.  
He added that his Ministry has made tremendous efforts to promote the winter resort at major travel fairs. “These efforts have produced a result, with record bookings this summer, which are even better than last year’s,” the Tourism Minister pointed out.
Hofl-Riesch told journalists before the ceremony that she was glad to be back to Bulgaria ten years after entering a World Cup event there. Back then, she was very much impressed as she did not expect to find such a fine resort in that part of Europe and the world. In 2012 she and her colleagues saw a competition of an incredible class, an impeccable organization and, as far as she is concerned, the world’s best hospitality and unique treatment of skiers. All competitions here are at a terrific level, and Bansko holds a rather prestigious position in the ski community, the world and Olympic champion said.
Girardelli said, for his part, that he expects snow in Bansko as early as next week “because there is always snow in Bansko for Christmas”. He is certain that the temperatures will be right and the season will be good.
The launch programme included a presentation and tasting of traditional local dishes, a folk music and dance performance, and a fire show.  The BTA correspondents report that the opening of the ski season in the other two major winter resorts, Pamporovo and Borovets, has been postponed for next week because the spring temperature have melted the snow cover. Pamporovo AD are planning to put the snow-making machines in operation this Saturday and Sunday, and the season will start on December 22 or 23 at the latest.
At Borovets, snow is produced whenever weather permits, and Ulen (the company running the ski area) said it is looking forward to snow falls and low temperatures.
Arrivals May OutdoPre-Pandemic 2019 
Deputy Tourism Minister Irena Georgieva expects that the winter resorts will rely again on local clients. Traditionally, Bulgarian tourists log some 1 million arrivals, checking in at accommodations with 10 and more bed places. More foreign tourists are expected, too, considering the interest registered in the markets of the UK, Romania, Israel, North Macedonia, Serbia and Greece.
The Tourism Ministry projects a 5 to 10% growth this year compared to the 2021/2022 season. The sector expects 400,000 arrivals monthly or more than 1.2 million overall for the December-April period, which is at the same level or even better than in 2019, when the industry in Bulgaria had one of its top years. Bansko expects 12% more tourists, Pamporovo 15% more, and Borovets the same margin, said Deputy Tourism Minister Mirela Modeva, quoting local government sources.  
On the average, winter-tourism-related services and goods are expected to be 10 to 15% more expensive this year, which is still below the inflation rate, sector executives say. Winter holidays with skiing in Bulgaria are competitively priced compared to Austria, Italy, Switzerland and France. 
Prices vary widely, from BGN 11,000-plus for four nights at a presidential suite during the New Year season to BGN 60-100 per night inclusive of a festive dinner at a mountain chalet. Most foreign tourists can afford four- and five-star hotels and traditionally prefer these accommodation facilities, which account for 75% of foreign nationals’ overnight stays and for just 4% of Bulgarians’.
Despite the challenges, revenues from overnight stays reached BGN 40.8 million in 2021 (of which BGn 28.1 million from Bulgarians and BGN 12.7 millions from foreigners). The total number of overnight stays at all accommodations in December 2021 was 127.3% up from December 2020.
Challenging Logistics
To cope with the expected increase in the tourist flow this year, Bansko and Razlog will need between 38 and 41 police officers to be posted to the two municipalities between December 15 and March 15, mayors Ivan Kadev and Ventsislav Garmenov said.
Interior Minister Ivan Demerdzhiev said that some an extra 30 police officers can be sent to Bansko for the winter tourist season, but the local authority cannot afford to pay for their accommodation, and the business community does not help in this respect, either.
Bansko needs an additional emergency medical team to respond to skiing injuries. The EMS in Blagoevgrad should spare some of its resources for this purpose and, failing this, posting an additional medical team will be contemplated, Deputy Health Minister Lidia Chorbanova said.
Razlog Mayor Ventsislav Garmenov said that his municipality is ready for snow cleaning of the roads and for garbage collection.
In late November, Ulen CEO Maya Hristoskova asked the National Assembly Tourism Committee to support the construction of a second gondola in the Bansko ski area – a problem that has been open for years, which forces skiers to wait for a long time at the lower lift station. Committee Chairman Tsoncho Ganev agreed that this situation is abnormal and said that the issue can be discussed with the caretaker cabinet or with a future regular government, if any.
Vitosha Ski acting Executive Director Yan Kalchev argued that the dereliction of the ski area on Mt Vitosha because the institutions representing the State lack a vision mars Sofia’s image and denies the residents of the capital city, and especially children, the opportunity to practise winter sports.