This article is about problems you could experience on establishing a tourism rural business in the Bulgarian countryside. Information, advises and solutions provided have been collected during a process of business development undertake in Bulgaria between 2012/2015. (Be aware this article won’t examine general problems to develop a touristic business, we only discuss about problems correlate to the Bulgarian market.) *
Language and Alphabet
How it is for any country Bulgaria has its own language and the Cyrillic is used as alphabet, for who is not familiar with it this could be a problem in the begin, fortunately, Bulgaria seems to be more internationally oriented due to Its small internal market (7.000.000 people) for you to develop a stable income you have to head straight on the international market, so unless you do not speak any English you won’t have big difficulty to start your business and find your first customers. However, we highly recommend you to take your time and learn this new language for obvious social aspects and any possible future business development.
Bulgarian workers are well trained in hospitality, your chance to find employees is correlate to the location you are setting up your business on and of course wage you are going to pay them. Big cities like Sofia, Plovdiv or Varna are good recruiting spots but, unless you do offer seasonal jobs, you won’t be able to find any professional interested to work and live in the deep country side. Unspecialized local workers could be a solution but also a big risk money and time wise. What we could advise you is to plan your business on a small scale and be ready to manage it on your own. It will make it more fun and easy in the begin providing you skills and right attitude for a future business development.
Bulgarian bureaucracy is complex and you really need an accountant to manage it, finding the right one is a bit of a challenge, Sofia and mayor cities have plenty of companies available providing you this kind of service, however we highly recommend you to spend time comparing services and prices to avoid bad surprises.
For people coming from wealthy countries Bulgaria seems a cheap market, many goods and services are cheap here and this is a fact and a good opportunity, otherwise we recommend you to do not overestimate your financial power, sometime people feel more reckless and confident in this kind of situation but remember to behave respectfully, showing off could just increase prices and make you an easy target for scammers, spend time instead comparing prices and average wage ( 942BGL/Month 2016) it could help you find the real money’s value saving yourself from bad experiences and providing you a clear view to the investments you need and profits you could achieve. Remember, your appeal on the international market is manly based on same factor, lower prices.
Lack of public information.
Despite public advertising and investments Bulgaria is still unknown as a unique market, travellers may consider Bulgaria as a “way through” instead a “final destination”, this is mainly depending on a lack of information and fragmented communication. The government provides proper info (Bulgarian touristic website) for foreign visitors only under some touristic aspects avoiding any involvement on commercial areas. These facts in addition to a quite protective attitude from already established businesses makes Bulgarian market harder for star-up and small business based in rural areas.
Lack of attractiveness
Unfortunately due to what described in the previous paragraph Bulgaria has a lack of information and this fact is influencing negatively its attractiveness on the international market. To avoid this problem you can invest time developing a local network of friendly businesses, organising touristic pathways and providing practice info to visitors and guests, it will increase your competitiveness, customers’ satisfaction and a positive vibe will spread around your place giving you more chance to meet guests’ interests and satisfaction.
Traditional media like radio, tv, and specialized magazines is less effective nowadays while tour operators and travel agencies can vanish your profit with high commissions rate. Web marketing and social media are the best solutions on this instance, powerful and cheap, easy to access and manage, Bulgaria has one of the best internet connections in Europe, unfortunately, proper web marketing requires time financial resources and strategy to be effective. Experiencing time on advertising your business is a good training but be aware, internet’s vastness and high competitiveness may jeopardize any effort. Quick and best solution for your start-up is to apply to an already existing touristic market-places, Airbnb or TripAdvisor are a good example. They will provide you customers and advertising helping you establishing in exchange to a small fee on the business.
For who actually have been developing a touristic business in Bulgaria this may have been a complex issue to solve. Basing al transaction on cash payment is a dangerous lack of competitiveness and attractiveness for possible future customers; in fact. this would be a loss in direct up-sales for the business too. The payment system is quite important and crucial for countryside activities , modern technology could provide card payments whenever and wherever we need them, unfortunately, Bulgarian financial system ( Banks ) is quite scheptic about small businesses and resilient to provide credit and debit card payment without any prove to a solid and developed market. Companies like ePay, PayPal and Stripe could provide you with the necessary features required.
Consultancy and professional advises
Bulgaria has a wide and low populate countryside. For who lives in villages and farms is difficult to access professional advice and advanced technology though these kind of services are easily available in cities or tourist areas, in addition, complexity on communication and language barriers could make this case worse, money and time wise. The best choice for you is to contact medium/big companies in the major cities and ask for a quote; well-established business can provide you with competitive prices and a wider range of service and they are generally more aware about customer’s feedbacks and satisfaction. Be ready to pay additional costs for out-range services it is necessary and a wealthy price to pay for a professional and quick solution to your problems.
Language, bureaucracy, lack of information, less effective national touristic strategies, difficult to find reliable work-force are the dark sides to establishing an eco-rural tourism business in the Balkan peninsula. This article may be a source of information and solutions to how aim to develop a tourism business in the rural Bulgarian areas. We hope to have been enough descriptive and informative and if you find it useful please share it.
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* EcoAdventures.eu strongly believe Eco-tourism businesses are a solution to provide investments and motivations on preserve the environment, history and culture, increasing local opportunities and setting proper foundation to a more sustainable society, life style and economy.