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Bulgaria Varna and Burgas Tourism made by FRAPORT

Ulrich Heppe, Varna Airport CEO: Welcoming visitors with open arms - and it shows

Juergen Steinmetz, eTN Publisher  Mar 20, 2016

While attending ITB in Berlin this month, eTN publisher Juergen T. Steinmetz had the opportunity to sit down and talk with Ulrich Heppe,
Chief Executive Officer of Varna Airport in Bulgaria. Varna is part of Germany-based FRAPORT, which is among the leading groups of airport operators in the world, setting operational airport standards worldwide.

FRAPORT is not only the Varna and nearby Burgas airport management company, it is also doing its own job to promote Bulgaria as a tourism and business destination. Promoting the region will increase demand for airlines to serve Varna, it helps the local economy, tourism, and awareness for Bulgaria as an international magnet for tourism and investment. For all of this, FRAPORT found a German CEO who just loves Bulgaria.

FRAPORT joined with the Ministry of Tourism of Bulgaria to raise travel demand to the destination, and Varna airport CEO Heppe is the perfect man to do this. He and his wife moved to Bulgaria from Germany and are pure fans of their new home country.

Since the airports that Fraport is in charge of is not yet Sofia, the Capital of the EU country, Heppe is concentrating on promoting the Eastern part of Bulgaria for travel and tourism.

Most travel to Varna and Burgas is seasonal and tourism related.

FRAPORT Twin Star Airport Management greets passengers at Varna and Burgas Airports in Bulgaria, just a two-hour flight from Germany. The company has invested over 170 million euro over the past few years, improving the terminals and creating a state-of-the-art infrastructure.

On the international scene, travel to Egypt and Turkey has decreased due to political and security challenges. This is specifically true for the Russian outbound market, and Eastern Bulgaria may give an alternative to travelers to consider.

It's one reason for FRAPORT in Varna to focus on travelers from Russia. Bulgaria has doubled visa application centers in Russia, making it easier for Russian tourists to obtain Schengen visas needed to travel to Bulgaria.

FRAPORT group will expand its efforts to attract Bulgaria inbound tourists also from Germany and other EU regions. Arrivals from the UK and Czech Republic are increasing. Travelers to Bulgaria view the destination as safe, and the cost factor is reasonable, making it attractive for families and budget-minded travelers.

Also coming up in passenger numbers are tourist arrivals from neighboring countries and from the Middle East and Gulf regions - Israel and Iran.

These twin airports, Varna and Burgas, have many direct seasonal flights. Year-round fights are operated to Istanbul, Moscow, London, Sofia, and Vienna. In the summer, there are 140 destinations that fly direct to Bulgaria. Flights include charters, but also regularly-scheduled airlines linking to all three major global alliances.

It makes it easy to expand the promotion for this region, and North America, India, and China, are on the horizon.

Mr. Heppe told eTN: “I went to Bulgaria for the first time in 2007, and it was then that I fell in love with this country, because even though it is a small country, it is quite simply beautiful.

"It has everything from beaches on the Black Sea to skiing in the mountains, and the untouched Balkans are dotted with lakes and quaint villages. Activities abound, from hiking to mountain climbing, to kayaking and canoeing, to shopping and dining, and more.”

"There is a lot of culture to discover in Bulgaria, a country with seven World Heritage sites, including the Ancient City of Nessebar, Boyana Church, Madara Rider, Rila Monastery, the Rock-Hewn Churches of Ivanovo, the Thracian Tomb of Kazanlak, and the Thracian Tomb of Sveshtari.

"So far, Bulgaria has focused on leisure travel, but the country is now also promoting MICE tourism, ecotourism, and spas. Bulgaria has the most mineral water springs of all European countries – there are 400 to 500 just waiting to be enjoyed.

"Need another reason to love Bulgaria? Travel dollars go a long way here. University students come for parties, while families come to experience a fun and also quiet destination. Everyone loves the climate, which is a lot like the south of France.

"It is often referred to as the sunny side of Europe. The food is good, and the wine is excellent. In fact, there are five large wine regions in the country. And what may surprise travelers is the fact that in addition to 2- to 3-star hotels, Bulgaria also has 4- and 5-star hotels and world-class golf courses and casinos.

"With a smaller population than most tourist destinations, visitors can feel relaxed here and enjoy what travel was meant to be – a satisfying experience with time to rejuvenate."

For Mr. Heppe, this job is personal. He moved his family to Varna and his career includes to help Varna and Burgas to become the number one tourist destination in Eastern Europe.

Ulrich Heppe, Varna Airport CEO: Welcoming visitors with open arms - and it shows
Ulrich Heppe, FRAPORT Varna Airport CEO

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