There is an urban legend that the tourist industry in Romania is a far bigger cash cow than Bulgaria’s. Unfortunately, the tourism income numbers show a different picture. When you compare the two countries’ incomes from tourism on a year-over-year basis, Romania, unfortunately ends up with just the cow, as the cash goes to Bulgaria. The same goes for the official tourism marketing in both countries through government channels.
CEIC (Census and Economic Information Center) has a rich amount of data on how tourism has evolved in both countries over the past 30 years. When you look at the lowest revenue generated by tourism, you find that Romania’s worst year in the 1995-2018 period was 1999, when it had a record low income of USD 306 million, according to the World Bank’s Annual Tourism data (via CEIC). By comparison, Bulgaria’s worst year during the same period was USD 517 million (1997).
This already gives a clue as to the validity of the aforementioned legend, but let’s fast-forward in time to 2018: Romania’s tourism revenue reached USD 3.2 billion, while Bulgaria’s was USD 5.1 billion,
tourism consultant Traian Bădulescu tells Romanian online portal Ziare. So, the income gap is quite wide, favoring Bulgaria by almost $2 billion.
He also highlights how Romania’s hotel industry trails Bulgaria’s: on July 31, 2019, Romania had 1,625 hotels with a star rating between 2 and 5, while Bulgaria had 2,300 hotels in the same categories.
Now, if you are trying to understand how this is possible despite the high tourism potential of Romania, you only have to take a look at the official site of the Ministry of Tourism. The site shows that the government is putting barely any effort into promoting tourism to foreigners. The Bulgarian site, on the other hand, has extensive information on anything related to tourism and makes you want to visit the country and spend your money there.
There is a bit of hope: Even though highly paid government officials are too lazy to do anything to promote the adventure-rich places of Romania, there are associations doing just this. Thanks to their endless work, the number of tourists staying in Romania in 2019 reached 13.26 million, up 3.6 percent year-over-year, according to the National Statistics Institute (the institute doesn’t divide the data into local and foreign tourists). By comparison, Bulgaria recorded 9.3 million foreign tourist visits in 2019, up 0.4% compared to the previous year.
Title image: The Vajdahunyad/Corvin Castle. Image source: Pixabay