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Romania and Bulgaria Join the EUJanuary 29, 2007 By: Jennifer Merritt Travel Agent
Travel to the countries on the Black Sea just got easier
had plenty to celebrate on January 1, when both countries were inducted into
the European Union. For
entry into the EU translates to economic and political stability. For agents,
it means that travel to two emerging destinations just got easier.
In addition to the economic and political benefits of
joining the EU (both countries hope membership will boost their per capita
wealth and eradicate any association with their Communist pasts),
customs and passport checks at their borders.
"For many years, access to central and western Europe
was a problem," says Simion Alb, director of the Romania Tourist Office in
"This may be a bad memory, because aside from roads being built, more
budget airlines are serving
and increasing their capacity. Access will be faster and less expensive."
In fact, both countries seem to have anticipated an increase
in visitors with their accession into the EU. Earlier this month,
airport with a new terminal, and in
Alb says hoteliers are now focusing on areas outside
have taken notice, as evidenced by the Spanish Ferry Group, a family of
property development companies that recently invested in expanding a golf
course near the Bulgarian capital of
Plans include a sports complex with pools, tennis courts, a hotel and shopping.
Experts believe it is not only the recent developments that
will draw attention to these nations. "
has wonderful nature, beautiful mountains and fantastic spa treatments,"
says Ardemis Massarlian, an American Express travel specialist for
native of the country. "Visitors are going there to sightsee and also to
relax, either at the beach or in the mountains.
history—this is an opportunity to see great Christian Orthodox churches, old
Roman rotundas, underground basilicas and, at the same time, see a newly
developed, democratic European country." Alb adds that from April to
offers hundreds of heritage-based folk festivals, including one highlighting
medieval arts in Sighisoara.
"For three days at the end of July, the city is
recreating the atmosphere of old Sighisoara, with live demonstrations of craft
making, music, drama and street parades," he says.
For travel agents, the countries should be easy to sell,
since each has upscale restaurants and quality hotels juxtaposed with historic
churches and monasteries, says Anastasia Mann, also of Bulgarian descent and
CEO of the
Group agency. "It's been the best-kept secret," she says of
upscale tourism right off the bat,
come to the minds of travelers, but it's still an incredible value." How
long that value will last, however, is yet to be determined now that
"They eventually must deal with currency issues, but the Bulgarian lev has
been very weak [compared] to the dollar, which is the only part of
believes neither country will adopt the euro before 2012.
Many tour operators have established programs in
making big marketing pushes this year, which will only spur more interest in
the countries in the minds of both travelers and suppliers. "The positive
side of the marketing campaign is that they are improving the communication and
contracts of different vendors," says Massarlian, quickly adding,
"but even before the two entered the EU, I had travelers interested in the
destinations. These are countries located in the crossroads of