Cultural heritage, achievements and future goals of the city of Burgas
Interview with Dimitar Nikolov, major of Burgas, Bulgaria
„Burgas has always carried a charming feeling of freedom. A city of bold dreamers, who leave traces. A city, which does not deplete its charge. A city, which loves motion, lives passionately with the sea storms and the hot memories by the sea shore….“
With these words Dimitar Nikolov greets all his guests at the official website of Burgas Municipality. In 2015 on the local elections he was re-elected for the third time for mayor of Burgas with 85% of the votes cast for his tireless work, new projects, the strive for development and ambition to attract new investments.
We are discussing with Mr. Dimitar Nikolov the cultural heritage, achievements, future goals and challenges to Burgas Municipality.
Polina Choparinova for Success Stories Mag:
Hello, Mr. Nikolov! You have been taking the position of a mayor of Burgas since 2007. What was the city of Burgas nine years ago and what were your first priorities when I took office?
The city was quite different from now, a beautiful city, but with a little “lagging clock”. My fellow citizens wanted the city to develop more dynamically and to keep up with the others cities. And I and my team are trying to fulfill that their will today. In the past years, the infrastructure as a whole was in much worse condition than today – there were no places in kindergartens, there were not enough sports areas, parking places, the potential for opening of Burgas to the sea and the lakes around the city had not been exploited, the urban transport was exhausted from depreciation. There were many problems and not all of them have been solved by now. But with the speed we are working with, the prospects are good.
At the beginning of my first mandate, Bulgaria had just become a real member of the European Union and my priority objective was to create a team that will effectively prepare projects to apply for funds. Generally my first task was to organize municipal administration which is open towards the problems of people and at the same time cooperating and dynamic. How I managed, citizens of Burgas will consider.
The positive outlook of Burgas is visible and undeniable, the good results in the absorption of EU funds, providing investments for the development of the municipality. What team and what personal qualities are needed to achieve such success?
For this purpose are needed motivated and skilled people who believe in their potential and love their city. There is nothing more satisfying than to see how your fellow citizens are enjoying the results achieved. The salary is important, but it is also important to see the meaning in what you are doing. Experienced staff is valuable, but it is always better to have a high percentage of young employees. In Burgas Municipality we are constantly looking for ways to recruit young and inspired people. They possess the greatest desire to change the world around them.
On your website www.dnikolov.eu the citizens can get acquainted with all past and future projects you are working on. Which are the biggest challenges that you face, and at what level, starting a certain project?
Publishing the projects on the Internet is important for several reasons. Thus the residents of our city gain a clear idea of how the living environment is going to change.
Showing the projects in the network, we enable people to tell their opinion about them. We listen to their recommendations and if they have good ideas, we accept them. In recent years, the Burgas Municipality implemented many projects that changed the overall appearance of the city. Burgas is now much more open to the sea, the road infrastructure and public transport became more comfortable.
We implemented energy efficiency measures in all schools and kindergartens. The food there has been cooked in a healthy way, and we have introduced English language education for 5-year-old children. When developing a new project, we seek that it is not isolated for itself. The important thing is to have more common ground with other projects and that all projects complement each other. One of the biggest challenges is that projects are effective in the long term perspective. Furthermore, we seek to impose the use of innovative technologies that save energy and are environmentally friendly.
In the third edition of the competition “Mayor of the Year” organized by the Portal of Bulgarian municipalities Kmeta.bg and Focus information agency, you won the prize “Mayor of Europe”. What does this assessment mean to you? Are the citizens familiar with the nature of the work and the duties of a mayor?
For me this award is as a recognition for the efforts of the entire team that worked on the absorption of EU funds for the implementation of important projects for the city of Burgas. As to the nature of the job of a mayor, people’s perceptions are different. Some are familiar, others are not so familiar with them. But that’s not important. The powers of a mayor are not limitless. The mayor is not in the position to solve each problem as taking the necessary measures falls within the powers of the various institutions. However, this should not stop the mayor to find a way to solve a case and to insist to the relevant structures. The mayor must work actively at any time in the name of his fellow citizens. We strive to be as transparent as possible. One way of doing this is to give publicity to the ideas we want to implement. We also maintain active communication with people in social networks, we pay attention to the suggestions of our fellow citizens and together we seek the best solutions for the development of the city of Burgas.
A number of attractions in Burgas and Burgas municipality have been assessed in Tripadvisor by tourists with 4.5 out of 5 maximum points. Do you notice an increase in the number of tourists over the years and from which countries?
I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that so many sites in Burgas Municipality are present in Tripadvisor.This is one of the most visited websites for vacations, trips and reservations. When I travel with my family I often review the site Tripadvisor, I read the reviews and ratings about hotels and places I plan to visit.
Citing the information from the Ministry of Tourism for visas issued and the charter program of Burgas Airport, I can confidently say that the most serious will be the growth of tourists from Russia. A large percentage of them come not for short-term vacation but for a longer period, as they already own property in the region.
Apart from Russian tourist, increased interest in spending the holidays in our country is demonstrated by tourists from Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary and France. Most of them come with their families and are fans of various alternative forms of tourism – this is what our analyzes show. The figures are unconditional – the tourist tax at the end of May 2015 compared to 2016 increased by 8%. The flights from Burgas Airport are 24% more as growth is reported for destinations such as Russia + 22%, for Ukraine to + 30%, for Estonia + 70%, for England + 28%, for Germany + 40%, for the Czech Republic + 37%, and for Poland + 40%.
Bulgaria is present in foreign media as a cheap tourist destination. Poor tourists, alcohol tourism, parties – these are the keywords that can often be read in the foreign press. What measures should be taken, how Bulgaria should be advertised to the world? Is it possible this change and how long will it take?
According to official statistics this year it is expected 10% growth in the number of tourists for the season on the entire Black Sea coast. Unfortunately, more often on the major tourist exchanges it is commented that the tourist profile is permanently changing. You can see this by yourselves, if you take a brief review of Tripadvisor or similar websites. Foreign media also have a huge contribution to the “promotion” of the Bulgarian Black Sea coast as a destination for alcohol tourism. Changing the image requires substantial investment, hard work and successful marketing.
At the same time around the city and in Burgas there are remarkable places that you can visit. These places should be focused when promoting the region as a tourist destination with opportunities for natural, ecological, ornithological, religious, spa, recreation and historical tourism.
Burgas is a city with a centuries-long history, natural landmarks, reserves, protected areas, annual festivals, sea and airport. Are there any projects for the development of cultural and historical tourism?
One of these places, you know, is the island of St. Anastasia. This is a place rich in history and legends that have accumulated over the years. Currently, St. Anastasia is the only Bulgarian island that has become a tourist attraction in Bulgaria. Over the past two summer seasons, it became an emblematic place of the city of Burgas – a favourite destination for recreation and holidays, for holding cultural events, private and corporate events. St. Anastasia Island is a tourist attraction No. 1 for 2015 in the ranking “Wonders of Bulgaria”.
This year, we report 20% growth compared to same time last year. There also increased the requests for organization of events on the island such as corporate parties, weddings, christenings and other events. The interesting thing is that many of these requests come from more distant cities of the country.
The other cultural and historical site, which we continue to develop is the Tourist Complex “Aquae Calidae” – a place known for centuries for its healing mineral water, which healed and helped Roman and Byzantine emperors, and in later centuries the bathroom of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent was built on this place.
Three weeks ago the new archaeological season launched in the late ancient and medieval town Aquae Calidae – Thermopolis, which lasted for nearly 20 centuries. The new excavation works take place in the area east of the restored bath of Suleiman the Magnificent. Currently there were found nearly 70 late ancient and medieval coins. Some of them were minted in the Empire of Philip II of Macedonia and Alexander the Great. The remaining coins belong to Roman emperors and Byzantine emperors, there are coins from the time of Roman Empire and late Byzantine Empire, and Ottoman sultans. Among the artifacts there are fragments of medieval glass bracelets, a metal ring with a gem, a bronze book clasp and other architectural details.
The study of cultural layers in this part began in 2015. After in-depth study the territory will be released for restoration and conservation in conjunction with the intention of formation of museum area that will be part of the Tourist Complex “Aquae Calidae.”
In the Tourist Complex “Aquae Calidae” we also observe an increase in the number of requests for visits from tour operators and foreign tourists.
And in the end, what would you advise young Bulgarians in Bulgaria and how would you benefit from the experience of Bulgarians abroad? How would you attract them to return to Burgas?
In recent years, Burgas is developing dynamically. We have improved the infrastructure, renovated the kindergartens and schools, we have built new ones, new children playgrounds and sport grounds, parks and spaces in the residential complexes. It’s all about them, our young fellow citizens, for those who are here and for those who are abroad. Burgas need them, their experience and knowledge they have acquired abroad and that can be useful to our city.
Many of my ideas for the development of the city were sent precisely from such our fellow citizens who study and live abroad. When they decide to return, Bourgas will be here again and waiting for them.