burgas-mtlg2020-bulgariaSt-Anastasia-Island
St Anastasia Island Burgas, Bulgaria

In a nutshell: Super Burgas

One of the largest Black Sea ports has been vitally linked to the development of the city of Burgas and its free spirit. The port symbolises the openness and broad-mindedness that we can attribute to the city dwellers following our recent visit. It is precisely thanks to the port that the city has undergone several transformations and, surprisingly, the core of its latest one is the meetings industry. In fact, a beautiful multifunctional congress centre will be opened in the middle of the main pier in April 2020, which is part of the urbanistic renovation of the city. We are glad that this destination is pinning its hopes on events and meetings and, since it is not lacking in positive energy, we believe in the success of the project.

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Spirit of Burgas
Some cities are special because their image is intertwined with symbolic and spiritual as well as historical, political, and economic ideologies. Burgas is a port on the Black Sea, which, despite its specific, rather robust architectural design, has a Mediterranean appearance. Its spirit is a result of the flow of ideas and the development of the port. It is no surprise, then, that the main summer rock festival in Burgas is called Spirit of Burgas. The city’s rebellious and free spirit suits festival organisers. In 2019 SPICE music festival gathered over 15,000 fans of the 90’s hits in the area of the sea port. The list of mostly summer events is impressive. The second edition of SPICE Music Festival this year will spread over 3 days from 7 to 9 August with 20 artists and street food competition.

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The Black Sea Coast
The sandy beaches going for miles, stretching along the Bulgarian Black Sea coast (the long beaches are actually south of Burgas), are one of the key natural attractions of the whole region. Unfortunately, buildings have sprawled substantially along the coast in recent decades, subordinating it to mass tourism. Luckily, the immediate surroundings of Burgas have been protected from the same fate by environmentalists. The nearby saltworks are still operational and form, along with three freshwater lakes, an exceptional nature reserve. That is also why we recommend a visit to Burgas’s surroundings, which have preserved their natural hinterland despite intensive industrialisation. Natura 2000 sites can also be part of your convention experience in Burgas.

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The revitalisation of the Port of Burgas
Port activities and activities of public urban use have been going hand in hand since 2014. The first stage of the revitalisation of the port area involved the construction of the Maritime Station, a passenger terminal for cruise ships. It opened in 2013 and now successfully functions as an entry point to the city. Once a restricted area, it immediately became open for locals and visitors. It is a top-quality space, which has already become a sort of urban park and meeting point for locals. This space, where the city, the maritime park and the port intertwine, is becoming a new city centre and a place where contemporary urbanistic concepts have been implemented effectively.

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The new Marine Station congress centre
The construction of the Marine Station congress centre began in 2018. The EUR 8 million investment is important for the wider region and a herald of the meeting renaissance of the city. The first event to be held there will take place in late April when the centre will be officially open. The gem of the centre is a multifunctional hall seating up to 500 people with a magnificent view of the port. The building stands out architecturally due to its white cladding, elegantly striking among post-industrial cranes and other port infrastructure. We were also thrilled with the luxurious external spaces, suitable for receptions, exhibitions, and special events.

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Magazia 1
A key part of the port’s revitalisation is Magazia 1, a tourist, information, and cultural centre. This old warehouse, dating back to 1906, was renovated in 2016, preserving its essential part—its remarkable roofing constructed following the same method that was used on the Eiffel Tower. Today, the building houses a restaurant, a café, and an information centre. It also accommodates the National Academy of Art. The spacious building can function as a special venue, particularly its open terraces. The views encompass captivating old cranes, which provide direct contact with the city’s industrial heritage and past.

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Special venues
The city bristles with special venues, mostly centred along the seafront and the maritime park. The Sea Casino cultural centre is located right next to the main esplanade. It provides several spaces suitable for events. Built in 1936, the Casino was renovated and transformed into a modern cultural centre in 2011. The venue is particularly suitable for receptions. The Expo Centre Flora Burgas is a compelling space, which plays host to the annual flower show Flora Burgas. This multifunctional centre has a sustainable and innovative design and is an excellent choice for event planners who wish to organise their event close to nature in the middle of the city park. The Summer Theatre is an open-air auditorium that has hosted many festivals and other events. It is an alternative to other meeting venues in the summer months.

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Photo: GotoBurgas

Hot on the tech
Burgas offers over 30 free spots with high speed Wi-Fi and hubs for charging mobile devices. Charge your phone or tablet while resting at the solar trees along the city squares or walking down the city center. Currently, Bulgarian Internet speed is one of the fastest in the world with over 95% coverage of high speed broadband and 99% coverage of the population mobile service with 3G, 4G/LTE or 5G.

City of sport
If you wish to practice sports while you’re in town for a meeting, the list of activities to undertake in the city is really long. The city’s sports infrastructure has been developing rapidly and there is no shortage of sportsgrounds, open-air gyms, and tennis courts. I would nevertheless recommend cycling in the immediate surroundings. There are also water parks nearby, so Burgas deserves the designation of city of sport. Large infrastructural sports facilities are still under construction but they will certainly be part of the infrastructure suitable for hosting larger events.

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Sunny Beach
Slanchev Bryag, better known as Sunny Beach, is the most popular and main seaside resort in Bulgaria, located around 30 km north of Burgas Airport. This 8-kilometre-long beach accommodates over 800 hotels amounting to over 300,000 rooms, 130 restaurants, and numerous bars, pubs, and clubs.

This destination offers a truly wide range of hotels—from five-star luxury ones to those in the medium price range and hostels. Burgas’s mass tourism resembles the syndrome of the Spanish seaside resort of Lloret de Mar and we can only hope that its development will steer towards higher quality and added value. Nonetheless, making a short hop to this resort is an option for meeting attendees.

The meetings scene
In the future, the heart of all meetings activities will definitely be the new Marine Station congress centre. Together with the original exhibition area of the Flora Exposition Centre, it can host medium-sized meetings with up to 800 attendees. One of the major advantages of this destination is the immediate vicinity and easy accessibility of hotels, most of which also provide meeting facilities. The one that stands out is the five-star luxury hotel Primoretz. Despite the fact that the city does not have a convention bureau, the meeting industry is strongly connected. Tourist information centres, which are located in different spots throughout the city, will be happy to help you organise your event. One of the destination’s advantages is its value for money, which can be qualified as excellent. You will definitely spend less for a top-quality service than in other more famous destinations.

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By way of conclusion
It comes as no surprise that one of the symbols of Burgas is the Pier, while the other is the Lighthouse. The symbolism of both lies in the city’s direct link to the sea and, what is more, Burgas seems to have become a beacon of the Bulgarian meeting industry. The congress centre project has shown that a lot can be done in smaller cities if there is a will and appropriate political support. They are also aware that the function of that congress centre exceeds a purely economic one. Meeting tourism in Burgas is part of the city’s transformation into a modern, local- and visitor-friendly city.

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DID YOU KNOW?

The Pink Lake saltworks in the vicinity of Burgas have a pink colour. This is one of the reasons why they have become an attraction among tourists, particularly Instagrammers. The pink colour is entirely natural: the salt gets its colour as a result of microscopic brine shrimp that live in the ultra-salty water.

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Photo: Madame Bulgaria

BURGAS INDIVIDUAL GRADES 2020

A. Natural and cultural factors: 4.77

This destination’s most important attraction are its long sandy beaches. That is why seaside mass tourism has developed. They are complemented by hot springs, which have been a world-renowned attraction throughout history. In addition, Burgas Bay is of interest because of the preservation of its natural elements and three lakes. It is precisely these natural elements that contribute to a positive experience index of nature. In fact, the city seems to be surrounded by water and preserved nature.

B. General and transport infrastructure: 4.65

Burgas amazes you with its tidiness and good transport links. Moreover, the city centre is easily manageable by bike or on foot. Major investments by the municipal administration have left their mark and, according to many, the quality of life in Burgas is the highest in Bulgaria. That is also why the city appeals to the start-up industry, which is brought together by the very incisive ICT Cluster Burgas. It is worth noting that Burgas is the first Bulgarian city with a bicycle lane network and a bicycle-sharing system.

C. Tourist infrastructure: 4.83

There are 174 hotels in Burgas, amounting to 4,366 beds. The majority of the capacities are suitable for meeting tourism. Hotels in tourist resorts nearby are even more diverse. The range of restaurants and nightlife is wide, particularly in the warmer months when the city wakes up from its winter hibernation. Burgas as a whole is a developed tourist destination offering a truly wide range of experiences. Despite the lack of prominent tourist attractions, the mosaic of smaller sights is varied and surprisingly rich. However, it is a disadvantage that many hotels and restaurants are closed in winter.

D. Meetings infrastructure: 4.61

Investment into meeting infrastructure spurs the conference rebirth of Burgas. The carrying capacity of this destination has thus become optimal for meetings with up to 1,200 participants (category M of our categorisation). However, we miss an active local convention bureau that would boost the competitiveness of this destination even further. There can never be enough connections; while accessibility is solid in summer, we would wish for more connections in the off-season.

E. Subjective grade: 4.83

This city, which is hungry for conference events, is graced with an important character peculiarity. The hosts are infinitely kind and genuinely welcoming, which cannot be taken for granted nowadays. The city is safe and surprisingly tidy, the surrounding nature is compelling and relatively preserved. This hidden gem on the Black Sea Coast is waiting to be discovered by the international meeting community.

F. Marketing Buzz: 4.03

Unfortunately, only a few meeting organisers are familiar with Burgas’s story. Most people have heard of Sunny Beach, while Burgas is completely unknown. The city still has a huge amount of work to do in this regard. To start with, its story should at least be backed by an average website. As it stands, it is difficult to obtain information, so this part of the meetings product is certainly the most problematic.

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Photo: Zhecho Planinski

MTLG INDEX / 2020 EDITION

L  MEETING DESTINATION

Destinations that can host more up to 2,000 meeting attendees.

DESTINATION CAPACITY

  • The number of 4* and 5* category hotel rooms: 1,440
  • The number of 4* and 5* category hotels: 55
  • Banquet hall maximum capacity: 500
  • The largest hall in the city (in m2): 1,500 m2
  • Destination population: 411,579 
  • Maximum hall capacity in theatre style: 600

BURGAS OVERALL PERFORMANCE

Natural and cultural factors 4.77
General infrastructure 4.65
Tourist infrastructure 4.83
Meetings infrastructure 4.61
Subjective grade 4.83
Marketing buzz 4.03
ICCA Index 1.20
Numbeo Quality of Life Index 2.87
Numbeo Safety Index 3.83
ACI Airport Connectivity Index 2.53


OVERALL SCORE: 3.82

COMPARISON WITH THE REGION

You do not have to fear for contented attendees in Burgas, and especially do not worry about them spending too much. Beer costs 4 leva, i.e. less than 2 euros. In addition, participants will definitely be surprised by the quality of the meeting infrastructure. Much certainly remains to be done in terms of the recognisability of Burgas, which is virtually non-existent on today’s map of New Europe. In this area, it is being overtaken by significantly less developed destinations.

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Atanasovo lake

COOL MEETINGS

Tarator: this Bulgarian summer soup, made from cucumbers and soured milk and seasoned with selected spices, provides pleasant refreshment in the summer heat.

MUST SEE

Aquae Calidae or Thermopolis was an ancient town built around mineral hot springs. It is located 15 km from Burgas. We highly recommend a visit to the museum.

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HOT IN 2020

Large conferences and meetings in 2020:

Spirit of Burgas / 26‒28 April 2020

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BEST INCENTIVE IDEAS

St. Anastasia Island: There are only a handful of islands in the Black Sea and the one closest to Burgas is particularly interesting. Its former convent-turned-prison is the Alcatraz of Bulgaria. We recommend a group visit combined with lunch on this special islet.

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St Anastasia Island Burgas, Bulgaria

WHO TO CONTACT

Bulgarian Convention Bureau
1 Bulgaria Sq.
National Palace of Culture
P: +359 899 82 65 02
E: office@bgcb.eu
www.bgcb.eu