VOICES FROM VARNA
Q: In your opinion, what makes Varna special?
With its Sea garden and the promenades along the soft and sandy golden beaches, Varna is a colourful heart, beating during the whole year – dancing passionately in the summer season and speaking 20 languages at the same time, calming the deafening grey sea in winter, welcoming you for a warm embrace in the autumn and urging you to explode green in the spring.
The world’s oldest gold processed by humans, the world’s oldest gold treasure, and the world’s oldest gold artefacts have been discovered in Varna and exposed here. In the last decade, Varna turned from a city where mostly charter flights during summer were operated, into a world destination with flight programs of 66 airlines, covering 117 destinations in 45 countries. Lying on the Silk Road and connecting the Orient with North, the Western Europe with East and Russia the Bulgarian Sea Capital Varna is about to emerge as one of the great destinations for MICE tourism, because of its Nature, Ambiente and Culture.
Q: Where would you take someone to “feel” the vibe of Varna and what is your best incentive idea in Varna?
Best way to feel the vibe of Varna is to start from the MACKA – the usual meeting point for local inhabitants downtown and go straight for about 300 meters to the entrance of the Sea garden. Along this pedestrian alley you can find all kinds of different options – take a coffee or dinner with friends in the Happy restaurant, stand in a queue for buying a tasty banitza from the more than 100 years small old bakery IGLIKA and listen to the talks of the locals, sit for a couple of minutes beside the new statues of the mermaid and dolphins and smell the Black sea.
At the end of the alley, we are standing right on the entrance of the Sea Garden. This is the most overcrowded place in Varna where families, teenagers, tourists, love couples like to spend their time – either enjoying street musicians and dancers, visiting open-air exhibitions or just going down to the beach and the promenade for a walk.
Black Sea mussels from a local mussel farm and a glass of white wine or live beer is a must here.
Q: What do you see as crucial marketing elements to lure meeting planners?
Building a collaborative network of local suppliers stays on top in my ranking – Varna has a lot of assets, but only a network of suppliers which can cross-sell each other’s inventory and support each other can unfold these assets.
Understanding customers’ mindset and properly align their experiences and expectations into one seamless moment – it is the perfect base for designing the powerful customer experience, that a destination provides – online and offline.
Q: What was the most important event in Varna in 2019 (MICE event)?
It was the INNOWAVE Summit definitely – one of the most significant high-tech conferences in Southwestern Europe. The event is focused mainly on digitalization of business and the public sector. The main accent is put on innovations in the fields of marketing, sales and e-commerce. It took place end of October and the accent was put on speeding up the digital transformation of the Bulgarian economy, strengthening the partnerships in Central, Eastern Europe and the Western Balkans, and also the partnerships with European and global digital pioneers and leaders.
The main goal of the event is to encourage creative and innovative thinking, creating a favourable environment in which participants to be able to exchange information about successful business models and experience. With more than 5000 attendees, 75 speakers, 82% senior management presented, 120 exhibitors and 28 countries it is the most significant high-tech conference in Southwestern Europe.
Q: If you had a magic stick, what would you instantly change in order to make Varna even more attractive for congress tourists?
The only thing my magic stick would change would be to speed up the construction of the highway to Sofia in order to have one more alternative to get to Varna.
Q: How do you market Varna? How do you build the destination brand perception of the city?
No matter what strategy I will choose for marketing Varna it will be based on creativity, innovation and strategic partnerships. I am sure, that there will be a temptation to mix and match, implementing the things that resonate with the city and its market. But even if there is the decision to adopt multiple approaches, it will end up with singling out one main focus, defining Varna as a unique destination, what it really is – with its unique natural features, like the beaches and the hot springs in the city, with the fascinating old history and contemporary art.