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Bulgaria, which has been gaining prominence in India as a destination in last 3.4 years, is all set to enhance its marketing efforts as well as reach in India. This was revealed by Nikolina Angelkova, the first Minister of Tourism, Bulgaria during her recent visit to India while interacting with trade and media.  Outlining various measures taken by the new created Ministry of Tourism, Angelkova stressed on Bollywood to tap the potential of Indian outbound market. “We identified that the role that Bollywood is playing in the contemporary world is unique. Bollywood has emerged as a powerful tool of diplomacy,” she said and added that just one film shot by Shahrukh Khan and Kajol, Dilwale, has promoted Bulgaria in a big way on the Internet, and next year ten more films from India will be shot in Bulgaria. The trailer of the film is already in the Internet and has been seen by 30 million viewers. The opportunity, that Bollywood can provide to promote visibility of a country internationally, and to highlight its diplomatic ties with India can be truly transformative,” she added. She also informed that her Ministry is going to hold talks with Ajay Devgun for a promotional video.

Talking exclusively to T3 on the sideline of the meeting, the Minister informed that direct air connectivity is one of the hindrances in growth in India visitors. She met Indian Tourism Minister Mahesh Sharma to discuss the measures to further strengthen the tourism ties between two countries. “We have discussed the possibility of having a direct line between India and Bulgaria. We discussed that the existed agreement from 1992 has to be amended and to respond to the recent legislations. If we do that and we are in the process of experts getting in touch then we will be able to open direct line. We have already received interest from a Bulgarian airline BH Air. They have the aircraft for overseas operation. We simply need to settle this small legal obstacle and they are ready to fly. They are studying the possibility to have flight from Delhi, Mumbai, Ahmedabad and Kolkata,” Angelkova said.

She also informed that her Ministry is in process of discussing the possibility of setting up 6 additional visa centres in India with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA), Bulgaria. “We are at an early stage of negotiations and the MoFA, Bulgaria has been favourable to our demands. We look forward to unveil visa centres in New Delhi, Mumbai, Amritsar, Kolkata, Bengaluru and Chennai by end of 2016,” she revealed.

Talking about the Indian arrivals, she said that Bulgaria received over 8,500 Indian visitors in 2014. “India moved at 46th position from 50th as a source market in 2013. At present, India is at 47th rank with 6,069 arrivals this year till September 2015, reflecting a decline 4 per cent. With all our planned activities, we aim to welcome 300,000 Indian visitors in the next 5 years,” she opined.

Replying to a question over challenges in setting up the Ministry of Tourism, she said: “So far, we are in the process of amending the law of the Tourism Act in particular and to set the conditions for the common development of the national resorts. We have managed to come out with six regulations so far out of 12 regulations in the Tourism Act. One of the most important is related to the categorization of hotels and restaurants. We need to pass the regulation for safety and availability of information in ski areas and ski patrols.  Also, we are also going to introduce much more facilitated procedures to build up the ski resort and ski infrastructure. We are going to introduce the quality level that will not be obligatory but those who voluntarily agree to do that will be our preferred partners,” she said. She further informed that the regulation for a unified tourism database will be the first step towards fighting the grey economy in the sector. “The second step will be the connecting hotel registers to the National Revenue Agency (NRA) and the Bulgarian Ministry of Interior, so that we can have real-time data on the number of tourists registered in them,” she informed.

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