The inaugural Investing in Tourism Sustainability Conference (ITSC) www.investingintourism.com – held from 30 May to 1 June at Bulgaria’s leading Sunny Beach Helena Resort focusing on new investment opportunities in the Country and neighbouring Southeast Europe destinations was jointly organized by the Ministry of Tourism of Bulgaria and London-based ITIC and Invest Tourism.
The Conference hosted by the Minister of Tourism H.E. Nikolina Angelikova under the Advisory Board Co-chairmanship of Dr Taleb Rifai, Former Secretary-General of the UNWTO and members of the conference organizing committee comprising of Mr. Gerald Lawless (Board Member of Dubai Expo2020,Temes Group, Greece and former President and CEO Jumeirah Group), Mr. Ibrahim Ayoub, Group CEO of Daiichi Display Ltd, ITIC Ltd & Invest Tourism Ltd, Skal President London Paul Hoskins and Mr. Phillip Cash, Director of Daiichi Display Ltd was hailed a great success bringing together thought-leaders, keynote speakers and 270 delegates from Bulgaria and Southeast Europe’s tourism and hospitality sectors, international investment institutions, hotels, airlines, project owners and environmental sustainability advisors.
Moderated by BBC broadcaster and journalist Rajan Datar, the ITSC included presentations and panel discussions with the tourism ministers from Albania, Algeria, Egypt, Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Secretary General of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation, alongside tourism, aviation, cruise and hospitality experts from the United Kingdom, Europe, China, Canada and the USA.
In addition to key investment opportunities the Conference featured project case studies and insights into global tourism trends, environmental impacts, human resources, education, training and manpower development. Preparing Bulgaria and the Southeast European region for the next phase of visitor expansion.
In her welcoming remarks Bulgaria Minister of Tourism H.E. Nikolina Angelkova stated that “Tourism to the Southeast Europe has grown rapidly in the last five years with over 120 million tourists in 2018 with total tourism receipts of USD 118.8 billion, accounting for around 11.7% of total GDP for the Southeast European countries.
Bulgaria alone attracted over 9.2 million tourists with 2018 total tourism receipts at US$7.6. Moreover, the enormous development potential remaining untapped within Southeast Europe presents great opportunities for new investment with travel and tourism, acting as the prime engine of future economic growth. Also, as a model of development that can promote self-employment among local communities throughout Bulgaria and the Southeast European destinations.”
Other presentations featured HRH Princess Dana Firas, President of the Board of Directors of Jordan’s Petra National Trust and a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador, Dr. Taleb Rifai, Former Secretary-General of UNWTO, Ms. Susanna Saari former Skal International World President, Mr. Christopher Rodrigues, Chairman of the Port of London Authority, Mr. James Hogan of Knighthood Capital, Mr. Gerald Lawless WTTC Ambassador and former President/CEO of Dubai’s Jumeirah Group.
Skal Sofia, Bulgaria members were present during Conference plenary, breakout and business-to-business sessions at which delegates learnt many new insights into the value of branding and focused marketing promoted through a good balance of traditional media editorial coverage, social media exposure and advertising.
Delegates and tourism officials alike were encouraged by breakout session speakers to look to the long term with clearly defined goals where a destinations identity, image and perception are involved. While taking into account cultural and heritage considerations and the impacts on people – both national residents and visiting tourists.
Communications, transport connections and the easing of entry regulations in the Region were discussed with officials urged to look to the wider opportunities where travellers, particularly from source markets such as China and North America, are more likely to book multi-destination Southeast Europe trips where, for example, visitor arrivals into one country will then go on to travel through two, three and more countries in the region before departing for home.
Greater regional and marketing co-ordination and cooperation amongst Southeast European countries was one of the major take-aways brought to light by each of the breakout sessions. It also included a well-attended session on the need for human resource education and training programmes headed up by Sk. Susanna Saari.in her capacity of Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Engineering and Business, Turku University of Applied Sciences (TUAS) – Finland.
B2B – Business-to-Business – speed networking on the last day of the Conference lead to numerous project development and investment opportunities being brought together with valuable connections being forged between delegates seeking investment partners and investors looking for new projects.
Throughout the Conference delegates were well entertained and which included a spectacular gala evening and dinner hosted by H.E Minister Angelikova, featuring special cultural performances from Bulgaria’s national dancers, musicians and singers.
The second ITSC – Investing in Tourism Sustainability Conference – is scheduled for May 2020.
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