OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMr. Panov, what’s your assessment of this year’s Cultural Tourism International Expo in Veliko Tarnovo?
The expo was very successful. This year it gathered more than 250 participants, among them tourism representatives from Argentina, Indonesia, the RSA, France, Spain, South Korea, and many other countries with traditions in tourism participated to the event as well. Interesting Bulgarian projects, non standard tourism products, and creative ideas consistent with the specifics of the different regions were presented as well. I think that the search for and the display of the specific, by means of the creation of original tourism products – animations, attractions, etc., is one of the trends in tourism, and currently it has begun setting in in our country too.

How the agency is contributing to the development of cultural tourism in Veliko Tarnovo?
We’re working actively in that direction since eight years already. With joint efforts, we were able to impose our city as a capital of cultural tourism. Veliko Tarnovo and the region offer a matchless abundance of cultural and historical heritage and of possibilities for alternative tourism. Veliko Tarnovo is proud of its ancient past and by preserving and popularizing it, it turns cultural tourism into its industry. Veliko Tarnovo has always been pointed at as an example of a destination that is systematically caring to attract tourists. The implementation of a sizeable project under the Regional Development Operational Programme is under way. It’s valued at 6.75 M leva and involves the construction of a multimedia visitors centre with 30 silicone figures, in which the life of people from different social strata in the Second Bulgarian Empire will be visualized. Under the same project, the plaza in front of the Tsarevets citadel will acquire a new image, and the Bishop’s Bridge in the Assenov Quarter will be restored. During the expo, we presented for the first time a new attraction – the mini spectacle with the ceremonial shutting of the gates of the Tsarevets citadel. We’re striving to enrich the cultural agenda, to offer new attractions and products, which would allow us to extend the tourist season and to attract more visitors. One of our priorities is the development of festival tourism. Now, we’re preparing the first edition of a festival of the attractive arts (to come from Sep. 29 to Oct. 10). It will put together theatrical and puppet spectacles, concerts, light and laser shows etc. Our ambition is to obtain the status of a festival city by UNESCO and to wage the battle for the 2019 European Capital of Culture.

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Which landmarks and attractions would you recommend to our readers?
Veliko Tarnovo is long since not associated with just the Tsarevets fortress. The Samovodska Charshiya commercial street is drawing great interest, being converted into a centre of traditional Bulgarian crafts. An itinerary called “In God’s Steps” joins up the medieval churches in Tarnovo and the monasteries in the vicinity. One of the impressive sites is the 16th century miraculous temple of The Nativity of Jesus [Rozhdestvo Hristovo] in Arbanasi, where Eastern-Orthodox chants can be heard. One of our biggest attractions is the Sound and Light audio-visual spectacle.
Not far from Veliko Tarnovo is Lyaskovets where, in the basement of the oldest wine cellar, sparkling wines with medicinal plants are sold, and connoisseurs can taste them. A similar attraction is offered by the SS Peter and Paul Lyaskovets monastery. For an even wider popularization of our cultural and historical heritage abroad, we implemented the country’s first online booking system called Booking Engine. It’s in this direction that should be focused the efforts of everybody in our business, and of the state too, because our tourism needs worldwide publicity.

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