Balkantourist History – A Bulgarian State Owned Tourism Company
Having written an article about the socialist history of Shopska Salad, I stumbled upon how it was created by the singular state-run tourism group called Balkantourist. I figured why not continue the investigation by diving into some Balkantourist history.
This tourism focused group was formed shortly after the completion of the second World War. Primarily to try to repay Czechoslovakia war reparations that they couldn’t pay in cash. Initially, the group was funded with ~300,000,000 leva – which in today’s dollars, is around 150 million US Dollars. These vacations typically were to the Black Sea.
As Balkantourist grew, it offered more outing to the mountainous regions as well as cultural tours of the country to the Eastern Bloc countries. Other Eastern European countries took note of this development and built their own seaside resorts.
The golden age of Bulgarian tourism was during 1989, according to one During 1990 to 1992, Balkantourist was affected by the Bulgarian economy and the governmental cuts to tourism that politician Traycho Kostov created.
Balkantourist actually owned a shitton of properties, buses, bars, sports facilities, and more. In the 80’s, one of their subsidiary companies was one of the top three tour operators based in London. They charted flights filled with tourists from over 12 airport locations. Western made goods weren’t readily available in Eastern Europe at this time. But, due to the sheer size of the tour company, they were able to hoard and stockpile goods that Western Tourists enjoyed (food & drink).
However, as one might imagine, this state owner tourism company had its weaknesses. All primary decisions were made by a handful of key administrators at the top of the company. Salaries and wages were fixed – meaning there was no reinvestment in personal capital. A lot of money was redistributed to other parts of the economy. So, hotels and other infrastructure were not invested in to maintain properly. The state went as far as to fix the exchange rate in order to attract more foreign tourists.
You can also imagine that the managers of the hotels, bars, and more didn’t see much of the profits that were generated. This led to the poor hotel room conditions, lamps that don’t match, and other small details that the upper-level guys at Balkantourist didn’t care much about.
Nowadays, you can learn more about Balkantourist on their website. Their English version is still under construction, though.