Nature-based tourism is the chance to develop the Osogovo region, as it has huge potential and attracts more and more tourists from Bulgaria and abroad. This was stated at the organized by the Bulgarian BIodiversity Foundation forum, which was held on 29 March at the Kyustendil Park Hotel in Kyustendil.
During the forum’s introductory part, Tanya Shnel (from BBF) presented an analysis of the potential of the mountains in the region for tourism that is based on the natural resources. The findings of the analysis show that best possibilities for development are: mountain biking, hiking, observation of flowers, butterflies and species, paragliding, horse tourism, rafting. The mountain biking collects the most points in the experts' assessment, according to criteria: natural resources, attractiveness, infrastructure, security, drivers, access to exit points and availability of information.
"We have created and described three biking routes to demonstate in practice the interest that cycling tourism would bring to the Osogovo area. The mountain offers many more opportunities for marking other routes with different complexity - both for advanced and beginners, a development that can attract many more new tourist in the area" - Lubomir Botusharov from the MTB-BG Forum explained the achievements the project achievemets so far.
The analysis also describes the profile of the tourists who prefer this type of recreation activities - these are mostly young people (aged between 26 and 45) of good education and high income who travel alone or with family and friends. They come because they love nature and are looking for fun and adventurous experiences. The beautiful beech and mixed forests, the species that only occur in the region or in the Balkans and the significant butterfly and plant wealth of Osogovo, are of potential interest of this profile.
Successful examples from Bulgaria and Montenegro, where cycling has already led to the development of the regions were also presented at the forum. Unlike other types of tourism that are seasonal cycling can attract tourists throughout the year. We can ride bikes almost all year round, "said Oleg Milushev of Petrov Cycling Club Vivo - organizer of the Petrich DHI race that was included in the event calendar of the International Cycling Union.
Sofia Ilkova - expert of the Belasitsa Nature Park, summed up the experience of the Belasitsa Nature Park over the years and stressed the important role of the local people for protection of nature. Because it is precisely the combination of beautiful nature, local customs and area-specific meals that are sought after by tourists.
"Cycling tourism creates new jobs," added Hristo Uzunov from 360 magazine. He told how once this type of tourism became Montenegro's priority, it has earned three million euros, attracted more than 100,000 tourists from all over the world, generated 140 new jobs, including guest houses, tour operators, and more. "In Europe, a cyclist spends more than a tourist using a vehicle because, unlike him, he has the opportunity to stop more often, to look more and buy souvenirs, local food and more. Combinig cycling with other forms of tourism and entertainment can keep the adventurers for a week to ten days, which would greatly improve the economic development of the region, " he said.
Osogovo has the potential for all this; it requires the will and desire for local development, support from national and local institutions and protection of everything that attracts these tourists - customs, local food, beautiful scenery, etc. - was the main conclusion of the discussion in which representatives of regional institutions, non-governmental organizations, tourism organizations and experts discussed how, what has been said and heard during the forum, can be realized in practice.
The guests were able to taste traditional meals prepared by local producers from the community center "Asklepion" – Kyustendil and dairy products from a local farm from the village of Konyavo. Rukiya Izirova from the village of Yavornitsa, Petrich municipality also demonstrates typical meals of Podgoria.
The forum was realized under the transboundary project "Supporting a Sustainable Future for People and Nature in Osogovo Mountain". The project is implemented in partnership with the Euroatour Foundation, Germany and the Macedonian Ecological Society (MES), Macedonia, and is funded by the German Federal Environmental Foundation (DBU), the Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS) and the partners' own contribution.
To find more about the cycling routes of Osogovo, please visit: http://bbf.biodiversity.bg/bg/Novi-velo-marshruti-v-Osogovo-nepoznatata-velodestinatsiya.p192