Frequency of the tourist visits and supply of tourist services
Similar shares of respondents declare tourist visits in their settlements - a total 43,4%, being most often visited by foreign tourists. This could be a result of a distorted subjective assessment or of the existence of a transit tourist flow which does not benefit in any way the local population. Also the involvement of the region with its natural heritage as the Belogradchik rocks in the competition of the “New seven wonders of the world” and Chiprovtzi with its local crafts at international fairs increased the tourists involvement in the region. The tourism is definitely an activity which is not profit-gaining at the moment
Existing natural and cultural resources for attraction of tourists
The natural resources and conditions in the region are extremely attractive for carrying out a more intense tourist activity, but it is being hindered mainly by infrastructure problems which require a lot of financial means in order to be resolved (roads, transport and communication, state of the commerce):
· About 65% of the population in the region defines the natural sites in their region as a precondition for attracting of tourists to their parts. Cultural monuments (churches and monasteries) are being viewed as having the same potential.
· The local preconditions as the nature and the climate in the region, the silence and quietness in the settlements, the opportunities for hiking and recreation and the safety, the local cuisine and the hospitality of the people, the accommodation opportunities in the settlements. Additionally the opportunities for shopping and state of communications in the bigger towns.
· 7% of the households are engaged in old crafts, arts and other traditional activities which are attractive for tourists. The old crafts in the region are mainly carpetry, icon weaving, bag-making and metal forging. Unfortunately, the opportunity of rising of income from practicing such activities is much more considered as a character of hobby and leisure activity.
· The education and training in some of the mentioned spheres is logically connected to the eagerness for certain activities. Naturally, the highest is the share of persons who would begin a training if it is a requirement to get a job supposed to be accepted by them - 16,1%. As a whole 64,4% of the of the local population do not wish to be trained. The conclusion is that the town population in Bulgaria could be attracted to training programs in these activities through a training in common skills which are required and useful to find almost every kind of a job (such as computer and language skills) while for the village population this is not necessary.
Prospects for development of tourism
The tourism development proved to be a real challenge. On one hand a sufficient potential of natural and cultural resources appears in the region, a potential which can attract tourists and is a precondition for development of alternative nature-friendly practices such as eco- and rural tourism:
· attractive nature sites (rock phenomena, cave complex, woods)
· cultural monuments and religious sites (monasteries, churches)
· conserved traditional crafts (carpetry, icon weavery, joinery, knitting, leather-working)
On the other hand the bad infrastructure as a whole, the lack of offering and respectively of experience in offering tourist services, as well as the rather tempered eagerness for involvement in activities connected with tourist services are a serious hindrance.
As far as this is one of the basic alternatives for development of the region and sustainable use of natural resources could start with priority with building individual human potential through education and using the existing tourist facilities.
It is defined that such a process, which is a key priority for the region, needs more deep involvement of the local population and securing a wide participation of the private sector active in the region for development of new capacities for tourism.