Hidden Treasure

November 2001 – May 2002

Funded by the TIME-Ecoprojects Foundation

Democracy Network Program of the Institute for Sustainable Communities and the US Agency for International Development

This was a model project for Bulgaria, accomplished on the territory of the Hadzhidimovo Municipality, next to the border with Greece. Due to its location, the municipality has remained little known to Bulgarians, with no tourist experience but with much to offer to its potential visitors.

The main goal of the project was to create an alternative source of income, through sustainable tourism, for as many citizens of the Hadzhidimovo Municipality as possible.

Specific goals:

  1. Identify the potential providers of tourist services.
  2. Guarantee a minimum level of knowledge on the essence of sustainable tourism and the maintenance of tourist standards in the potential suppliers.
  3. ‘Pack’ alternative tourism products with the active participation of local people.
  4. Attract visitors to the municipality, or sell the tourist products (this is a long-term goal, and it won’t be accomplished with the end of this project).

The first step was to select 9 of the 14 villages in the municipality, on the basis of the following criteria: low level of urbanization, accessibility by car, infrastructure, combination of geographic location, natural, cultural and historical assets. A leaflet was published and disseminated to the 9 villages in order to promote the idea of rural tourism.

In the beginning of 2002, the PTF team visited these villages to identify the potential tourism suppliers. A short training course was organized for them, and proposals for various tourism products were collected. The ready products were presented to 30 Bulgarian tour operators and journalists at a special familiarization trip in May. The effect from the trip can be summarized as follows: 14 publications in regional and national press, 11 radio-broadcasts, a big number of broadcasts in regional cable TVs and a series of five 3-minute reports in the morning programme of Canal 1 of the Bulgarian National Television. At the end of the project, an information brochure summarizing the lessons learnt was also published under the title “About the villages, tourism and all the rest…”