By Ihvan Radoykov
SOFIA (AA) - Turkey ranks second among the countries Bulgarians have shown the most interest in, the country's tourism minister said Monday during a one-day working visit to the capital Sofia.
"Bulgaria also scored second place when you look in terms of tourists coming to Turkey last year, and there is an increase in traffic from Turkey to Bulgaria each passing year,” Mehmet Nuri Ersoy told Anadolu Agency.
Referring to his meeting with Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, Ersoy said they had the opportunity to talk about all the issues that need to be brought to the agenda, including the resumption of "intense tourism traffic" between the two countries and eliminating the difficulties caused by the coronavirus pandemic in the area of the economy.
He underlined that many issues related to the needs of Turks living in Bulgaria and the restoration of Ottoman artifacts were also discussed during the meeting.
"We have determined a roadmap for all of them. It was very useful in this respect," he added.
Ersoy also emphasized that a Memorandum of Understanding in the tourism sector was signed between the two countries during his meeting with his Bulgarian counterpart Mariyana Nikolova.
He stressed that when the ministers examined the tourism figures for 2019 before the pandemic, they discovered growth of 28%.
"There is very important tourism traffic for both countries and there is rapidly developing tourism traffic," he said.
Ersoy went on to say that there are many Turkish investors in Bulgaria, adding the investments made by Turkish investors in Bulgaria have exceeded $2.5 billion so far and make for easy access to Europe via Bulgaria.
"It is a strategic and important neighbor in this respect also. Bulgaria is not only our neighbor but also our ally and friend."
Noting that Bulgaria also defends Turkey's rights and interests in the EU, Ersoy said they also evaluated the increase in flights and flight points of national flagship carrier Turkish Airlines during his meetings in Sofia.
- Post-pandemic era
Ersoy noted that 2021 is actually a year when people have already learned to "live with the pandemic.”
"We need to get used to this, as vaccination processes will continue throughout the year. Whether PCR tests, whether newly developed tests, Turkey is very practical and flexible in this regard. We are one of the countries that adapt the fastest," he added.
He recalled that Turkey has quickly initiated a certification program for tourism during the pandemic period and that it set an example for many countries in Europe.
The minister stressed that Turkey aims to "ensure the normalization of air traffic" in April.
"We aim to restart heavy tourist traffic between countries, especially heavy tourist traffic to our country. We are continuing rapidly with our preparations in this regard," he said.
*Writing by Jeyhun Aliyev from Ankara