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Investments set to rise on the Varna Coast
17.09.2007   bulgarien.dk
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Prices on Bulgaria's South Coast have never been cheaper, construction rates higher than ever and tourism is booming. Yet, a recent survey by investor.bg has set the property market a jitter. The study showed how property prices around the southern resort of Sunny Beach had decreased by up to 8% in the last year, yet on the northerly Varna coast, prices had soared by 20%.

For anyone who has visited both areas the reasons for the discrepancies between the two regions are blatantly clear. Development around Bulgaria’s largest package holiday resort is starting to exceed demand. Large apartment blocks and hotels spring up almost weekly. The resort has expanded backwards, to include the opposite side of the main Varna - Burgas highway, making developments here at least 3 kilometres away from the sea. Little care is taken of the urban infrastructure and very few green spaces remain. Construction regulations in the South are lax; buildings are getting taller and development work continues in resorts throughout the summer season. Analysts are already comparing the experience with the Spanish coast fifteen years ago.

On the Varna Coast, it is a different story. Construction in the region has been of a more upmarket nature, with the building of yacht ports and prestigious golf courses endorsed by leading names like Gary Player. The golf courses have been designed to enhance the region's natural beauty and each development has a secluded, spacious feel.

A large part of the Varna Coast is National Parkland and protected by the EU’s Natura 2000 policies, which prohibit construction in areas of great natural beauty. The aim of Natura is to preserve rare plantlife, wildlife and traditional ways of living, so that areas of great natural beauty are not lost to over-development. The region’s geology has also worked to its favour in areas not directly protected by Natura; the craggy, limestone cliffs and dense forests that surround this stretch of coastline inhibit development making it costly and difficult to construct here. Instead, developers are using the areas natural geology to their advantage. The golf courses under construction between Albena and Kaliakra provide spectacular views of the ocean, rock face and lush vegetation around them. At Balchik, the yacht port is close to completion. It will offer perfect conditions for sea tourism and sports for amateurs and for professionals alike. Set against a backdrop of creamy white cliffs, which encompass the former Romanian Royal palace, it offers an idyllic backdrop to any yachtman's dream.

Construction along the Varna coast has had a positive effect on development in neighbouring villages. In Rogachevo, now dubbed Bulgaria’s Beverley Hills, wealthy Bulgarians have built lavish homes on the hillside overlooking the Black Sea. Land prices here have risen from 10 Euros a square metre to 55. Eco- friendly developers are also building holiday complexes in this area, giving visitors the chance to experience a more nature-friendly vacation, away from the discos and commercialism of the purpose-built resorts. This area offers people with breathing difficulties a healthier climate, there are lots of wide open spaces, where children can safely explore their environment. TRogachevo is heaven for hikers, mountain bikers and bird watchers.

Analysts anticipate that the Varna Coast will offer investors a safer and stronger return on their money than investments in the South. Forecasters are already warning that many of the South’s shiny new complexes will face demolition within a few years, as owners find their hotels and apartment buildings lie empty and lose money. Sunny Beach is likely to repeat the experience of Spain's overdeveloped Costa del Sol a decade and a half ago. Although there are three times as many tourists now than there was ten years ago, the rate of development seems to be outstripping demand. The gloomy precedent of Spain's Costa del Sol is increasingly spoken about as a warning of what can happen to a tourist industry if it is allowed to develop with no controls. Wholesale construction of densely packed buildings all along the Spanish Costas in the 1960s and '70s resulted in a flight of the wealthier, more cultured visitors to less spoiled resorts, leaving hoteliers in charge of empty buildings – a phenomenon known as "dead zones".  As these buildings decayed through lack of use, they were eventually demolished, leaving investors out of pocket.

Sunny BeachEvidence points to history repeating itself as more and more holidaymakers, both local and international, choose the Varna Coast in preference to the South. The development of golf is one of the key drivers here. Manuel Ferry Sanchez, C.E.O of Ferry Group, Spain said that Bulgaria has the potential to turn into a major golf tourism destination, where seasonal peculiarities give golf players around nine months to enjoy their favourite game. Spain has seen golf tourism increase in popularity over the last twenty years and the country now has a staggering 737 golf courses. The same is happening in Bulgaria, Sanchez says and the number of high quality, professionally designed courses is increasing to meet the demand and so far the majority of the top golf courses are located on that rugged, picturesque Varna coast.

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