curious traveller

They might not feature on Europe’s traditional tourist trail, but there is little doubt that Eastern European neighbours Romania and Bulgaria rank up there as two of the continent’s hottest up-and-coming destinations.

To confirm this, a new survey by over-50s travel insurance specialist Avanti has revealed the incredible rise in the numbers of older travellers heading to the two countries over the past 20 years. The study found that whilst traditional destinations like France, Spain, and Italy still attract the lion’s share of the over-65s travel market, the number of people in that age group visiting Romania has rocketed by an enormous 2120% since 1998, while the number heading to Bulgaria has soared by an equally impressive 1398%!

Admittedly, these incredible increases come from a low base – in the immediate post-Communist era, tourism to both countries slumped significantly as their leisure industries took time to pivot away from previous reliance on Russian holiday makers and find a new audience in the West.

But the huge growth demonstrates that those new markets have been found, and both nations are now doing a booming trade in older visitors in particular.

Year-round attractions

So what do Romania and Bulgaria have to offer the more mature traveller that is proving so attractive? Well, both countries are genuine all-year-round destinations, which tends to find favour with older holidaymakers who are not tied to the school holidays and like to avoid the summer rush. The Black Sea coastal resorts in both countries, which are teeming with visitors in the summer months, enjoy very pleasant temperatures throughout spring and late into autumn, and little rainfall all year round.

But the beach isn’t the only reason to visit either country. Both boast majestic mountainous interiors rated some of the most beautiful in Europe, with Bulgaria intersected by the Balkan range, and Romania having most of its western and northern parts covered by the famous Carpathians. For the adventurous, skiing is available in the winter. Culture and history are also in plentiful supply, with Bulgaria’s Plovdiv being named European Capital of Culture in 2019.

Finally, another good reason to explain why Romania and Bulgaria are attracting older visitors in their droves is cost. Both countries remain highly affordable destinations by the standards of Western Europe, and this is a big draw for older tourists who have to balance their wanderlust with living on a pension – indeed, the Avanti study found that two in five UK people aged over 65 gave cost as the main reason why they wouldn’t go on holiday.

For the full insights from Avanti’s survey of travel trends for the over-65s, click this link to view now.

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