by Anthony Georgieff

Bulgaria's new tourist brand raises eyebrows

logo bulgaria.jpg

Bulgaria as a tourism destination has a new brand logo that, in the opinion of the Ministry of the Economy and Tourism, which paid 1.65 million leva (about 800,000 euros for it), will help increase the number of visitors to the country by 25 percent in the next five years.

The Bulgarian ministry said it had employed 50 experts in seven countries to design the new logo.

The new logo comes a couple of years after the Bulgarian government spent over a million euros on designing an Internet site with texts in English, German, French, Russian, Arabic, Chinese, Hebrew and other languages. On most modern browsers, that site is still twitchy.

Tourism accounts for about 11 percent of Bulgaria's GDP. In the summer of 2012, 4.2 million foreign visitors holidayed in Bulgaria, an increase of 4.6 percent on a year earlier, according to the MInistry of the Economy.

During the next two years Bulgaria plans to spend 3.5 million euros under the EU Regional Development Operational Programme to advertise itself in Germany, Russia, Ukraine, Poland and Romania. An additional half-a-million euros will go to advertisers in the UK and France, and the same amount of state budget cash has been earmarked for China and Japan. Israel will also be targeted with advertising messages, the Ministry of the Economy said.

Ivo Marinov, the deputy minister in charge of tourism, said that the new logo had been tested in a poll of 8,000 foreigners in 12 countries. The designers of the logo added that Bulgaria was so unknown that anything a foreign visitor learned about it instantly became a discovery. This explained the text of the logo, "A Discovery To Share."

According to Marinov, the initial responses to the new logo abroad were "entirely positive."

logo Bulgaria

Bulgaria's old logo

Not so in Bulgaria, where Bulgarians, toiling in the midst of a worsening economic crisis, immediately started asking themselves why Bulgaria should need a new logo, since one already existed, dating back to the first half of the 2000s, when Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha headed the government. The Ministry of the Economy had a explanation ready for that. It said the old logo would not be discontinued, but the new one would be used alongside.

Visual artists were quick to discover several aspects of the new brand logo that they found disturbing. One is that the red rose in the new logo is almost an exact replica of the logo of the Bulgarian Socialist Party, or BSP. Whether this is intentional or whether the 50 experts in seven countries overlooked the matter will probably remain enshrouded in mystery forever.

As the new logo was unveiled, the Ministry of the Economy produced several images to illustrate the ways it could be used. At least four of those were obviously taken from a stock photography website and did not show things Bulgarian at all, a Bulgarian media source noted. These included a picture of a shiny airport, which Bulgaria obviously does not have, and blonde female shoppers in a shopping mall. There is even a bottle of Bulgaria's "traditional" product, rose oil, against the background of some roses, again from a stock site. The winter resort picture, supposedly Bulgaria, was taken in... the French Alps.

The main question is whether it has become government policy to represent Bulgaria as something it is not, by using images of things and places not Bulgarian to illustrate material about Bulgaria. The Ministry of the Economy had an answer ready for that too. It said the photographs in the package it had spent 700,000 euros on were meant for "illustrative purposes" only, and even though they were distributed to the media they should not be used in public.

One of the scandals in Bulgaria recently related to President Rosen Plevneliev's New Year's speech,where a picture meant to illustrate Bulgaria's natural beauty was discovered to have been taken in... Aspen, Colorado.


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