Tourism Bulgaria is a significant contributor to the country's economy. In 2008 Bulgaria was visited by 8.9 million tourists, as outlined by the World Tourism Organization. Tourists from three countries - Greece, Romania and Turkey - account for 40% of visitors. New types of tourism, including cultural, architectural and historic tours, eco-tourism, and adventure tours, are expanding the range of visitor experiences. The tourist industry, especially on the seaside, continues to suffer from construction works, poor handling of visitors, poor advertisement and low bed occupancy.
Sea tourism in Bulgaria has been growing since the 1960s. Under Communist rule, a handful of luxury resorts - Albena, Golden Sands and Sunny Beach - were a gathering point for the Eastern Bloc elite. The local Black Sea coast was sometimes called "the Red Riviera" as it had no dangerous wildlife, a long summer season and a very warm climate. In the early 1960s, these resorts began attracting rich tourists from the West, who usually summered at Cannes or Nice, but the egalitarian society of Bulgaria at the time repulsed elitarian guests. Nevertheless, the number of tourists visiting Bulgaria's coastline from both East and West steadily increased throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Tourism became a strategic sector in the economy, and it holds this position to a certain degree today. The number of tourists has been growing rapidly in recent years; in 2010, Bulgaria was the most popular tourist destination for British citizens.
Tourist activities, such as "ethno-tourism" and "architectural-cultural" tourism, are gaining ground, catering to specialized tastes. These are new types of tours, which involve interaction with and living amongst the local people, in mountain villages.
For the more adventurous, active recreation, involving mountain hiking and bike tourism, provides a close connection with nature. Climbers scale the granite mountains of Rila, Pirin and the Balkan. Hikers enjoy the mountains of Vitosha and the Rhodopes. Mountain biking, and bicycle racing are also recreations, and Bulgaria is one of only six countries to annually host the official 1,200 km Randonnees - ultra-marathon bicycle rides patterned after Paris–Brest–Paris.
Situated at the crossroads of the East and West, Bulgaria has been home to many civilizations - Thracians, Romans, Byzantines, Slavs, Proto-Bulgarians, and Ottomans. Bulgaria is rich in historical artifacts, but museus to keep them is up to be built (central historical and art museum is now being developed in Sofia), many of the museums and monasteries still need to be properly advertised and maintained, and some of the most interesting heritage sites may not be easily accessible, due to poor infrastructure. Yet, some visitors regard such "underdevelopment" as desirable - those who prefer to experience history first-hand rather than look at artefacts behind glass.