Bulgaria has steadily opened its economy since gaining independence from the Soviet Union in 1990. Situated to the north of Greece and Turkey in the Balkans, the country has played a key role in regional cooperation and security. Bulgaria joined NATO in 2004 and the European Union in January 2007. It is the bloc’s poorest member, despite robust economic growth averaging more than 6% a year from 2004 to 2008. The global downturn hit Bulgaria hard, eroding the lending, consumption and foreign investment that had fueled its growth. GDP fell by 5.5% in 2009, held steady in 2010 and grew approximately 2.2% in 2011.
Business travel industry insight
Bulgaria’s business travel market is powered by industry, which was helped by a significant recovery in exports starting in 2010. Travel-related commissions are low, and credit card use is high. It’s possible to collect and analyze relevant and reliable on-the-ground business travel data.
- Bulgaria placed 62nd in this year’s World Economic Forum Global Competiveness ranking, up from 74th place—beating Slovakia, Romania and Greece. Its competitiveness is bolstered by low corporate income taxes.
- The country holds an important position in regional and global relations. It currently serves on the United Nations Economic and Social Council.
- Membership in the European Union has helped speed development in Bulgaria. Since 2007, the EU has allocated billions of dollars to upgrade the country’s transportation systems and other infrastructure.
- The country continues to suffer from a severe downturn in foreign investment—dropping from $8.5 billion in 2008 to $2.3 billion in 2011.
- Government corruption, a weak judiciary and the presence of organized crime hamper the country’s investment and economic prospects.
- The local currency, the lev, tracks the euro, but Bulgaria has not adopted the EU’s common currency, which can complicate some business transactions.