Is Bulgaria the new Costa del Sol?

By Frank Barrett, Mail on Sunday

Last updated at 10:13 05 April 2004

Which is the 'hot new holiday spot' for Britons this summer? According to Direct Holidays, it's Bulgaria.

What? Arthur Scargill's favourite holiday place? Famous for Stalinist hotel blocks and source of illegal (allegedly) immigrants?

Direct Holidays has another take: 'There's the summer climate, with temperatures regularly in the 80s, multiple attractions - historical, musical and entertaining, and not forgetting 240 miles of beautiful, sandy beach.

'But its biggest asset is that, unlike nearby counterparts Spain and Greece, Bulgaria's non-euro status makes it a lot cheaper than traditional resorts.'

Bulgaria 'nearby' to Spain? Not in my atlas it ain't.

However, my guess is that anyone looking for somewhere to have a cheap holiday - Bulgaria's main attraction - is unlikely to be worried about finding historical and musical attractions: 'We were thinking about the Costa del Sol this summer, but then we saw Malaga's summer opera programme, all Puccini and Verdi!'

Still, with so many Bulgarians apparently desperate to come here, I suppose it's only fair that they should get some of our bargain-seekers.

Given its potential for cheapo stag nights, it's surprising that Bulgaria's capital, Sofia, has yet to show up on the destination lists of no-frills airlines - although this business is so fastmoving that by the time this piece appears, it's entirely likely that someone called Bulg-Air may have started up to fill the gap. I should do it myself.

Time Out publications have bravely attempted to catalogue the burgeoning low-fare airline business (apparently no one likes the term 'no-frills' anymore) in the Summer 2004 edition of Europe By Air (Time Out Guides, £6.99;

This is an impressively comprehensive guide to 150 European places (70 more than when it was first published three years ago) and lists the airlines that serve them.

The guide includes Thomsonfly, the new budget airline set up by TUI, owners of Thomson Holidays. Flights began operating on Wednesday from Coventry airport.

Until now the accent has been on no-frills airlines, but Thomsonfly has ushered in the era of the no-frills airport - until planning regulations are resolved, Coventry lacks a handy car park and a proper terminal building.

But since the airline was offering return fares from £0.00 last week on flights from Coventry to Venice (a generous introductory offer, I presume, rather than a computer error) - it would be churlish to complain.

In the travel business, competition is everything. Welcome, Thomsonfly, and good luck.

Write to Frank Barrett, The Mail on Sunday, 2 Derry Street, Kensington, London W8 5TS; fax: 020 7938 2894; e-mail:

Sorry we are not currently accepting comments on this article.