Sunday, March 29th 2020.


Bruce Taylor


By golf correspondent, Bruce Taylor!


Back in June, I went on my first ever golfing trip: a four day site inspection with 12 members of GATE (Belgium’s Golf Association of Travel Executives) and popular leader Peter Hahn from RIU Hotels & Resorts. We didn’t go to any of RIU’s hotels in the sunny Mediterranean or the Caribbean; we travelled 2h30 by air east of Brussels to Pravets.





In Bulgaria…and where exactly is Bulgaria? Well, it’s that small country in the Balkans, in Europe’s south eastern corner, with a big heart and a turbulent history dating back over 2,500 years.
To the north there’s, Rumania; to the south Greece & Turkey; to the east the Black Sea and to the west Macedonia (the former Yugoslav Republic) & Serbia. Rich in nature and natural resources, Bulgaria has seven different mountain ranges, 3000 monasteries, over 600 caves and some spectacular scenery.

Pravets is just 40 minutes/60 kilometres north east of the country’s capital, Sofia and has a direct motorway link to Sofia airport.



RIU operates over 100 hotels around the world. It all started in 1952 with just one 50 room hotel in Mallorca and hasn’t stopped growing.  The company is mainly associated with pure tourism, but that is changing.  They have just opened city business hotels in Panama City and Guadalajara, Mexico.  And then there’s RIU Pravets as a flagship meeting, golf and wellness centre.


Bulgaria Bulgaria


This business-with-pleasure resort opened in 2009. There are 242 rooms with the possibility of lakeside or mountain views. I strongly recommend the former, overlooking the lake and the golf course on the other side.




There’s a separate conference area with a large meeting room seating up to 600 and which can also be divided into four. Everything is flexible and there are 10 meeting rooms in total.
In short, international meeting facilities at Bulgarian prices…
“It’s a safe destination for a conference combining golf, good quality and a good price”, Claire Massart, Incentive Destinations.

For relaxation, there’s the 3500m2 Victoria Spa & Beauty Centre, an indoor heated pool and outdoor ones as well. The massages are superb and great value as most of our group could testify…
“The Balkan massage was the best ever and half the price”; “extraordinary”; “delicious”; “best manicure & pedicure ever”…..were just some of the appreciative comments.

In addition there’s free high-speed internet access; 24 hour room service; a golf simulator where you can perfect your swing: tennis; cycles for hire; a gastronomic restaurant in addition to the excellent and varied buffet restaurant; piano bar; disco and casino with entertainment.

For meeting & incentive groups there are possibilities for organising caving, mountain biking and hiking in the nearby Natural Reserve, as well as a special lunch in a private hunting lodge..

“This is my first visit to Bulgaria as an adult – very nice hotel & golf course”, Philippe Hagelstein, Helios Travel.



And so says top golf media Golfing World. They did a recent report on the PGA Professional Championship of Europe there in October. It was the first real  professional tournament to be held in Bulgaria and the country’s most important golfing event to date.  Portuguese winner, Hugo Santos confirmed, “the weather was fantastic and the golf course in great condition” as you can see in the video below. It also shows the situation of the course with the backdrop of the hotel, lake and the spectactular Stara Planina mountains.


Bulgaria Bulgaria Bulgaria
Bulgaria Bulgaria Bulgaria
Bulgaria Bulgaria Bulgaria
Bulgaria Bulgaria Bulgaria


The course was created by golf celebrity Peter Harradine and is managed by the international Scottish golf company, Braemar Golf. From a distance it looks easy, according to my expert golf companions, but apparently that’s not the case….
“Fantastic course, but not so easy”, Patrick Culot, BTS Travel Experts, Brussels
It’s a very technical course. The holes are very long”, Benny De Baets, Sensa Travel

Season: mid-April to end October
Prices: unbeatable

Client target groups:

  1.  It´s of course ideal for those who are meeting in the hotel to take a break and a breath of inspiring fresh air. The Golf Academy can organise clinics for beginners and those who want to improve their game.
  2. As everyone in the Belgian group agreed, it’s the perfect destination for small groups of friends to come and play together for 3-4days/2-3 nights. Some people even travel with their own club pro. The price and inclusive concept is very attractive to such small groups. And it’s easy and not expensive to reach Sofia with Bulgaria Air.
  3. And for me as a complete beginner, it is also a great place to discover in a short time whether you want to take up golf as a sport and whether you are likely to be any good at it, especially as it involves quite a considerable investment of both money (in membership, green fees & equipment) and time.  It’s definitely the place to come for a short break and a 3- 4 day introduction to golf.





Playing golf you discover that Internet, LinkedIn, Facebook and all the social media have not in fact taken over the world and there is room for personal contact, in fact now more than ever before as we are all chained to our computer & Smartphone screens.  

Business is still very much done on the golf course. It is a great way to meet new people from outside your own business and social world. And because of the handicap system, you don’t have to worry how good you are. The only real competition is you yourself!
“It’s always important to see people face-to-face. You have to organise yourself to have the time. All the business tournaments – PWC, BMW …take place during the week, Veerle Van de Loock, Echo Travel Antwerp


Bulgaria Bulgaria Bulgaria


Pravets is where I took my first ever golf lessons with James, a young and patient English golf professional straight out of university. Over 3 days he encouraged me and made me feel I was capable of taking up the sport even at my advanced years, and more importantly of enjoying it.

He was right. After my short beginner’s introduction at Pravets, I came back and started regular lessons. On a rainy 6 November I passed the French Federation’s ‘CarteVerte’ exam. Of course, I’m still a beginner and will probably always be one!
Anyway, thanks to RIU Hotels, Pravets and Bulgaria for the inspiration.

Like Guinness, golf is also good for you.  There’s something innately satisfying and de-stressing about hitting the hell out of a small white ball and following it around for 6-8 km. It sounds crazy but you forget about everything else in the world and all your worries and cares. It’s also a sport you can play until you’re 80 so I’ve hopefully still got a few years to go. And it’s not a question of physical strength, but of suppleness and flexibility.

Two things I have also learnt. There are very few overweight and unfit golfers, except those who travel round in electric cars. And secondly, you will never have a problem finding a Birthday, Xmas or Anniversary present for a golfer. There’s always something they need or some new gadget to help their game.



Majestic mountains; magic medicinal herbs and spices; giant honey-sucking bees; explosions of wild flowers; an incredible variety of birds, birdsong & wildlife; thick and creamy yogurt like you have never tasted before; ubiquitous white cheese with a delicious salty taste (like feta but even better!); fresh vegetables with a real flavour of fresh vegetables….Rural Bulgaria is a paradise for walkers and nature lovers.


More on GATE
GATE started in 2005 with just five members. The association now has over 80 active tourism professionals  and organises a seven golf events a year on different courses from March to October
Nadine Deladrier-Milleville, Enjoy Travel Consulting

More on RIU Hotels & Resorts
Peter Hahn, Head of Market Development Belgium & France

More on RIU Pravets & Prices
André Hempel
Areas Sales & Contract Manager Bulgaria

More on Active Bulgaria
For ideas for actively discovering the real Bulgaria
for corporates, small groups & individuals
Lubomir Popjordanov (in French)

Stela Samouneva (in English)

More on Bulgaria & Tourism
At last the Bulgarian Ministry for Tourism has updated its VisitBulgaria website.
The texts continue to be a bit heavy, but at least the visuals and music
give a better feel for the country and its undoubted appeals.


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