Big festivals come to represent a "brand" of a city, especially if they are successful. Therefore, promoter Fest team's decision to simultaneously stop Hills of Rock in Plovdiv and Arte feastival (pun intended by the organizers) in Velingrad this year will come as a double blow.
First, citing the "sharp increase in prices" of hotel services in Velingrad, Fest Team and their partners from Arte Spa Park Hotel decided not to stage the family Arte feastival. Stefan Elenkov from the Fest team told KInsights that they would try to hold it at another location, but at present it's considered canceled, with refunds available for the 800 tickets already sold.
With Hills of rock in Plovdiv, it's more about facts on the ground. No big bands will join the festival this year, according to the founder and executive director of the promotion company. Therefore, together with its partners, the municipality of Plovdiv and the municipal foundation Plovdiv 2019, the decision was made to stage it next year instead. Elenkov claims to have conducted negotiations with over 60 bands, 40 of which have declined, as they do not intend to tour throughout 2023.
Logistical problems surrounding the festival in 2022, including in Bulgaria, account for this decision, notably border delays affecting trucks carrying musicians' equipment. Additionally, last summer saw hundreds of flights canceled on account of staff shortages at airports. Elenkov also cited administrative obstacles facing bands and their equipment coming from the UK in the aftermath of Brexit.
This year, the Fest team will focus on its festivals and events in Sofia and Burgas, as well as on its individual concerts.
Plovdiv will still not remain without big festivals, however. For the second year in a row, the Solar electronic music festival will be held in the city under the hills, organized by the Yalta Club in cooperation with the Fest team. For the first time, the international Francophone festival Francofolies will be held in Plovdiv, after it was held in Blagoevgrad for five years.
When last year one of the five-star hotels in the Rhodope spa town unveiled a New Year's offer worth BGN 11.500 for its presidential suite, some joked that people would opt instead to go "on the cheap" to Dubai or the Maldives! And it turns out that Velingrad's hotels are not just pricey over the New Year.
In 2022, the city welcomed the Arte family festival for the second consecutive year. For both of its editions, it won an award for Best Event in Tourism at the annual awards of the Bulgarian Hotel and Restaurant Association (BHRA). However, this was not enough to seal the deal this year with organizers blaming high hotel prices over the festival period, which usually falls in the second half of August.
KInsights contacted Zlatko Zlatanov, owner of the five-star "Rich" and deputy chairman of the Bulgarian Hotel and Restaurant Association (BHRA). He said it was "controversial" to claim that accommodation was pricier at festival time, adding that "no one can dictate prices to anyone", as this goes against the principles of the market economy.
Zlatanov believes that canceling the festival will not hurt occupancy rates in Velingrad hotels over the period it was due to have been held. He said that August, along with December, are the strongest months for the spa town, and he does not expect a decline in tourism. He added that the festival could have been held in any of the warmer months in the April-June period, when occupancy is lower. Then a possible partnership with members of the BHRA could be more feasible, he said, since the festival would bring more visitors.
Without rock, but house and Francofolies in Plovdiv
Although the Fest team has withdrawn from organizing the Hills this year, they are not withdrawing from Plovdiv. For the second year in a row, in partnership with the capital's Yalta club, they will organize a Plovdiv edition of the popular Solar electronic music festival. After bringing Armin van Buuren the previous year, this year the organizers have invited Afrojack, who is visiting for the first time, as well as Fedde Le Grand, known to the Bulgarian public. In addition, the Brazilian Öwnboss, renowned for his hit "Move your body", as well as Dutch Laura van Dam, are coming to Bulgaria's second city.
Another festival that will premier in the city under the hills this summer is Les Francofolies. The Bulgarian version of the festival was held in Blagoevgrad until 2015 and was supposed to return and be held in Sofia in 2020, but the Covid-19 pandemic canceled these plans. Now its new location is Plovdiv. It will take place on two dates - June 16 and 17, and among the announced artists are Maitre Gims, Imany, LP, Helena Paparizou and Gente de Zona.
Fest team in 2023
After the cancellation of two of the promotion company's major festivals, its team will focus on its events in Sofia and Burgas. At the end of June this year, the Sofia edition of Hills of rock will be held for the second time in the capital, but under a new name - Sofia solid rock and at a new location - Sofia Arena (Serdika Capital Arena).
At the beginning of August, the Burgas Spice music festival will have its fifth edition. Additionally, the announcement of a whole series of events in the seaside town is also expected, Elenkov told KInsights.
He also revealed that the Fest team will organize more and more family events such as Hot Wheels, to be held in April in Sofia. He said he would increasingly focus on "single" concerts such as the upcoming Eros Ramazzotti (April 25), Tom Jones (June 19), the metal band Pantera (May 26), the Bosnian Dubioza Kolektiv (July 5), and Louis Tomlinson from disbanded boy band One Direction (September 18). The company also touted a loyalty program, launched last year, enabling discounts on ticket prices for events, access to advance sales, and priority access to parking spaces in the vicinity of an event/festival.