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Bulgaria adopts measures to save summer tourist season

Photo: BGNES

Tourism is among the worst affected sectors of the Bulgarian economy amidst the Covid-19 pandemic. Its restoration will take months in the best-case scenario. The complicated epidemiological and economic situation, as well as the uncertainty when the tourism companies will be able to resume their activity, caused strong tension in the Bulgarian tourist sector.

At a special briefing held one day after the video conference sitting of the EU Ministers of Tourism on the impact of the Covid-19 on tourism, Bulgaria’s Minister of Tourism Nikolina Angelkova presented the ideas of the tourism ministry on how to cope with the difficult situation. Minister Angelkova underlined that the Bulgarian Tourism Ministry has been monitoring the development of the epidemic situation actively and has already developed different scenarios for restart of the tourism sector which was expected to form 18% of Bulgaria’s gross domestic product in 2020.

According to the optimistic scenario, the late summer season will start on July 1 and the preparations will begin on June 15. Minister Angelkova underlined that according to information of the tourism ministry, no holiday bookings were cancelled after June 15. The authorities are considering opening gradually restaurants with gardens and outdoor facilities and are studying the opportunity whether the Bulgarian resorts can start welcoming guests before June 15. The strategy was presented to the National Crisis Headquarters and the Bulgarian Ministry of Health and the Bulgarian business have already started the necessary preparations, Minister Angelkova assured.

The authorities are making efforts to provide liquidity to the companies in the tourism sector through various financial mechanisms. The cabinet’s anti-crisis programme envisages interest-free credits with long grace period for legal entities provided through the Bulgarian Development Bank, as well as consumer loans for self-employed people and people in unpaid leave. The companies operating in the tourism field can benefit from these mechanisms, Minister Angelkova said and pointed out that until now nearly 48% of all enterprises applying for financial assistance under the 60/40 wage support scheme are from the tourism sector.

In its anti-crisis strategy Bulgaria relies to a big extent on the development of a recovery plan in the whole EU. During yesterday’s video-conference sitting the EU Ministers of Tourism insisted that 20% of the funds under this plan are allotted to tourism. Bulgaria expects that uniform rules for gradual opening of the borders within the European Union are introduced and that all member states comply with uniform health standards.

Taking into consideration the proposals of the companies from the tourism sector, Bulgaria has voiced the need for more flexibility regarding the visa regime with third countries. Earlier this month, the National Board of Tourism and the Varna Tourist Chamber insisted that Bulgaria and its neighboring countries introduced green corridors for busses transporting tourists after the end of the state of emergency. They also called for facilitation of visa regime with Turkey and Russia. The Bulgarian authorities are also considering options to stimulate charter flights.

One of the main measures in the strategy of the Bulgarian Ministry of Tourism envisages the introduction of a system of vouchers for Bulgarians who choose local resorts as holiday destination. The campaign Rediscover Bulgaria was launched to promote local tourism. The tourism ministry is discussing with the mayors of Black Sea municipalities possibilities to provide chaise-longues and umbrellas free-of-charge or at a symbolic price. It is also discussing with the Ministry of Health standards on the distance between the chaise-longues and umbrellas during their use.

Customers who bought holiday packages and were not able to use them can choose a tourist voucher, another date for their summer holiday or apply for a money refund, Minister Angelkova pointed out and called on the Bulgarian citizens to use the third option as a last resort.

Undoubtedly, the forthcoming tourist season will be interesting. Bulgaria will rely mainly on the local and regional tourism under strict observance of the anti-epidemiological measures. The tourists will be redirected from bigger to smaller hotels accentuating on balneology, Spa and medical tourism. Moreover, tourists will be able to rediscover the charm of the individual attitude towards the client by the small family business.

English version: Kostadin Atanasov

Photos: BGNES

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