The Covid-19 pandemic left over 1,400 tour guides jobless due to the travel restrictions introduced for tourists from other countries and Bulgarians who have chosen to visit particular destination. The people known as “little ambassadors” are worried about the unprecedented situation, because they have been without constant incomes since the beginning of the year. This is so, because tour guides usually have no business in January and February.
“We are one of the most important links in the tourism business. We are at the frontline and meet with the foreign tourists first- the Chairman of the Association of Bulgarian Tour Guides Nikolay Mindov said in an interview for Radio Bulgaria. – It depends on the guide how the country will be presented and whether the tourist will visit it again. These are people who have been preparing for this profession for years. They must keep abreast of the latest trends and offers, in order to be good and successful. Moreover, some of our colleagues know languages that are less widely spoken such as Japanese and Chinese and it will be very difficult to replace these people if we lose them. ”
Bulgaria’s tour guides are in a very complicated situation, Nikolay Mindov said and predicted that slight improvement can be expected in July and August when foreign tourists may visit Bulgaria. Nikolay Mindov voiced hopes that travel of Bulgarian groups abroad would resume in October or November this year. “However, many countries have not yet opened their borders, some air companies are not flying and it is very difficult to say when exactly Bulgarian tourists will start travelling freely abroad”.
The state must pay special attention to the problems of the Bulgarian tour guides, the Chairperson of the Union of Bulgarian Tour Guides Hristina Nedelcheva told Radio Bulgaria and added that representatives of their sector must urgently meet with line ministers, because the people employed in this subsector of the tourism business are unable to benefit from the 60/40 wage support scheme offered by this country’s cabinet or by the option for gratuitous loan.
“I hope that the authorities will pay attention to us, because at this stage, no financial assistance is provided directly to tour guides. Perhaps, less than 5% of them benefited from the 60/40 wage support measure. They cannot receive loans with 5 years repayment period and 0% interest rate either.”
Nikolay Mindov expects that guides would receive compensations for the period in which they were unable to work due to the coronavirus crisis, because many of his colleagues are self-employed or work part time.
In Many European countries, our colleagues received one-time financial assistance in the course of 2 or 3 months which helped them get back on their feet- the Chairman of the Association of Bulgarian Tour Guides, which has nearly 500 members, pointed out.
Representatives of the tourism industry hope that the second national protest of tourist carriers, tour operators and tour guides scheduled for June 15 will be a step forward in resolving ambiguities and uncertainties in the sector which have existed in the past 6 months. Hristina Nedelcheva predicted that the protest is likely to be supported by members of the Union of Bulgarian Tour Guides. Nearly 230 tour guides are members of the Varna-based organization.
“We support tourist transport, because we work together with them. During excursions, we spend 50% of our time with the bus driver and we are a team which is very important for the successful journey.”