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Uncertainty, rising prices and shortage of staff - Bansko on the eve of the new ski season

Photo: library

"Uncertainty - about our tomorrow, about electricity bills, about whether we will be able to hire staff, what will be the next measures of the government against the spread of the virus – this is how Malin Bistrin, chairman of the Union of the Tourism Sector in Bansko, comments on the situation which the industry is now faced with.

In the midst of the 4th epidemic wave in Bulgaria, the tourist businesses in one of the country’s largest ski resorts, Bansko, is preparing for yet another season marked by the coronavirus pandemic. "We have been in a pandemic situation for two years now, and the state has not yet worked out a plan to outline our actions in a given situation," says Malin Bistrin, adding that no one at this stage could predict how the coronavirus crisis will develop and whether there will be a lockdown and additional restrictive measures for businesses.

What is new this year are the vaccines and the requirement for a green certificate. Thanks to them, winter resorts in Europe are reopening to tourists. Bulgarian winter resorts are also reopening, including Bansko, with a promise of strict compliance with anti-epidemic measures. "We are already 50% vaccinated, and especially my staff is 99% vaccinated and we work quite successfully," says Bistrin.

“I am personally "for" such certificates, as well as for most vaccinations, because it allows for a step towards the restoration of tourism, i.e. of people's free travel to visit different countries and resorts. This will give peace of mind to the guests of our resort and to the visitors of Bulgaria as a whole."

The rate of bookings is a ray of hope after two consecutive difficult seasons for Bansko. In the coming months, the sector will rely mostly on Bulgarian tourists who last year were predominant in the resort. Apart from them, traditional guests from the neighbouring Balkan countries, as well as from Great Britain, are expected. There are serious bookings from Israel, there is also interest from Russia, as Bulgaria has recognized the Russian vaccine Sputnik V. Hopes are currently focused on Central European countries whose economies are not in crisis. "We are talking about tourists from the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, who came last year, appreciated Bansko as a resort with good ski slopes and reasonable prices, and now we expect them to visit us again," Malin Bistrin explains.

But the problems related to the lack of predictability seem to prevail. Among them are the galloping prices of electricity and fuel. "There is no way we can't raise prices at least minimally in order to survive," Bistrin admits, adding:

"We are fully prepared. Our hotels are warm, the fireplaces are working. The electricity meter is spinning, and we are actually paying some expenses without knowing if we will have any income at all and if we will work. In addition, we are hampered by staff shortages. Uncertainty overwhelms both young and old professionals. We have cases where proven chefs or receptionists, in whom we have invested years of effort to develop them, leave, saying, “Boss, I'd rather be a truck driver, but have some security. And not like it is here - they open us, close us, we are constantly monitored by thousands of institutions, they come and fine us over constantly changing requirements, etc."

Everyone is unanimous - skiing is unlikely to return to its former "normal". Some countries have introduced a green certificate and the wearing of the FFP2 mask, including in their ski areas.

Bulgarian resorts will open the winter season without the requirement for a green certificate and the use of protective masks in the area of ​​their lifts and ski areas. However, in Bansko and elsewhere, an increase in the prices of cards for the facilities is already being discussed, which will probably cost BGN 100 per day. Meanwhile, those working in the industry are keeping their fingers crossed that the 4th coronavirus wave will be merciful and that there will be no need to tighten the measures and God forbid a new lockdown!

English version Rositsa Petkova

Photos: Pixabay, banskoski.com, archive

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