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War in Ukraine

Ukrainian refugees in Bulgaria and the prospects for the summer tourist season

Photo: faragency.bg

At the end of the week, on the Eastern Orthodox Easter, the tourist season on the Bulgarian Black Sea coast will start officially. However, the steady flow of Ukrainian refugees will invariably affect tourists' holidays there. According to information provided to Radio Bulgaria by the Ministry of Tourism, 39,598 refugees are currently accommodated in 589 accommodation site in the districts of Varna, Burgas and Dobrich, and there are over 43,000 of them throughout the country.

On April 16, Deputy Prime Minister Kalina Konstantinova and Crisis Staff Chief Valery Rachev announced that the state humanitarian aid program, which allows Ukrainian refugees to be accommodated and eat for free in hotels, ends on May 31.

"After this date, the Council of Ministers will discuss with all interested institutions the possible options related to the residence of Ukrainian refugees in Bulgaria, depending on the situation," said Eleonora Mladenova, an expert at the Ministry of Tourism. An operational coordinating group for the evacuation and accommodation of refugees from Ukraine has been set up. By the end of the three months’ period of their accommodation in hotels, a decision will be made so that a normal summer season could be held, especially on the Black Sea coast. Options are being sought to relocate refugees from Ukraine to accommodation facilities of certain institutions or winter resorts for the start of the summer season."

Bulgaria has made a commitment to provide assistance and the option of accommodating refugees in Bulgarian hotels was the only acceptable and quickest response. However, the Easter holiday in the hotels that hosted Ukrainian refugees has been thwarted.

"We have over 170 Ukrainians, 75 of whom are children," said Soslan Kokaev, a hotel manager in Balchik, the first in the country to open its doors to those fleeing the war. “We had a lot of preliminary bookings for Easter and we had to move tourists to other hotels. We have been working with a large Scandinavian tour operator for many years, there have been no charters for the last two years due to the pandemic, but now they have been restored and the whole hotel has been booked since the end of May. I have no idea what will happen to the refugees now accommodated here but we are doing our best so they could feel good here. In the eyes of these people, Bulgaria performed well."

For Soslan Kokaev, the way out is that the state funding should continue after the end of May. However, to what extent will the funds provided by the state for each accommodated refugee cover the costs incurred?

“Currently, all hotels are operating at a loss. There are hotels that have opened since March 1, and these are 45 days of feeding people, bills. Only my electricity is over 50,000 euros. If a second electricity bill comes out and hoteliers have received nothing, 90% will go bankrupt”, said Hristo Stiliyanov, owner of a hotel in Kranevo. “We have bookings but we cannot chase out the refugees. Let’s pray to God everything will be fine!”

Tourists who have chosen the Bulgarian Black Sea coast for a holiday can count on hotels where there are no refugees. The Ministry of Tourism expects tourists from Bulgaria, Romania, Poland, Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Israel and Belgium.

"There are some preconditions for the restoration of the tourist flow from Great Britain, which is a key market for Bulgaria," said expert Eleonora Mladenova. “Promoting domestic tourism remains a top priority, and a number of international campaigns are planned for the upcoming summer season. We are currently developing different options and we believe that the best solution will be found."

English version Rositsa Petkova
Photos: faragency.bg, heliosbalchik.comр, BNR-Varna

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