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Bulgaria’s Sunny Beach opens season with moderate optimism despite the war and pandemic

Photo: sunnybeach.com

The active summer season in Bulgaria’s largest Black Sea resort of Sunny Beach officially starts on June 1, but tourists have started arriving since the beginning of May. Most of the early summer guests are from Great Britain, Poland and Germany, Teodor Pastarmazhdiev, a member of the Board of the Union of Owners in Sunny Beach has told us. According to him, expectations for summer 2022 in the resort are moderately optimistic but there is uncertainty in the tourism industry. After the pandemic and disturbances in international travel, the war in Ukraine has now made tourists extremely cautious. "We think that most of the tourists would wait until the last moment before making plans about their vacation," Teodor Pastarmadzhiev said and added:

"The difference between last season and this one is that then there were great restrictions on international travel. The vast majority of tour operators, including the British ones, had canceled their flight programs altogether. Even if tourists from Britain wanted to visit us, they could not come. This is not the case now as there are enough flights and those who want can easily visit Bulgaria.”

Teodor Pastarmadzhiev does not share the fears of some of his colleagues that the war and the outflow of Russian tourists would have a "detrimental" effect on the season. "We lost Russian tourists a long time ago, long before the pandemic and the war due to a number of factors," he said, adding that currently Russian citizens in Sunny Beach and the region are mostly property owners, not tourists. However, the lack of Ukrainian tourists could have a negative impact.

Currently, there are Ukrainian refugees accommodated in some of the hotels in Sunny Beach and part of their expenses are covered by the Bulgarian state. "However, these Ukrainian citizens occupy a very small percentage of available hotel rooms," Mr. Pastarmadzhiev said and added:

"Officially, there were between 25,000 and 30,000 people registered under the government assistance program for Ukrainians fleeing the war. We have at least 300,000  beds in the area. This means that just 10% of our accommodation places are occupied by Ukrainian citizens. This can hardly create significant problems keeping in mind the fact that in the past ten days many Ukrainian citizens left our hotels."

Some of them are returning home, while others are heading to state accommodation bases around the country. But there is a different problem that the tourism industry faces – galloping prices. Raw materials, fuels energy, food, etc. are becoming more and more expensive in the backdrop of the raging military conflict. That is why the growth of prices of services and tourist packages is expected to continue.

"What we expect is a rise in the price of offered packages by at least 20%, provided that we do not know yet what the price of electricity would be in July and August. This puts us in a difficult position when making plans and setting prices in advance,” Pastarmazhdiev says.

English: Alexander Markov

Photos: sunnybeach.com
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