"Conflict over Ukraine May Hit Hard Bulgarian Hospitality Industry" - Tourism Committee Chair

NW 10:42:01 02-02-2022

"Conflict over Ukraine May
Hit Hard Bulgarian Hospitality Industry" -
Tourism Committee Chair

Sofia, February 2 (BTA) - If a conflict over Ukraine breaks out, there is a strong likelihood that the Bulgarian tourism industry will be hit hard, National Assembly Tourism Committee Chair Ilin Dimitrov said in a BTA interview, specifying that the Russia-Ukraine situation is his "greatest concern".

He has even asked the Defence Ministry to analyze how an invasion would impact the high tourist season in this country, considering that Russia, Ukraine and Belarus are major incoming markets for the Bulgarian tourism sector. Nearly 94,000 guests from Belarus came in 2019, and good years have seen between 320,000 and 400,000 visitors from Russia. Despite the pandemic, up to several hundred thousand people from those three countries have holidayed in Biulgaria, and the number approximated 450,000 in 2019, the Continue the Change MP pointed out.

Bookings from Ukraine are making fine progress, albeit by low-market clients. The Russian market, too, is expected to pick up. Nevertheless, Dimitrov expects 2022 to be 10 to 15 per cent worse than 2019. Last year the domestic market peaked at some 2.8 million tourists, but fewer will opt for local destinations in 2022, while the rest will be attracted by Turkey and Greece. In any case, over 2 million locals will certainly spend their vacation at the Bulgarian Black Sea coast this coming summer.

Dimitrov expects the pandemic situation and the energy crisis to be eased in summer.

Among the strategic tasks on which his Committee will be working until the end of the year, Dimitrov listed a new Tourism Act (to address the issue of national resorts and concessions) and a Branch Organizations Act. Another draft legislation in the pipeline is a bill on the old capital cities, which is expected to boost culture tourism and new tourist itineraries.

Regarding the Tourism Guarantee Fund, the Committee Chair said that setting it up will take more time so as to safeguard the interests of all parties concerned: clients, tour operators and travel agents, and the State. The Fund will provide refunds for trips cancelled for reasons beyond the service providers' control.

The MP believes that human resources are the most serious problem facing the Bulgarian tourism industry. There are plans to tackle the issue by establishing a closer link between the relevant secondary vocational schools and the business community, reviewing the legal framework on importing workforce and easing these arrangements, offering incentives to retain tourism staff in Bulgaria, and subsidizing pre-season employment by paying employers for one-month training of personnel at their establishments and undertaking to keep them on the job for, say, five months. LG