Bulgaria Must Set Up Guarantee Fund to Handle Stranded Tourists - Expert

Tourism | January 4, 2012, Wednesday // 16:54|  views

Rumen Draganov, Director of the Institute for Analyses and Assessment of Tourism, has said that Bulgaria must set up a guarantee facility to brush up the image of its troubled tourist sector. Photo by BGNES

Rumen Draganov, Director of the Institute for Analyses and Assessment of Tourism, has suggested that guarantee fund should be set up for cases of Bulgarian tourists left stranded abroad.

In a Wednesday interview, he explained that the lack of such a facility meant that there was no mechanism through which Bulgarian citizens and citizens from other countries using Bulgarian tour operators could be returned if they got left behind.

Draganov made it clear that the existing legislation in Bulgaria stipulated that each stranded tourist had to have a minimum of EUR 500-1000 in their pockets at the end of the journey in order to return by their own means, after which they could seek protection wherever they considered appropriate.

"The lack of a guarantee fund in Bulgaria will continue to render Bulgarian tourism in Bulgaria and abroad insecure and will run against all efforts to create a pleasant image and a good name for Bulgarian tourism," he declared.

The expert noted that such problems with EU citizens' travels abroad carried out by firms registered in the EU were a common occurrence.

He added that, years ago, these accidents would create serious difficulties for European countries

Draganov explained that there had been many cases of stranded English, German, Belgian and French tourists, which sometimes occurred as a result of deliberate actions, such as when the companies collected the money and then filed for a fake bankruptcy without caring to return their tourists from abroad.

The expert said that in such cases the embassies of the respective EU countries had had to provide the means to return the citizens to their home countries.

To remedy the situation, Council Directive 90/314/EEC on package travel, package holidays and package tours was adopted, requiring EU countries to adjust their legislation so as to provide sufficient guarantees against such emergencies, Draganov said.

He further noted that the scandal caused by tour operator Alma Tour in the beginning of September had irreparably tarnished the image of the country on the Russian market.

On September 09-10, Bulgaria Air canceled 4 flights booked by Alma Tour for St. Petersburg, Moscow, and Helsinki, due to what it claimed was a EUR 3.5 M debt on the part of the tour operator, thereby leaving 1000 tourists stranded at the Black Sea airports of Burgas and Varna.

Draganov drew attention to the fact that the Bulgarian Ministry of Economy, Energy and Tourism had not yet changed the law, regardless of the fact that the amendment involved a sub-normative act.

A new scandal with stranded tourists flared up in the last few days.

A total of 12 Bulgarians got left behind in Morocco and had to spend a day at the airport in Tangier over unsettled financial relations between tour operators

After the intervention of the Bulgarian Embassy in Morocco, the group of Bulgarian tourists had their passports returned to them and headed for Bulgaria.

According to reports of Belgrade-based newspapers, the owner of tourist agency Dibons Travel, Bulgarian citizen Boyka Nedelcheva, has been arrested in Prolom Banya, southern Serbia, for using forged documents.

She had presented fake bank documents for a paid tourist package for 26 Bulgarian tourists.

After Nedelcheva's arrest, the unfortunate Bulgarians had to spend New Year's Eve at Prolom Banya.

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Tags: Rumen Draganov, Alma Tour, stranded, tourists, EU Directive, guarantee, morocco


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