S?ddeutsche Zeitung: Bulgaria’s Bansko – Monopoly in the Snow

Tourism | February 23, 2015, Monday // 16:27|  views

Photo by BGNES

Munich-based daily S?ddeutsche Zeitung has devoted an article to the controversy surrounding the plans for the construction of a second gondola lift in the Bulgarian ski resort of Bansko.

In a publication dated February 23, 2015 by Florian Sanktjohanser, the German daily presents the positions of both proponents and opponents of the expansion of the ski facilities in Bansko.

Ivan Obreykov, Marketing Director of the Bansko Ski Zone, is quoted as saying that environmentalists “are opposed to everything” and that they see a people-free mountain as the best case scenario.

In his words, the ski runs are crammed with up to 10 000 local and foreign skiers and snowboarders on weekends, with the ski zone fit to accommodate 6000-7000 visitors and the gondola lift having a capacity of up to 2400 skiers per hour.

He says that tourists sometimes have to stand in a queue for 3-4 hours in sub-zero temperatures.

Obreykov informs that the problem of congestion at the base station has not been eliminated despite the launch of buses to carry tourists up the mountain in 2014.

“This is why we need a second gondola lift and more ski runs,” Obreykov declares.

According to Katerina Rakovska from the den World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), however, the striving for more hotels, more lifts, and more skiers creates a vicious circle.

WWF Bulgaria is part of a coalition of NGOs and civic groups called “For the Nature” that has been fighting against the expansion of the ski zone for years, SDZ informs.

The conflict between environmentalists and the Yulen company, concession-holder of ski facilities in Bansko, is traced back to 2000 and the plans of the firm to make Bansko the biggest ski zone in the country.

The lawsuits initiated by environmentalists over the case were lost as they reportedly faced a powerful adversary on the side of Yulen - Tseko Minev, the largest shareholder in the local First Investment Bank and also President of the Bulgarian Ski Federation, according to the publication.

The first gondola lift in the Bansko ski zone started functioning in 2003, unleashing a sort of a gold rush.

A large number of hotels and apartment buildings were built at a ludicrous speed, with Bansko ending up with as many as 20 000 – 25 000 beds, according to the local administration.

According to a ski instructor speaking on condition of anonymity, many of the tourists coming to Bansko are attracted by the cheap prices and all-inclusive deals, with some of them being unable to afford dinners at restaurants outside their hotels.

He says that Bansko could turn into a top-class resort provided that the service became more professional and the resort provided ski runs for advanced skiers too.

He also draws attention to the stifling monopoly of Yulen, stressing that he has left the company after working there for a number of years.

In his words, a number of ski schools have already given up the fight against the monopoly player.

According to Tanya Stancheva, who is said to be responsible for the economic development of Bansko, the ski zone must be expanded.

She says that the Yulen company would invest in the project the very instant it had been given permission to do so by the Bulgarian government.

She accuses the environmentalists of obstructing the progress of the resort.

Stancheva is positive that the second gondola lift will be launched “or our business will die out.”

The article informs that the case has triggered protests and counter-protests and exchanges of accusations of corruption between the two sides.

Environmentalists are quoted as saying that the second gondola list is a measure aimed at helping the empty holiday accommodation sites.

Environmental activists are said to insist that the concessionaire could use bigger cabins at the existing lift instead of ruining more forest area to build a new one.

The publication notes that the ski zone exceeds the area stipulated in the concession by around 65 hectares, yet the offence has remained unpunished due to the expiration of the statute of limitations.

According to Obreykov, Yulen has won all of the 60+ lawsuits over the matter.

Environmentalists also express disappointment over the fact that UNESCO has not included the Pirin National Park on the list of World Heritage in Danger, thereby exerting pressure over the Bulgarian government over the matter.

According to the article, a consultancy is currently drafting a new plan for the resort under which Bansko will be united with nearby ski zones Dobrinishte and Kulinoto to create a ski zone with 33 kilometers of ski runs – one of the biggest ski zones in Europe.

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Tags: Bansko ski zone, ski lift, gondola lift


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