Russian Tour Operators Boycott Bulgaria over Visa Issue

2009-03-25

Priority Bulgarian visas are currently being given out in Moscow to Russian tour operators who have secured at least 200 seats on chartered flights to Bulgaria this summer. So far only 37 tour operators have called for the priority visas, after the Bulgarian Foreign Affairs Ministry announced that Russians will still have to pay for Bulgarian visas. Hundreds of Russian tour operators have therefore said that they will boycott Bulgaria this summer. The tour organizers also stated that the large number of chartered flight seat bookings required for priority Bulgarian visas cuts out the smaller and medium sized operators. Greece has already declared free visas for Russians for the summer of 2009 which the Russians imagined the Bulgarian government would follow, Pari daily newspaper reported Wednesday. The income from visas issued to Russian tourists visiting Bulgaria will be reinvested in the country's tourism business. It is still unclear how this is going to happen, and how the companies and organizations that will receive the profit will be chosen. According the Chair of the State Tourist Agency, Aneliya Krushkova, this is a way to help the tourist business in Bulgaria during the financial crisis. Bulgaria's PM, Sergey Stanishev, also supports the idea.