Tourist firms mull over cutting prices for Bulgarians


Discounts of 10 to 30 per cent for Bulgarian holidaymakers and preferential offers for public employees are some of the measures to jump-start the local tourist sector approved by the industry council on February 23 2009. The moves are aimed at luring back Bulgarians who have spent their holidays abroad in recent years. According to National Statistical Institute data, Bulgarians make six million foreign trips, about 30 per cent of them to Greece. A similar campaign kicked off last year but the results have not been announced. Accrding to "The Sofia Echo", tourism associations forged out common government aid demands that should help the sector survive the global economic downturn. They will seek subsidies for visas issued to Russian and Ukrainian tourists, a measure estimated at 16 million leva. Bulgaria's closest rivals, Greece and Cyprus, have already taken such a step. The sector will call for a further 40 million leva for a national advertising campaign targeting Russia, the CIS and the Balkan countries and the domestic market. A further demand is legislative changes to set the value-added tax for all services in the sector at seven per cent. Currently, the preferential rate is only available to hotels that welcome organised groups. The tourism investors' union said they would seek a bigger reduction to five per cent. The industry will also call for scrapping fees on charter flights and for being awarded an export sector status to borrow resources extended to commercial banks by the Bulgarian Development Bank. The Government should allocate about 100 million leva for the tourism industry to provide operating cash for hoteliers and tour operators, according to the organisations. Once refined, the proposals will be submitted to Deputy Prime Minister Ivailo Kalfin, who is responsible for the sector. On the recommendation of the tourism agency, the demands will come with a special control mechanism to ensure that state subsidies would lower the cost of tourist services. The industry hopes the measures will be in place by the start of the summer season. As holidaymakers tighten their belts and currency exchange rates jump up and down, Bulgaria's tourist companies face smaller winter season revenues and lop up to 50 per cent off summer pre-booking prices.