BULGARIA LOSES USD350MN FROM THE WITHDRAWAL OF RUSSIAN AND UKRAINIAN TOURISTS
The Ministry of Economy reported record high proceeds from leisure industry for the first 11 months of 2002. They total USD1,218.8MN and the surplus for the same period is USD690.8MN. Bulgaria was visited by 2,823,741 foreigners, up 7.89% from the previous year. Not counting the so-called suitcase traders from Bulgaria's neighbour countries Macedonia, Yugoslavia and Romania, Germany is number one according to the number of holiday-makers (477,783) who visited Bulgaria in 2002. Next comes Greece with 347,102 vacationers, Macedonia - with 193,700, and Great Britain - with 107,000. According to information of the border check-points, the number of guests from Central and Western Europe has increased considerably as compared to 2001. Holiday-makers from Poland went up by 55.36%, from the Czech Republic - by 31.22%, from Slovakia - by 37.05%, from Finland - by 30.64%, from Denmark - by 63.92%, and from France - by 13.33 per cent.The deletion of Bulgaria from the Schengen list resulted in an increased trust in Bulgarian resorts. The number of vacationers from the EU countries alone rose 22.09% within the first ten months of 2002, from 972,403 in 2001 to 1,187,216.At the same time, however, Bulgaria lost its traditional leisure industry markets in Russia and the former Soviet republics. The boom in the number of holiday-makers from Russia and the Ukraine in 2000 and 2001, when they exceeded 200,000, was followed by a slump in 2002. Proceeds from Ukrainian guests dropped by 44.19 %, from Russians - by 24.42 %, and from Belarussians - by 10.47 per cent. The number of Russians who visited Bulgaria decreased from 130,886 in 2001 to 98,115 in 2002. Holiday-makers from the Ukraine totalled 38,902 last year, down from 70,168 in 2001. The Bulgarian Association of Tourist Agencies (BATA) - Southern Region, and the Bourgas Regional Tourist Chamber, Bulgaria loses about USD350MN from the withdrawal of vacationers from the former USSR.Let's recall that on November 30, 2000 the EU Council of Ministers of the Interior and Justice made a decision for eliminating the visa restrictions for Bulgarian citizens entering the countries of the Schengen area. As a result our country had to accept the negative sides of the joint membership and as of October 1, 2001 introduced unilaterally visas for the Russian and former USSR republics' citizens. In return the Russian federation introduced a visa regime for the Bulgarian citizens. All that had an adverse effect not only on leisure industry, but on Bulgaria's business relations with the CIS countries.On March 6, 2002, the Foreign Minister Solomon Passy and teh Russian Ambassador to Bulgaria H.E. Vladimir Titov signed an agreement, facilitating the process of visa issuance. Opening of seven new consulates on the territory of Russia and one more consulate in the Ukraine, Donetzk, was projected as well. An option for issuing visas through the INTERNET was worked out in order to make things easier for tour operators. All that was included in the Ministry of Economy's programme, which envisioned elimination of bureaucratic hindrances for citizens from the Ukraine, Belarus, Russia, and Moldova, willing to spend their holdidays in Bulgaria. However, these good intentions remained practically unrealized. BATA's representatives claim that the procedure for issuing visas is extremely clumsy, no new consulates have been opened, and the introduction of electronic visas has been postponed for an indefinite time. Withdrawing from Bulgaria, the Russian and Ukrainian holiday-makers reorientated to Turkey. More than 2,000,000 Russian vacationers spent their holidays in Bulgaria's southern neighbour last summer season and it is not surprising. The budget which Turkey spent for advertising in Moscow alone, amounted to USD15MN.