LEISURE INDUSTRY THREATENED BY RECESSION
The military actions in Afghanistan and the threat of more terrorist attacks coming on affected seriously the leisure industry branch. According to the world news agencies, the number of vacationers has decreased by 30% in the past month. The trend is not likely to go round Bulgarian companies either, experts comment. The most sceptical among them fear 2001 may appear to be the last profitable year for the sector. Bookings have not been canceled yet, but tour operators expect less Israeli holiday-makers to visit Bulgaria. Revenues from tourism are likely to reach USD1.3BN by year-end. By September the number of foreign visitors actually grew by 20%, Deputy Minister of Economy Dimitar Hadjinikolov said at the opening of the traditional tourist bourse 2001 on Wednesday, October 10.The great number of foreign guests who have visited Bulgaria this year is mostly due to the fact that branch organisations managed to persuade the previous government to postpose the introduction of VAT on the tourist services sold abroad, commented the chairwoman of the Bulgarian Association of Tourist Agencies (BATA), Ms. Donka Sokolova. We hope VAT will not be imposed until the country joins the European Union. The Ministry of Economy has to defend this viewpoint in front of the International Monetary Fund.I do not approve the introduction of VAT, although the agreement with the Fund is of a priority importatnce to the Government. It is true that indirect losses resulting from the smaller number of holiday-makers will exceed the real tax revenues to the budget. But it is the Ministry of Finance and Parliament to make the decision, Deputy Premier and Minister of Economy Nikolai Vassilev said.The introduction of a visa regime for citizens of the CIS countries will also have an adverse effect on the number of foreign vacationers, said Tsvetan Tonchev, Chairman of the Bulgarian Chamber of Tourism. The new requirement will cause losses amounting to USD157MN, he added.