Tourism Agency Chairman Mario al-Jebouri: WE DON'T HAVE A MENTALITY FOR DEVELOPING MODERN, HIGH-QUALITY TOURISM
Mr. al-Jeburi, which are the current priorities in the work of the agency you are heading now?
- They include improvement of services in the sector and appropriate presentation of Bulgaria abroad. Bulgaria's candidacy for the Winter Olympics in 2014 is among the accents in our work.
Is the money, earmarked by the agency sufficient for achieving those aims?
- Our budget for 2006 is BGN6MN and is quite small. I'll be negotiating with Finance Minister Plamen Oresharski for raising it to the 2005 level of BGN13MN. Considerable investments should be made in infrastructure, advertising and leisure industry facilities. We have wonderful balneological centres where not a single penny has been invested for 30-40 years. Any good businessman knows that in order to develop his business he should reinvest proceeds and profits and attract new investors, both domestic and foreign.
Will you try to win some preferences for the people, engaged in SPA tourism?
- The preferences have been already won by the fact we live in Bulgaria, a country with incredibly rich natural resources, such as no other country has.
I'm asking about purely financial relief ...
- I could not speak on behalf of financiers, but we are witnessing such investments being made by businesses and giving returns.
Aren't you afraid of the successive wave of large-scale, chaotic construction in balneological centres, as that happened along the Black Sea coast?
- In case of over-construction, or if the balneological resorts themselves do not have the necessary facilities, guests will be coming no more, because what they want is to be in touch with nature and rest in a pleasant, aesthetic conditions. Thus, those who have made investments will have to part with their business. In the case of ski and seaside resorts overpopulation is boring, too, but it does not have such a drastic negative impact.
How many kinds of tourism are being developed in Bulgaria?
- Our country provides opportunities for many kinds of tourism, but we don't have a strategy or a State policy for encouraging that kind of activity. What we lack is thorough education, mentality and culture for developing a modern, high-quality tourism instead of seeking quick return on investments at any cost.
How could the quality improve in that case, according to you?
- At the national meetings where we discuss the common problems with branch representatives we are also seeking ways for solving them. Together we'll work out a strategy that will be a live, dynamic document, liable to changes and updating. We should set up a public-cum-private partnerships in the leisure industry sector in order to achieve real results.
Are amendments to the Tourism Act necessary?
- There are many things that should change. Currently, for instance, the Council of Ministers requires a change in the act's provisions, regulating school students' holidays. We'll use the moment to enable branch experts express their stances and proposals and move them for discussion by the ruling coalition.
The one-time multiple facilities for students' summer camps are been obviously given up...
- They are not property of the Tourism Agency. Therefore, we are not responsible for their maintenance. However, it's a pity that most of them have been destroyed or sold out because they have a very big potential.