Angelkova Has Placed Tourism in a Waking Coma
Tourism Minister Nikolina Angelkova has once again put the sector she is responsible for in a waking coma. Her actions over the past month have been more than indicative that her "CPR" should be stopped.
A few days ago it became clear that confidence in the tourist boss had disastrously collapsed and had already reached a dead point. One of the many reasons for this was Angelkova's reasonings on the topic of the bright future of tourism in a pandemic. She didn't stop running through TV studios, but that was exactly the straw that broke the camel’s back. 537 tour operators and 32 unprofitable organizations demanded that she be fired because of her extremely delayed response and complete lack of vision for the way out of the crisis.
Angelkova will resign when the pigs fly. Instead of thinking over a little, she cheerfully continued to explain that "she will leave if she is guilty of something specific or if she did not do something" ...
The results of a poll organized by Travel Academy did not help either, according to which 87% of the respondents strongly approve of Angelkova being dismissed from the post of Minister of Tourism.
Tour operators, hotel operators, concessionaires, tourists and everyone else who is somehow connected with tourism, have not approved of the behavior of the Ministry Angelkova manages for quite a long time. According to them, it has always followed the problems in the sector. Most likely, because most of the issues in question are directly the responsibility of the Ministry itself. Just now, the pandemic crisis has “exposed” these problems not only to the professional community but to the entire society.
The truth is simple and sad. This sector, which has been pouring billions into Bulgaria's economy for years, has come today to a pretty pass. And since the measures for its rescue have gone lame, the initiative for their real realization was taken by the National Salvation Front of Bulgaria, led by Valery Simeonov.
The former deputy prime minister and his colleagues submitted a proposal to the National Assembly for revolutionary changes to the Law on Emergency Measures, through which the industry could minimize the damage caused by the crisis. Under the motto "Tourism urgently needs state aid, not promises", Simeonov's team offer a package of measures for real financial assistance to hotel operators, restaurateurs, tour operators and travel agencies.
The first proposal: the state should partially take 60% (under the 60: 0 scheme) of the salaries of the average list of companies’ staff, engaged in tourism, based on their expenses for June, July and August in 2019. It goes about up to one-third of the staff, with the explicit condition that companies be regular, i.e. they have paid insurance and have no debts.
On the other hand, employers must retain jobs within one year. In case of redundancies before the expiry of this period, the employers shall refund the amounts to the State.
To The BANKER Simeonov justified this proposal as follows: "Measure 60:40 is not applicable to tourism industry. Not to say it is downright depraved. I'm sure the only ones who will benefit from it will not be the small and medium-sized companies that actually create the true tourism product in our country but the owners of large hotels, which are often owned by offshore companies and do not pay taxes in our country. And in order not to speculate on the opportunity we have offered, we have put in place this "security" text, by which we oblige employers to retain the workers for whom they received financial aid for one year. "
The second measure proposed is giving the Minister of Tourism the right to issue vouchers for accommodation of employees for at least seven days. They should be worth BGN 210 (or 30 BGN per day) and can be used only for tourist sites in the country. If the holiday is at a higher price, it will be paid by the voucher user.
Such vouchers are intended to be provided by the state for students to participate in ”Green Class”, competitions and tourist visits. However, they will be worth BGN 100 and will be valid until December 31 next year.
This way the proposals will support small tourist sites such as guest houses and small family hotels. At the same time, four and five-star hotels will be stimulated, which will certainly reduce their prices to take advantage of this measure.
In the proposed legislative texts, Simeonov's team have described precisely the mechanism for issuing vouchers, as well the way they will be paid by the Ministry of Tourism - only after proving that the voucher holder has stayed for at least seven days in the accommodation through a sample of the Uniform Tourist Information System (UTIS).
The proposed changes also reflect concessionaires and beach renters, who also made their voices heard throughout the crisis. They will receive a 50% reduction in the concession fee or rent due, but at the same time they will be obliged to provide free of charge all beach facilities according to the schemes approved by the Ministry of Tourism.
According to Simeonov, on the one hand it will attract more Bulgarian holidaymakers along the Black Sea coast and on the other - it will help the tenants of beaches, as they will receive financial relief for half of their obligations to the state, which are traditionally ... more than their income from umbrellas and sun beds.
Simeonov explained to The BANKER newspaper that this was a fairly accurate account, since only 30% of beach owners' income came from umbrellas and sunbeds, the other 70% is formed by services, attractions and beaches. In other words - they will surely be satisfied.
The NFSB also offers one more thing: up to one year after the state of emergency is lifted, the Municipal Councils can change or cancel the tourist tax.
Naturally, the question of reducing the VAT for all tourist services operators - to 9% by the end of next year – has been raised again.
The bill (of BGN 172 million) enshrines the requirement that grants for the business (grants) be given with priority to hoteliers, restaurateurs, tour operators and travel agencies.
The document also contains a financial reasoning of the proposals. According to it, BGN 46 146 000 is provided for the payment of 60% of the salaries (in Article 26 of the State Emergency Act). The NFSB proposes to allocate this amount from the planned 1.5 billion levs under the measure 60:40, since it does not find the necessary support, Simeonov's team are adamant.
As for the reduction of concession fees for concessionaires and beach renters, it has been estimated that BGN 4.5 million is needed. Simeonov reminds that this amount is available in the budget of the Ministry of Tourism because it is left over from unrealized advertisements.
The document emphasizes that the total value of the measures in favor of tourism is under BGN 650 million, which will provide revenues of several billion levs.
Simeonov reminds that last year's summer season, about 9 million people, most of whom foreigners, benefited from the services of the tourism industry. That is, with the proposed measures, about 3.5 million Bulgarians - 2.8 million insured persons and 700,000 students will partially compensate for the absence of foreign tourists. And they will save the industry from bankruptcy.
So, despite all the efforts made by Minister Nikolina Angelkova, Bulgarian tourism will survive!