Bulgaria’s Tourism Ministry: No tourists stranded because of Astral Holidays bankruptcy

The bankruptcy of Astral Holidays has not left any tourists stranded, either in Bulgaria or abroad, Deputy Minister of Tourism Irena Georgieva said in a television interview on October 8.

Astral Holidays, a Bulgarian partner of failed UK holiday firm Thomas Cook, announced on October 7 that it was ceasing operations and entering bankruptcy proceedings. On the market in Bulgaria for about 24 years, Astral Holidays was one of the country’s largest tourism companies.

“Everyone can safely finish their vacation and return home,” Georgieva said.

She said that Astral Holiday’s executive director had given an assurance that their obligations to hoteliers and suppliers had been paid. Fewer than 200 people have paid for their excursions but have not yet left.

Nova Televizia reported hotelier Diana Kolcheva as saying: “No statement has been made on what would happen to the hoteliers who worked with Thomas Cook and Astral Holidays. With Thomas Cook, we realized that 58 hotels would be affected. But how many will be hereafter? Is the Ministry of Tourism analyzing the whole situation? What action should the Bulgarian hoteliers be taking?”

Another hotelier, Vesselin Nalbantov, described the two bankruptcies as a tragedy for Bulgarian tourism.

“This will have a negative impact on all other players in this market. The question here is what can be done,” he said.

At a briefing on October 7, Tourism Minister Nikolina Angelkova said that the ministry would provide full assistance to the clients of the Astral Holidays.

Angelkova was speaking after emergency talks with Astral Holidays chief executive Hristo Galbachev and Unica insurance company chief executive Nikolai Genchev.

Astral Holidays had valid tour operator liability insurance to a ceiling of 700 000 leva. Initial estimates are that claims will be less than half of that, the Tourism Ministry said.

Angelkova said that all requirements under the Tourism Act have been met by the tour operator, and the insurance company had committed to fully pay the claims of tourists.

Arrangements had been made to deal with cases as quickly as possible so that each client could choose whether to go ahead with a holiday or claim back the money.

No Thomas Cook clients were left in Bulgaria, said Angelkova, who was due to travel to Germany on October 8 for meetings with tour operators on the German market to discuss plans for the 2020 holiday season.

She again recommended to tourists, before taking a trip, to check in the National Tourist Register that the tour operator has a valid tour operator’s liability insurance.

Galbachev said that 51 clients of the tour operator are currently abroad, but would be able to continue their vacations.

Genchev said that the documents of Astral Holidays clients would be dealt with as quickly as possible in order not to delay, with a maximum legal deadline of 15 days.



The Sofia Globe staff

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