Bulgarian hoteliers: State is shifting responsibility for Ukrainian refugees to us

The state is once again shifting the responsibility for resolving the issue of accommodation of refugees from Ukraine to hoteliers, although the government has repeatedly said that it supports mothers with children who fled the war and sought protection in Bulgaria, the Bulgarian Hotel and Restaurant Association (BHRA) said on May 23.

Although May 31 is the deadline set by the government for the Ukrainians to leave the Black Sea hotels, the government had not yet made the necessary arrangements for the relocation of refugees, BHRA said.

The association said that some of those already accommodated in four- and five-star hotels and who were able to had already paid for their stay up to the end of July, hoping that by then the war would be over and they would return home.

Others, for whom places were found in state facilities, had moved there “under conditions different from those of hotels”.

BHRA said that the government had reduced to 15 leva the amount allocated for a refugee in accommodation establishments.

“They (the government) can calculate for themselves whether this amount is enough to accommodate, cover overheads and purchase the necessary food, so that mothers with children receive a nutritious menu.”

BHRA deputy chairperson Vesselin Nalbantov said that the state had again placed hoteliers in a difficult position.

Nalbantov said that so far no one has talked to the business about the upcoming relocation of refugees, which should happen within a week.

“The proposed 15 leva for accommodation and three meals a day for refugees are extremely insufficient,” he said.

He said that many of the Ukrainians who had been accommodated were refusing to move to state facilities where conditions were not of the same standard as in hotels.

“There should be an opportunity, if they have the necessary funds, to be able to pay extra for a richer menu or additional services,” Nalbantov said, describing this as a reasonable solution.

He said that payments for currently accommodated refugees were also being delayed.

While hoteliers had been given assurances that they would be paid “sooner or later”, hotels were facing difficulties in bearing their costs in the face of rising inflation, energy prices, labour costs and food prices.

“It is obvious that the state is washing its hands like Pontius Pilate…it is high time for those in power to be ashamed,” Nalbantov said.

He said that it had taken the government more than a month to decide whether and how much money to allocate for accommodation, while hoteliers had within the first 24 hours opened their closed hotels, accommodated mothers with children and had helped as much as they could, with no assurance that their expenses would be covered in full.

“For three months there was no strategy, courses and retraining could be done so that refugees could be prepared and employed in the tourism sector, which needs staff.”

BHRA chairperson Georgi Shterev said: “We are witnessing the same lack of organisation now”.

“In the past three months, the Ministry of Tourism has been acting as a refugee agency, instead of having time to deal with important issues in the sector,” he said.

The state was doing nothing to find an alternative for the needy, Shterev said.

“With the clear awareness that they can wash their hands again of the ‘bad’ hoteliers, who instead of accepting refugees at 15 leva a day, prefer to sell at market prices the products in which they have invested decades of effort and investment,” he said.

“There are not enough places in the state facilities and they will have to leave it to the hoteliers to decide whether to continue accepting the refugees – mainly mothers with children, at 15 leva full board. A price that even a normal household cannot afford.”

Shterev said that the decision on the accommodation of refugees would affect the relations between Ukraine and Bulgaria in the future.

“Thanks to the hotels, Bulgaria has so far presented the best conditions for accommodation of Ukrainian refugees in the EU,” he said.

(Photo: HeroS/freeimages.com)

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