Bulgarian hoteliers slam caretaker government decision on Ukrainian refugees

The suspension by the caretaker government of the programme to accommodate Ukrainian refugees in hotels is further proof that tourism is not a priority for the state, the Bulgarian Hotel and Restaurant Association (BHRA) said on November 2.

The statement followed the caretaker government’s announcement on October 31 that the Ukrainian refugees accommodated under the state-supported scheme would be moved to state and municipal facilities. This is supposed to happen as of November 15, although there is no clarity about where the refugees will be moved.

The scheme originally was set up by the then Petkov government in early 2022 to accommodate Ukrainians fleeing to Bulgaria from Russia’s war on their country.

BHRA said that the hoteliers had been the first to lend a hand to the refugees and the state, some of them taking out loans and overdrafts, but the state constantly had transferred to hoteliers the responsibility of housing the mothers and children fleeing the war.

The association said that the funds that had been allocated for accommodation of people staying in hotels certainly had been insufficient, but the industry had not turned its back on those in need.

“That is why we are surprised by the incorrect statement by Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Ivan Demerdzhiev, that the refugees will be relocated so that in the winter conditions, such as are ahead, these citizens will be accommodated in safer places.”

Hoteliers had provided perfect accommodation conditions for the Ukrainian refugees, provided them with nutritious food and even entertainment for the children, so that they would forget the horror of the war, and that without clarity about payment and at their own expense for three months, BHRA head Georgi Shterev said.

The association described as “insulting” the checks by institutions on the hotels “instead of doing periodic checks on the conditions of accommodation during the whole period”.

It said that there was is no logic in paying the same money to hoteliers as for refugees housed in vans.

“The hotel service in our country, which is at the European level, cannot be compared with the conditions in the refugee accommodation vans and such centres,” BHRA said.

The association said that had the programme continued, it would have supported the tourism sector as a temporary solution to one of the most serious problems in the sector, seasonality.

“There is currently a labour shortage across Europe,” the association said.

“And instead of the government doing pointless PR, they should organise training and retraining courses for these people, so that at the same time they find their place in a foreign, albeit hospitable, country. And so, at the same time, to provide staff to the business for the next tourist season – waiters, bartenders, administrators,” it said.

(Photo: Raphael Schaller/unsplash.com)

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