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LIVE: Restaurants in Bulgaria Open on 1 March, We have Strong Shield against Pandemic Now, Prime Minister
Against the backdrop of over 350,000 vaccinated and rehabilitated after Covid-19, restaurants will open on 1 March. And as of 1April, the nightlife establishments will start functioning too, Prime Minister Boyko Borissov said during the regular cabinet sitting.
The Prime Minister ordered Health Minister Kostadin Angelov to discuss at the upcoming meeting with the guild‘s representatives the...
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50,000 potentially infected with COVID-19 in Bulgaria
Prof. Nikolay Vitanov: There are 50,000 potentially infected with COVID-19 in Bulgaria
There are about 50,000 people potentially infected with COVID-19 in Bulgaria. Prof. Nikolay Vitanov made this forecast on NOVA .
According to him, in order to calculate the number of potentially infected, the number of deaths should be counted at 200.
“Currently, 260 people have died at 200, which...
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Tourism Minister Angelkova: Bulgaria is a Safe Holiday Destination, Tourist Season Starts on July 1
The active summer tourist season will start on July 1, Bulgariaâ€™s Minister of Tourism Nikolina Angelkova told BNTâ€™s current affairs show â€śMore from the Dayâ€ť on May 27.
"We have an extremely clear plan and strategy in this difficult situation, which is unpredictable and unexpected both for the tourism sector, which is directly affected, and for...
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Greece Accepts Bulgarian Tourists with Rapid Antigen Test
Greece will start admitting Bulgarian citizens with a negative rapid COVID-19 antigen test, presented on paper, starting June 19, the Greek Tourism Ministry is quoted as saying by the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry on Friday.
According to the Bulgarian Embassy in Athens, the test results must be issued from an authorized laboratory. The new measure will be in effect for all incoming passengers, regardless of mode of transport, who come from EU countries on the green list, which includes Bulgaria.
The restrictions have been relaxed for children as well. Those under 12 will no longer be required to present a negative PCR or rapid antigen test result, or certify that they have recovered from the virus.Â
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Can Bulgarian Tourism Survive without Foreigners This Summer?
Bulgaria is hoping that an initiative offering free holidays to schoolchildren will relaunch its tourism industry. But for the sector to fully recover, foreign tourists need to return in large numbers.
Bulgarian tourism â€“ such a key sector of the countryâ€™s economy â€“ had a poor 2020.
As a direct consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent restrictions placed on international travel, the number of foreigners visiting the country fell by 60 per cent in comparison with 2019.
Photos of empty beaches were common, as were stories telling of the demise of local businesses who rely on tourists to survive.
Bulgariaâ€™s Ministry of Tourism has promised that this year will be different: there will be no empty beaches and resorts this summer season. But with much international travel still limited â€“ particularly to and from the UK â€“ both domestic visitors and those from elsewhere in emerging European will be key for the Bulgarian tourist industryâ€™s recovery.
The country certainly needs to revive its tourism sector, which contributes around 12 per cent of GDP.
With an eye on opening up to visitors, Bulgaria was earlier this month one of the first countries in the European Union to start using the blocâ€™s digital Covid-19 certificate. All EU countries are expected to join the scheme by July 1. The EU is the largest market for the Bulgarian leisure sector, with Germany, Greece and Romania each providing over one million arrivals in 2019.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, 1.7 million Romanians have visited Bulgaria, and make up the vast majority of all international arrivals.
Bulgariaâ€™s Black Sea resorts, such as Sunny Beach, usually most popular with British and German travellers, are now welcoming largely local, Romanian, Polish and Baltic tourists, as prices at many venues and amenities have been close to halved since 2019.
Ryanair has already restarted summer charter flights to the Bulgarian Black Sea coast from Warsaw, as has Wizz Air has from Prague and Brno.
The Russian tour operator Pegas Touristik meanwhile this month restarted flights to Bulgariaâ€™s seaside airports from 11 Russian cities.
But with many people across the world still shy of taking foreign holidays, domestic travel expected be vital this summer.
Just last week, the Ministry of Education launched a campaign designed to convince Bulgarians to holiday at home. NicknamedÂ Together Again, the campaign will offer a six-day holiday to a beach or mountain resort for 30,000 school children.
Bulgariaâ€™s minister of education, Nikolai Denkov, promised aÂ â€śnew approach towards those most affected by the pandemicâ€ť at a briefing last month, citing concerns for mental health as the key motivation for the initiative.
â€śOne of the biggest effects of the pandemic is the reduction of social contacts, which has had a severe impact on students. That is why we need to create an environment and cultural programmes so that children can begin to fill the gaps that have been accumulated over the last two academic years,â€ť said Denkov.
The campaign means that seven per cent of students aged seven to 18 will be granted a free summer holiday that will include hotel, travel, food, visits to museums, and medical care. Priority will be given to students who are already receiving social benefits, as well as those with high grades.
However, while many have praised the programme, headteachers, who are in charge of selecting those students who can benefit, have argued that the high levels of societal stratification in Bulgaria makes choosing students for the programme difficult.
When the country emerged from lockdown in April, schools were given the freedom to decide whether to continue remote learning or return to in-class lessons. Considering that one of the aims of the programme is to address isolation and mental health amongst students, priority will be given to schools that are still in remote learning.
However, headteachers at schools where the majority of students are living below the national poverty line and where the majority of students do not speak Bulgarian at home stated that they found it most difficult to adapt to online learning and were most likely to return back to in-class learning as soon as possible.
Another concern surrounding the programme is the ongoing spread of Covid-19. Bulgaria remains a vaccination laggard â€“ its vaccination rate is the lowest in the EU â€“ and while jab rates are notably higher amongst younger people, it is likely that vaccinating children will be a struggle, as anti-vaccination conspiracies are widespread.
Jabbing the young
Nevertheless, despite some objections, the countryâ€™s second largest city, Plovdiv, on June 14 became the first in the country to begin vaccinating children under the age of 16. The vaccination of students is scheduled to take place at schools, although just one â€“ the cityâ€™s English Language High School, one of the best performing schools in the whole country â€“ has received the consent of enough parents to begin vaccination.
While the Together Again initiative has been branded as an opportunity largely aimed at low-income families, vaccination rates amongst communities where children are most likely to live in such circumstances are also the most concerning.
Also in Plovdiv, mobile vaccination centres last week attempted to address the issue of vaccine hesitancy in the district of Stolipinovo, the largest Roma settlement in the Balkans where more than 40,000 people are said to reside, but volunteers were only able to administer six doses over the course of the day.
Despite the concerns, the Together Again initiative has largely been met with approval from the public and it set to start on the June 24 for primary school children, and on July 1 for older students
The tourism industry has said that it expects to see a boost of five per cent as a direct result./Milana NikolovaÂ https://emerging-europe.com
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Bulgarian Hotel- and Restaurant-Keepers Lash out at Vaccination Stickers
The Bulgarian Hotel and Restaurant Association (BHRA) has lashed out at the stickers certifying that 100 per cent of the staff have been vaccinated against Covid-19 which are to be placed on hotels and qualified them as â€śdiscriminatoryâ€ť and likely to create a number of problems for the industry.
A statement by the BHRA quoted its deputy head, Vesselin Nalbantov, as saying that the pressure to immunise employees â€śat any costâ€ť led to an outflow of staff.
He said that immunisation should be voluntary and take into account individual health needs and characteristics, rather than â€ścoercive and violent methodsâ€ť such as public or corporate pressure.
â€śThere are people who cannot be vaccinated for health reasons and those who have already been ill and have enough antibodies and therefore do not want to be immunised immediately,â€ť Nalbantov said.
He said that with the business already in a complex situation, the very short summer holiday season, the fact that hoteliers were the only tourism industry that had got no help from the state, the pressure of â€ś100 per cent vaccinatedâ€ť stickers could be the last straw.
BHRA head Georgi Shterev said that colleagues were complaining that, amid the difficulty in finding staff for a short season, even their few employees were refusing to come to work â€śfor fear of being vaccinated compulsorilyâ€ť which for various reasons they did not want.
Shterev reiterated the associationâ€™s position that there should be priority vaccination for those employed in tourism, but taking into account the individual health characteristics of employees in the sector.
Listing objections to the â€ś100 per cent vaccinatedâ€ť stickers, he said that affixing them to only some hotels led to the presumption that those that did not have them were dangerous.
â€śIf only 90 or 50 per cent of the employees in the neighbouring hotel are immunised, does this mean that it is insecure or the staff do not observe the anti-epidemic measures?â€ť he said.
Bulgariaâ€™s hotels had invested a lot of money to ensure the safety of their guests, both last summer and in the winter season and for the upcoming summer season now, Shterev said.
He said that since the beginning of the crisis, there had not been a single Bulgarian hotel or resort at the seaside or in the mountains that had been a source of infection of Covid-19 or infected guests during their holiday.
Shterev said that it was not clear who would check whether the stickers were true.
Given the high turnover of staff, the stickers could be misleading the day after they are put on, because when an employee leaves, another one must be found immediately, and he may not be immune, he said. Shcherev.
BHRA is adamant that the vaccination process is extremely important, but that immunisation cannot be imposed by force. Instead, incentives should be considered to lead to a more effective vaccination process and at the same time to activate the Bulgarian tourist market.
Responding to the BHRA stance, Bulgariaâ€™s Ministry of Tourism said that vaccination is a completely voluntary process and employers have never been required to vaccinate their staff or to exert any pressure in this direction.
â€śAt the same time, the Ministry of Tourism encourages the efforts of all representatives of the tourism business who take care of the health of their staff and their clients who use the tourist service to ensure a safe holiday and to establish the name of Bulgaria as a safe destination.
â€śWe remind you that when choosing a destination, tourists take into account two indicators â€“ the level of morbidity and the level of vaccinated in the country.â€ť
The Ministry of Tourism said that it continues to support the efforts of the Ministry of Health, clearly and consistently, following the policy of Bulgaria and the Cabinet, as well as establishing world practices in an effort to end the Covid-19 pandemic.
Meanwhile, in a statement on June 14, the National Board of Tourism (NBT) said that it is urging the state to step up its advertising campaign and introduce incentives for vaccination in Bulgaria.
The low percentage of doses administered in Bulgaria was hindering tourism and the attraction of foreign tourists, NBT executive director Polina Karastoyanova said.
The main markets for the Bulgarian Black Sea coast, such as the UK, Germany and Russia, allow their citizens to holiday in countries with a high vaccination rate, she said.
â€śThis is one of the reasons why we do not have tourists from these countries at the moment,â€ť Karastoyanova said.
In addition, their health authorities monitor the percentage of vaccinated staff in tourist destinations.
â€śTherefore, the National Board of Tourism insists that the Ministry of Health organises a powerful national marketing and advertising campaign in support of vaccination.â€ť
It also proposed the introduction of incentives, which already exist in some countries.
â€śFor example â€“ every vaccinated Bulgarian should receive from the state a voucher worth 50 leva to be used for a holiday in Bulgaria or to visit a restaurant. In this way, the tourism sector, which has suffered the most from the global pandemic, will be directly supported,â€ť the NBT said.
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Direct flights from Bulgaria to Seychelles to Be Launched This Autumn
The first charter flight from Sofia to the exotic destination is scheduled for October
The first charter flight from Bulgaria to Seychelles is set for October. It will be performed with the assistance of the largest Seychelles tour operator 7South, the Bulgarian travel agency Luxutour and the Honorary Consulate General of the Republic of Seychelles in Bulgaria.This was announced during an event attended by 7South CEO Andre Butler-Payette, who arrived from Seychelles specifically to announce the news, Luxutour founder Petar Stoyanov and Honorary Consul General of the Republic of Seychelles in Bulgaria Maxim Behar.
Â The new direct flights start off on 23 October 2021 and will connect Sofia with the largest island of the Seychelles â€“ Mahe. The exotic country has become increasingly popular among Bulgarians, who will now be greatly facilitated when traveling to the small African country.
The Seychelles are among the safest and most easily accessible destinations in the current pandemic setting. Over 85 percent of the population of the country is already fully vaccinated, and Bulgarians are allowed in only with a negative PCR test, without a requirement for quarantine.
"The Seychelles is an amazing place that offers its visitors crystal clear waters, virginal nature, unique flora and fauna species, coral reefs and exciting experience. We are extremely pleased that we can now share this wealth with the Bulgarians who will have direct connection with Seychelles, thanks to our joint project.", commented Andre Butler-Payette, CEO Manager of 7South.
"We have always recommended Seychelles to our customers because the islands combine the best of all popular exotic tourist sites. Therefore, we are happy that we have succeeded together with our partners Marbro Tours, Exotic Holiday and Planet Travel Center, to take this important step and launch the direct flights. We hope this will give a boost to the travel agencies in Bulgaria, who will be able to add another unique destination to their portfolio," said Petar Stoyanov, founder of Luxutour.Â
"We are happy to give the Bulgarians another opportunity to visit the beautiful Seychelles. We hope that with the launch of direct flights, more and more of our compatriots will be able to enjoy this paradise. Seychelles is a perfect destination for all who are looking for beautiful nature, interesting culture, exotic experiences and excellent service," added Maxim Behar, Honorary Consul General of the Republic of Seychelles in Bulgaria.
Â Dates of direct flights to Seychelles:
â—¦ 23 October 2021 â€“ 01 November 2021
â—¦ 28 January 2022 â€“ 06 February 2022
â—¦ 25 February 2022 â€“ 06 March 2022
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In Bid to Save Season Sunny Beach Offers Lucrative Packages, Discounts â€“ Tour Operators
Hoteliers from Sunny Beach and tour agencies offer all sorts of bonuses and discounts to attract more holidaymakers.
Denitsa Baharova, who is a marketing manager, told Nova TV that the hotel offers prices cut down by 40%.
More night-stays for lower price, free entertainment facilities, free parasols and sunbeds - these are just some of the lucrative offers. Without waiting for the hottest days, most hoteliers in Sunny Beach announced attractive holiday packages in June, revealed host of "On Your Side" talk show Georgi Georgiev.
According to him, this month a holiday on the Bulgarian Black Sea coast would be twice as cheap than during the high season â€“ in July and August.
"We have a special discount at the moment for our customers from Bulgaria and not only. It was 20% in the whole of June as prices for June start from BGN70-75 for all inclusive and ultra all inclusive", said Bayar Bekir, who is marketing manager of a hotel chain in Sunny Beach.
"This year we have focused on family tourism â€“ in our hotels we have a special package â€“ for two adults â€“ 2 children up to 12 years old stay free of charge.Â Especially for our guests with children we have prepared surprises â€“ including we also have a children's luna park in one of our hotels â€“ with bouncy house, bungee and boats", points out Bekir.
Accommodation in a three-star all-inclusive hotel for the first half of June starts from BGN 28 per person. By the end of the month the price will rise to 34, and at the peak of summer it will be over BGN 66, a check in the booking systems shows.
Apartment for five in a hotel with a pool on the beach in Sozopol will cost 100 BGN per person until the end of June. On the eve of July Morning, the price of a night-stay will increase by 20%, and at the beginning of August it will reach BGN 170.
In Sveti Vlas, prices in four-star hotels start at BGN 90 per night.
Almost the same are the offers in luxury hotels in Sinemorets, and in Tsarevo the price is BGN 70. Discounts depend on workload and hotel category, experts say.
"Occupancy rate is currently low - between 5 and 7 percent. At the peak of the season it is expected to be 60-70 percent on the Black Sea coast", say hotel-keepers.
Currently, a double room can be found for 50 leva. In the high season will cost about 130-140 leva.
For neighbors, offers for vacations at the seaside in June will also be 25-30% down. In one of the agencies that organize holidays mainly in Greece, they expect more bookings for Greece compared to last summer.
To save the season, local hoteliers and guesthousesâ€™ owners already offer discounts for early holidaymakers. In Keramoti a double room will cost BGN 60 and in a three-star hotel on the island of Crete â€“ BGN 115. Greeks offer free sunbeds and drinks on the beach, free dinners and are willing to pay half the price for the PCR test.
With each subsequent week, however, the sea vacation in Greece will become more expensive. More than 20 islands are declared Covid-free, as all staff have been vaccinated and cases of infection have not been registered this season.
Prices in Turkish resorts are increased by 20% compared to last one because of the costs associated with anti-epidemic measures. However, the season starts with more lucrative offers.
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Wizz Air Announces New Seasonal Base in Burgas
Wizz Air, the fastest growing airline in Europe and the leading carrier in Bulgaria, celebrated the opening of its first base in Burgas and third in the country. The base will be seasonal, with the airline basing one Airbus A320 aircraft at Burgas airport between June and September 2021.
With the creation of this new base, Wizz Air now offers a total of 16 routes from the coastal city, 10 of which are completely new, and will be launched in June 2021.The tickets are already on sale and can be booked onÂ wizzair.comÂ or on the airline's mobile app at prices starting from as low as BGN 38.99*
The official opening of Wizz Air's third base in the country is further proof of the airline's strong commitment to the Bulgarian market, it provides passengers with increasingly exciting, safe and affordable travel options.
The expansion of Wizz's route network from Burgas will also support the economic development of Bulgaria, contributing effectively to the development of local tourism by connecting the Black Sea city with these destinations and providing lucrative opportunities for passengers from all over Europe to fly directly to the Black Sea coast of Bulgaria, as well as lead to the opening of new jobs in the airline industry and related sectors.
The history of Wizz Air in Bulgaria began in 2005, when the first flight from Sofia to Budapest took off. Over the past 16 years, the airline has carried more than 19 million passengers. passengers to and from Bulgaria. As part of the expansion of its network, the carrier continues to be a market leader in Bulgaria and to increase its local operations.
The Airbus A320 aircraft, which Wizz Air will base on Burgas Airport, will support the operations of some of the new 10 routes to Dortmund, Eindhoven, Kiev, Liverpool, Poznan, Tel Aviv, Turku, Gdansk, Lublin and Doncaster/Sheffield. Other routes from Wizz Air's Burgas network, to be run this summer, include London Luton, Vienna, Budapest, Katowice, Warsaw, WrocĹ‚aw with a total of 250,000 seats on sale from Burgas in 2021.
Whenever passengers decide to travel to and from Burgas, Wizz Air kindly reminds them to familiarize themselves with the strict health and hygiene measures introduced by the carrier to protect passengers and crew.
While HEPA filters on all Wizz Air aircraft already filter out 99.97% of viruses and bacteria in the air, the company's new protocols include physical distancing measures, provide an ultra-clean environment on board and limit any unnecessary social contact so that WIZZ passengers canfeel confident that they are traveling safely to the desired destination.
For added peace of mind, Wizz Air recommends that customers add WIZZ Flex to their booking. Thus, passengers will be able to change the date of their trip or destination, as well as cancel their flights up to three hours before departure free of charge and immediately receive 100% of the original ticket price on their WIZZ account.
Speaking at the press conference,Â Zsuzsa Poos, Chief Customer and Marketing Officer of Wizz Air said: â€ťI am delighted to announce the establishment of a temporary summer base in Bourgas, as we see the demand across Europe to travel to the Beautiful Bulgarian seaside during the summer holiday season. Todayâ€™s announcement underpins our dedication to developing our presence in Bulgaria, and offering more affordable travel opportunities, while keeping ourselves to the highest standards of our sanitizing protocols. Our state-of-the-art aircraft as well as our enhanced protective measures will ensure the best possible sanitary conditions for travellers. Wizz Air operates one of the youngest and economically most efficient fleet of aircraft with one of the lowest environmental footprint in Europe. Iâ€™m convinced that Wizz Air will make a positive impact on Bulgariaâ€™s economic development and support the ramp up of its tourism industry.â€ť
Frank Quante, CEO of Fraport Bulgaria, who also participated in the event,Â commented:Â â€śAt Burgas and Varna Airports, Fraport Bulgaria is doing everything in its power to adapt to the current situation, so to ensure maximum protection to its passengers and employees. We have opened our door as wide as we can and it makes us very happy to have the leading airline Wizz Air consider Burgas Airport a great opportunity for opening a seasonal base with an offering of 14 connections in total. This is a significant development, and we can only wish to retain as many routes as possible all-year-round in Burgas.â€ť
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Bulgarian Black Sea Coast Is Delightfully Quiet Now but Not for All
At the beginning of June this year one canÂ really enjoy the Black Sea coast without crowds of tourists, without aggressive pop-folk music, without junk on the beach. But for people who make a living from tourism, time and place are not idyllic at all, writes Deutsche Welle.
Because the usual Russian holidaymakers are not coming this year. Several "Russian hotels" and small tourist complexes are deserted - kitschy gypsum angels, Greek goddesses, shepherds and lions, which usually "decorate" the resort landscape, now look abandoned and sad.
In other years at this time of year, the hotels were already filling up. This summer, however, you will see only a stray car with Ukrainian registration, there is no work for taxi drivers, and beach accessories shops are waiting for customers in vain.
People in the industry fear that the second consecutive bad tourist season on the Bulgarian Black Sea coast will ruin hundreds of small businesses. In 2020 the season was short, and foreign tourists - fewer than usual. This year the picture is similar. The active tourist season on the Bulgarian Black Sea coast is short and as a small hotelier or restaurateur you must have a lot of imagination, energy and luck to succeed in 3-4 months to maintain a decent level, keep the staff and get your investments back.
However, in a famous resort complex nearby, which according to the rumor is controlled by a large business group with a dubious reputation, everything seems in brilliant condition: the alleys are clean and welcoming, the lush greenery is well maintained, the showcases of the hotels are polished, the restaurants and cafes have many customers - mainly Bulgarians.
In another famous tourist center, most hotels are not even open, and the wide beach is quite deserted. The water is crystal clear, the sand - unusually clean, no empty beer bottles and plastic bags scattered along the beach. The food in the nearby restaurant is excellent, but perhaps this is due to the fact that the restaurant works for the first day and everything is quite fresh. Not far away are incredibly beautiful fields with blooming poppies and lavender, strawberries and cherries are already on the market.
In some places, the Bulgarian Black Sea coast is really beautiful and attractive - especially for those who sentimentally love it. Now you can really enjoy it in its full splendor. It is clean and quiet, beaches are not crowded and restaurant owners are happy to see the rare customers. However, those who have to make the most of a short tourist season to survive during the rest of the year hardly enjoy this idyllic picture.
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No Russian Holidaymakers in Greece and Bulgaria This Summer
Russian tourists, it seems, will be avoiding beaches in Greece and Bulgaria this year. Our take is that the epidemiological situation surely cannot be the excuse and that the Kremlin has decided which countries to reward with tourists and which to punish.
And the numbers are not negligible. In 2019, Greece received more than 500,000 Russian tourists. In Bulgaria, the official figure for the same year was 450,116. Last year, a COVID nightmare everywhere, doesnâ€™t really count.
But, while vaccination has now rapidly progressed and the epidemiological situation has greatly improved, the number of Russian tourists in Bulgaria and Greece remains extremely low.
Here, it is important to add that their arrivals mostly depend on the availability of relatively cheap charter flights, and therein is the rub.
In the case of Greece, EURACTIV obtained a letter sent in April by Russiaâ€™s ministry of transport to the Greek civil aviation authority refusing a Greek request to allow its two main airlines, Aegean and Ellinair, to fly between the two countries.
In the case of Bulgaria, there are essentially no Russian holidaymakers this year, after the Russian tour operator TEZ cancelled all charter flights to Burgas and Varna for the summer.
Stopping the flows of hundreds of thousands of tourists is as simple as that. We saw the same scenario after the downing of a Russian military jet by Turkey in 2015, when the flow of Russian tourists was suddenly diverted from Turkey to Egypt.
Now the downed jet is forgotten, Putin and Erdogan are friends, and Russian tourists are flocking to Turkey, where the epidemiological situation, by the way, isÂ significantly worse than in Bulgaria and worse than in Greece.
In fact, case numbers suggest Russian tourists would undoubtedly be much safer from the virus in Bulgaria and GreeceÂ â€“ countries which would be only too happy to receive them â€“ than in their own country. But, this summer at least, it was just not meant to be.
On 24 May, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias met with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Sochi. Itâ€™s unclear whether they discussed tourism and charter flights, but Dendias afterwards extended a warm welcome to Russian tourists to his country.
As a mark of goodwill, Greece said it would recognise vaccination with the Russian-developed Sputnik V vaccine when granting privileges to vaccinated tourists, despite not giving the jab, which is yet to be approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) to its own citizens.
Bulgaria too has pledged to treat Russian tourists vaccinated with Sputnik V the same as those from other countries immunised with the EMA-approved jabs. Meanwhile, officials said they would try to fill the gap left by the absence of Russians by attracting more visitors from Ukraine.
Approached for comment, Russiaâ€™s ambassador to the EU, Vladimir Chizhov, forcefully denied to EURACTIV that there was any political background behind the absence of Russian tourists on Greek and Bulgarian beaches this summer.
â€śI would warn journalists against the temptation to try to find a black cat in a dark room,â€ť Chizhov said in a written statement.
He added that the Russian aviation authorities were keeping contact with their counterparts from EU member states and that decisions on setting up or changing routes of certain flights were taken â€śin full compliance with current aviation rules and procedures, as well as sanitary requirements of all countries participating in the processâ€ť.
Chizhov dismissed as speculation claims that his country was using international air transport for political bargaining, or even blackmail.
He could be right and we could be wrong. Yet if deliberate, it would be far from the first time this kind of â€śhuman bombâ€ť had been used against the Balkan region.
While ErdoganÂ danglesÂ the threat of unleashing crowds of new migrant arrivals more discretely, Putin plays with the levers he has: stopping the gas in winter, and stopping tourists in summer. And yes, we are aware that Russia plausibly denies doing so for political reasons.
And where is the EU in all this, you might ask? Officially, at least, this is not an item on the EU agenda. Neither Sofia nor Athens are raising the issue. For the time being./EURACTIV
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