Bulgaria Patches Things Up with Russian Tourists after 'Hostage Crisis'
Russian tourists will not stop visiting Bulgaria in spite of the crises in the recent weeks, in which thousands of them were stranded at Bulgarian Black Sea airports, according to Grigory Sarishvili, deputy head of the Russian Federal Tourism Agency.
"Russian tourists won't give up on Bulgaria because they are aware that it was not the Bulgarian state who was responsible for the recent problems," Sarishvili announced at a news conference in Moscow organized by the Bulgarian Ministry of Economy, Energy, and Tourism.
The deputy head of the Russian Federal Tourism Agency referred to the crisis in which several thousand Russian and Finnish tourists got left stranded at the Bulgarian Black Sea cities of Burgas and Varna, after Bulgaria Air, Bulgaria's national air carrier owned by the Varna-based group TIM, refused to carry out chartered flights to Russia organized by Alma Tour, a Bulgarian tour operator, over alleged debts.
The crisis, which was formally declared to be over a couple of days ago, as the last stranded Russian tourists left Bulgaria, led to Alma Tour's bankruptcy and reports that it would be swallowed by a TIM subsidiary, which were denied by the company.
Sunday's news conference in Moscow was organized by the Bulgarian Economy Ministry with the Russian tourism fair "Отдых" 2011/ "Leisure" 2011 in order to inform the Russian public about the actions the Bulgarian state took to cope with the crisis caused by the Bulgaria Air-Alma Tour debt dispute, the ministry said.
In addition to the representative of the Russian Federal Tourism Agency, the news conference featured a number of senior Bulgarian officials, including Bulgarian Ambassador to Russia Plamen Grozdanov, Bulgaria Air CEO Capt. Yanko Georgiev, and Bulgaria Air Commercial Director Mariya Stoyanova.
The CEO of the Association of Russian Tour Operators Maya Lomidze and the press secretary of the Russian Union of Tourism Industry Irina Tyurina also took part in the briefing.
The representatives of the Bulgarian side expressed before the Russian public their deep regret about the unpleasant situation caused by the disputes between two private companies, damaging Bulgaria's image as a traditionally welcoming destination for Russian tourists.
Over the 2011 summer season Bulgaria saw a record number of Russian visitors who surpassed 300 000 in August.
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