Delyan Dobrev, Bulgarian Minister of Economy, Energy and Tourism, in an interview for Focus News Agency.
Focus: Minister Dobrev, you are in Burgas and the region today. Who did you meet and what did they tell you?
Delyan Dobrev: We all condemn this terrorist attack. This is an inhuman act. I have been meeting tourists from Israel all morning, in several hotels. There was a group of tourists, in the first hotel, which was just about to leave, as their holiday had ended. The security of buses and hotels with Israeli tourists was increased seriously, around 10 or 15 minutes after yesterday’s attack. The tourists, from the first group I met today, were calm, and I spoke with several young Israeli nationals, aged around 20, who said that despite this ferocious attack, they liked their holiday very much and planned on returning next year. This is good news for us. They were convinced that Bulgaria would become a safer place, after the attack, because of the enhanced security measures. I also spoke with other Israeli tourists from other hotels, today. They will continue their holidays and no-one plans to terminate their holiday and leave for home earlier. The hotel, where I am right now, has seven Israeli tourists. They were on the same flight as the tourists that later became victims of this horrible attack. I spoke with them and they said that they planned to continue their holiday, as planned. They are not the only tourists from this flight that have decided to continue their holidays. We helped the tourists from the flight, who decided to stay, receive their luggage more quickly. One of the tourists had lost his glasses, and we co-operated so he could go to an eye-specialists and receive new contact lenses and spectacles. The tourists are calm and I can say that they are calmer than we expect, as they are somewhat used to constant threats and terrorist attacks.
Focus: Did you speak with representatives of the tour operators? What are their fears?
Delyan Dobrev: I spoke with representatives of several tour operators. They have not received, by now, any terminations of the reservations, and have not reported any retreat of tourists from Israel, or any other country. Later on today, I will have a meeting with all tour operators and representatives of hotels in the Sunny Beach region, and after that I will have a similar meeting with representatives from the Northern Bulgarian coastline.
It is very important for us to explain to the representatives of hotels and tour operators the measures we have taken, so that they can explain them to their tourists. Apart from the enhanced police security, the owners of hotels have also doubled their private security forces. In the first hotel I visited, there were 12 additional security officers, who were taking care of the security of the tourists. We are doing everything possible to improve the security of tourists.
Focus: Apart from Israeli tourists, are Russian tourists and ones from other countries worried? What did they tell you?
Delyan Dobrev: No, they are not worried. They were all very surprised by what happened, but did not seem to be paying too much attention, after the initial shock.
Focus: Do you know how many Israeli tourists will visit Bulgaria this summer?
Delyan Dobrev: There are currently more than 1,000 Israeli tourists in Bulgaria. Last year the total number, for the full year, of Israeli tourists was 135,000. This year we expect around 150,000 tourists from Israel, but I cannot give you the exact numbers.
Focus: Is this number big? Where does Israel stand in the chart of foreign tourists in Bulgaria?
Delyan Dobrev: Israeli tourists are around 6% of all foreign tourists that visit Bulgaria. This is neither a big, nor a small number. Israel is somewhere in the middle of the chart of foreign tourists in Bulgaria.
Focus: When do you plan to hold the meeting, you mentioned about, in the Northern Black Sea coastline?
Delyan Dobrev: Around 17:00 today. We urgently summoned a marketing working group this morning, which would discuss all measures that needed to be adopted in order to retain the image of Bulgaria as a tourist destination.