SOFIA (Reuters) - Thomas Cook’s collapse poses a serious challenge to Bulgarian tourism, with dozens of Black Sea hotels facing losses totaling tens of millions of dollars as negotiations for the next summer season take place, its tourism minister said on Tuesday.
The British travel group had been sending 350,000-450,000 tourists a year to Bulgaria, about 10% of all foreign holidaymakers to its Black Sea resorts which are popular due to their relatively low prices and wide range of activities.
Industry officials estimate the damages to Bulgarian tourism sector at about 100 million levs ($56 million), calculating the amount owed by Thomas Cook to more than 50 hotels on Bulgaria’s coasts at 36 million euros ($40 million).
“The situation is extremely hard and it would not only affect the summer season that is now ending but also 2020 with certainty, because negotiations for the summer 2020 are now ongoing,” Tourism Minister Nikolina Angelkova said.
Angelkova said there is a serious risk of hotel owners not getting paid for hosting Thomas Cook’s holidaymakers in July and August, because Britain is only guaranteeing payments for tourists currently in Bulgaria.
She declined to give the exact value of losses the hotel owners are facing, saying they will be “for quite a lot of millions of levs”.
Close to 900 out of 2,500 British tourists in Bulgaria have been sent home since Monday, officials said.
The total number of tourists from all Thomas Cook’s affiliates in Bulgaria is close to 6,000.
Reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova; Editing by Alexander Smith