Socialist MPs seized with glee on what they saw as an opportunity to criticise the Government about the handling of the Bulgaria Air – Alma Tour dispute that left hundreds of foreign tourists stranded for days after their Black Sea holidays.
Alleging incompetence, the socialists called for the resignations of Economy Minister Traicho Traikov and his deputy Ivo Marinov, claiming that the ministry had failed to secure guarantees for the transport of tourists – an allegation that the Government rejected as ignorance of the actual workings of the law.
Russian tourists currently make up the bulk of Bulgaria’s summer tourist industry customers, but Bulgaria has had a bad press this year, starting with visiting Russian children getting food poisoning at seaside resorts, and now with the September 9 decision by the privately-owned flag carrier to cancel tickets that had been booked by Alma Tour.
That Prime Minister Boiko Borissov’s Government intervened to help, from attempting to broker a solution to providing an aircraft and specially extending expired visas, did not mollify its critics, including in the Russian media.
Rossiyskaya Gazeta opined that "slowly but surely Bulgaria is burying its reputation as a tourist destination".
Next year Russian tourists would choose destinations other than Bulgaria’s Black Sea resorts, the newspaper said.
It said that in recent days all Russian media had opened and closed their bulletins with news about the Bulgaria Air – Alma Tour saga. The article said that the problem would have been solved "within hours" had the tourists been British or German, "but Russian tourists have to wait".
By September 15, all the stranded Russian tourists were home, as well as Finnish tourists who had got flights out earlier.
In Parliament, Traikov said that there was an "aggressive campaign against Bulgarian tourism" and lashed out at the socialists for seeking to make political capital from the dispute.