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About 300 Russian tourists stranded in Bulgaria

September 16, 2011, 21:09 UTC+3

About 300 Russian tourists are stranded in Bulgaria as Bulgaria Air has cancelled three flights

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SOFIA, September 16 (Itar-Tass) —— About 300 Russian tourists are stranded in Bulgaria as Bulgaria Air has cancelled three flights. About 50 Russians have bought new tickets, Russian Vice-Consul in Varna Maxim Alyoshin said.

“About 50 Russian tourists have departed for Moscow, some of them via Sofia,” he said. “The airfare doubled to 350 euros. Bulgaria Air sells new tickets to Moscow for 120 euros. It also supplies larger jets to carry the tourists from Burgas,” he said.

“About 140 Russian tourists are staying in Burgas and 150 in Varna. About 60 tourists of Alma Tur will be accommodated at hotels. The situation of the others – individual travelers and owners of Bulgarian real estate – is unknown,” he said.

Bulgaria Air cancelled three flights today, including those of 00:20 a.m., 3:20 p.m. and 11:00 p.m.

Bulgaria Air blocked charter flights of Russian tourists from Burgas and Varna last Friday and Saturday because of the Alma Tur debts of about $5 million.

Russian tourists who failed to fly back home from Bulgaria because of a financial dispute between the air carrier and the tour operator have been offered a free vacation in Bulgaria next summer, the Association of Russian Tour Operators said on earlier this week.

Chairman of the Bulgarian Association of Hoteliers and Restaurateurs Blagoi Ragin said they must smooth over the negative emotions of the tourists, so Bulgaria offered the tourists a free weeklong vacation in June 2012.

Meanwhile, the number of Russian tourists complaining about ruined vacations to the Federal Tourism Agency doubled to 3,500 this year, head of the agency’s legal department Izo Arakhamia said last Friday.

“The Federal Tourism Agency received plenty of complaints from tourists this year,” she said. “More than 3,500 tourists said their vacations were thwarted or ruined. About 80% of the complaints were about inferior services.”

“Most of such tourists said that they paid for a particular hotel to a tour operator in Moscow but were accommodated at an inferior hotel. Some also said they were food poisoned. Some tourists had to leave their hotel in the morning for boarding a plane while they were told earlier that the departure was planned for the evening,” she said.

“No more than 2,000 complaints were filed last year,” Arakhamia said.

In the opinion of experts, the number of tourist complaints increased because of the political instability in Egypt. “The armed clashes in Egypt created problems for tourists. Tour operators refused to pay refunds,” she said.

The total number of Russians who made foreign trips in that period exceeded 18 million, which was 15% more than in January-June 2010, the Association of Russian Tour Operators said earlier.

About 70% of all trips were made to countries outside the former Soviet Union territory, and the rest were made to CIS member states. Over 50% of all trips were made with personal invitations, and slightly more than 30% of all travelers were tourists.

According to the Association, the most popular destinations in the first half of 2011 were Turkey (visited by more than one million Russians) and China (over 600,000 tourists). Egypt ranked third with about 500,000 Russian tourists.

The altered situation in Egypt influenced preferences of Russian tourists, the Association said. “Due to the travel alert for Egypt, many tourism destinations showed unprecedented dynamics. For instance, the number of tourists visiting Cuba doubled to 46,000, while the number of tourists that preferred vacations in the Dominican Republic grew by almost 60% to 52,000,” the Association said.

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