Minister Angelkova presented the amendments to the Law on Tourism to the National Tourism Council

29 February 2016

Regulation on national resorts, establishment of a tourism inspectorate, further guaranteeing the rights of consumers in organised trips with a tour operator, etc. are some of the proposals set out in the draft Law amending the Law on Tourism, which has been presented today at a meeting of the National Tourism Council (NTC), chaired by Minister Nikolina Angelkova. The draft law has already been published for public consultation on the website of the Ministry.

A new chapter has been inserted in the Law, which implements a regulation and determines the method of declaring a settlement formation a national resort. This will be decided by the Council of Ministers upon a proposal of the Minister of Tourism. It is also provided to issue an Ordinance on management and organisation of tourism activities in the territory of the national resorts that will include representatives of the owners of tourist facilities.

To improve the quality and security of services, additional requirements to tour operators and travel agents have been introduced. Special attention is paid to the tour operators’ insurance, providing for “accommodation” insurance. Thus, tourists will be protected if on site it turns out that there is no hotel reservation or for some reason it has been cancelled. All such costs will be covered by the insurance and the consumer will be further protected. Each tour operator will be obliged to show the number and date of the insurance certificate, which will be entered in the National Tourism Register; consumers will be able to check it online through the website of the Ministry. The practice for a long delay in case of occurrence of an insured event will be ended by establishing a three-month period for a ruling to be issued by the insurer on any case and for paying the claim on the insurance. It is also envisaged that it is up to the consumer choice to use the European Health Insurance Card instead of medical insurance, which will reduce the cost of the tourist package.

Hoteliers will have to keep records of accommodated tourists which will be mandatorily maintained in electronic form at accommodation facilities of class “A”. The businesses will be obliged to provide automated data exchange between the information system of the register kept by them and the Integrated Tourist Information System (ITIS) concerning the number of tourists accommodated and dates of registration and departure. For accommodation facilities of class “B” (chalets, training centres, mountain hostels, etc.), it is provided that the register may be kept on paper, the data being entered into the Integrated Tourist Information System on a daily basis through publicly accessible web or another interface and secure communication connectivity. This is an important step to lighten the sector and a source of increased state revenue from tourism.

The amendments to the Law on Tourism envisage increasing the sources of revenues for the municipalities and using the revenues for targeted funding of municipal programmes for tourism development. It is planned to earmark the fees for categorisation of tourist facilities and other fees and fines for programme development funding in the sector. Thus, municipalities will be directly involved in the development of the tourism sector and investment in the sector will increase, which will guarantee the provision of better services to consumers. Minister Angelkova emphasised the great importance of partnership with the local authorities and that the amendments will specify the obligations of regional governors and the functions of municipal councils, mayors and municipal advisory councils on tourism aimed at developing the sector.

The control functions of the Minister of Tourism will be expanded, and by 2017 it is expected that a specialised control unit – Tourist Inspectorate will become operative. It will make checks and in case of violations will impose fines, financial sanctions and coercive administrative measures – terminating and lowering the category of tourist facilities, temporary closing or prohibiting the access to tourist facilities, deleting the registration of tour operators and travel agents. The powers of the Commission for Consumer Protection will be determined and clearly distinguished from those of the Tourism Inspectorate. Control powers of mayors, including applying the coercive administrative measure – temporary closure of the tourist facility, will be expanded. The powers of the Chairman of the State Agency for Metrology and Technical Surveillance will be further specified.

A new chapter in the Law will regulate the publicly available National Register of Tourist Attractions, maintained by the Ministry of Tourism. Tourist attractions are designated as national and local, and the criteria which define them as such are also provided for. Unified standards for signposting of attractions, the information to be shown on the signs, and their graphic design will be implemented, the detailed requirements being set out in a separate ordinance.

The law will also include new rules for ski schools, through which ski teachers can practice their profession. Ski school will be entered in the National Tourism Register. The data to be declared about them will also be regulated by the Law. The draft law also determines the type of ski trails for alpine skiing and cross-country skiing. The Commission to determine the type of ski trails will include inter alia a representative of the Ministry of Youth and Sports. The Commission will carry out initial and ongoing checks for safety and information security of trails in the period of operation. The provisions restricting access to the ski trails will be further specified.

Following the agenda of the Council, a report on the implementation of the 2015 Annual Programme for National Tourism Advertisement, information on the secondary legislation under the Law on Tourism prepared by the Ministry, as well as data on tourist trips last year, and for the winter season 2015/16 and Summer 2016 have been discussed.

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