The newly adopted Tourism Act (“TA”), which shall replace the repealed and already inactive Tourism Act, was promulgated in issue 30 “State Gazette” of 26.03.2013. The new TA shall enter into force on the day of its publication except for the provisions of Chapter Nine, ten and twelve, respectively, in relation to the terms and conditions for the provision of spa and wellness services, online submission of documents, guides, mountain guides and ski instructors. These provisions will come into force six months after its promulgation. The changes adopted by the Parliament shall regulate the control of tourism activities, services and facilities, and the powers of public authorities in the implementation of policies for the sustainable development of tourism.
The main objectives of TA are to ensure consumer protection in tourism services, conditions for sustainable development of tourism, improvement of the national competitiveness of tourism products as well as introduction of uniform criteria for tourist activities and provision of tourist services.Some of the most significant amendments in the existing legal regulations are presented here below:
1. State policy and bodies of management of tourism
According to art. 5, para. 1 TA “the state policy in tourism development is regulated by the Council of Ministers”. It approves the “National Strategy for sustainable tourism development strategies for different types of tourism.” Proposed by the Minister of Economy, Energy and Tourism (“MEET”). State policy in the sphere of tourism continues to be conducted by the MEET. The activity of the National Tourism Council (“NTC”) is further regulated and its powers are set out in Art. 8 TA. The Act provides a series of power management at the regional and district councils and the mayor at municipality level.
2. Tourism regional division
2.1 Art. 15, para. 1 of TA states that “the country is divided into distinct areas – tourism regions to form regional tourism products and implementation of regional marketing and advertising.”
The tourist regions shall have their own name, logo and slogan. The number, name and territorial scope of the tourist areas are to be declared with an order of the MEET which must be published in the “State Gazette”.
2.2 According to Art. 17, para. 1 TA “each tourist area is managed by Management Organization of the Tourist Area (MOTA’).” MOTA are entities that are registered under TA. They are voluntary organizations, which through mutual assistance and cooperation in the interest of its members and the public-interest conduct activities relating to the formation of regional tourism products and implementation of regional marketing and advertising in a given area – tourist region. Bodies of MOTA are the General Assembly, the Management Board and the Supervisory Board. The General Meeting of MOTA is the supreme body and includes all of its members. The budget of MOTA is formed by membership fees, income from business and provision of paid services, means of participation in European, international and other sponsorship programs, donations from individuals and legal entities and other sources.
Apparently this newly created body shall provide the representatives of the tourism business to participate more directly in the management of the industry at local level and to influence its development. Or at least this seems to be the legislators’ intention.
3. Tourism associations
The tourism associations established under the TA are registered, managed, transformed and terminated under the Non-Profit Legal Persons Act. According to Art. 47, para. 3 of TA, their business activity “includes activities for coordination of actions in the formation and marketing of tourism products and information services for tourists, development and implementation of initiatives and projects in the field of tourism activities for protection and representation of the interests of members provided under this Act cases and other activities for the development of tourism.”. Tourist associations can be local or regional, branch, product or professional.
4. Tourist information centers and national network of tourist information centers
Tourist information centers are established for the provision of information services to tourists, advertising and promotion of tourism in the territory. They operate on the basis of uniform standards. Only the centers that are part of the national network may be termed as “tourist information center”.
5. Classification of tourism facilities
TA extends the range of hotels and accommodation facilities such as hostels, guest apartments and apart hotels that must be registered.The new TA clearly lists various types of tourist facilities (hotels, motels, villas, holiday homes, etc…) as well as the categories in which it should be put to their individual qualities.
6. Spa and wellness services
Spa and wellness services providers are required to obtain a certificate from the MEET. The terms and conditions for certification are determined by a regulation issued jointly by the MEET and the Minister of Healthcare.
The certified centers under Chapter Nine of TA are granted with “a category symbol, depending on their type, including certificate and plaque that is prominently displayed on the site.” Certificate is valid for five years starting on the day of its issuance.
7. Electronic submission of documents
According to Art. 144, para. 1 of TA applications for registration for the tourist and / or tourist agency activities for categorization of tourist attractions and tourist certification may be submitted electronically. Electronic statement shall be deemed to have been received if the MEET, respectively municipality confirms receipt.
8. Amendments on the rules for registration as well as introduction of license for some professions
Online travel services operators will also be required to register with the activity in the National Tourism Register (“NTR”). It also introduces some licenses requirements for several professions that are related to the tourism industry as guides, mountain guides and ski instructors.
The article above is intended for information purposes only by drawing your attention to the newest practice of the European Court. It should not be construed as (binding) legal advice. For a thorough understanding of the subjects covered and prior acting on any issue discussed we kindly recommend Readers consult Ilieva, Voutcheva & Co. Law Firm attorneys at law.