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Belarus to amend law on tourism

MINSK (BelTA) – Amendments to the law on tourism will be included into the Belarusian parliament calendar for 2019, BelTA learned from Director of the Tourism Department at the Belarusian Ministry of Sport and Tourism Andrei Molchan.

“Time is ripe to amend the law on tourism. The current situation gives additional reasons to amend the law even faster. Being a regulatory body, the Ministry of Sport and Tourism has suggested that the government and the parliament introduce amendments to the law on tourism. This bill will be included into the parliament calendar for 2019,” Andrei Molchan said. The revised version of the law might be ready in H1 2019.

Andrei Molchan did not specify the details of the amendments, as they are still under discussion. In his words, the market situation is analyzed by the Belarusian Tourism Union that will submit its proposals to the Ministry of Sport and Tourism.

The press service of the Belarusian Tourism Union told BelTA that the amendments to the law on tourism were discussed at an extended session of the union involving the union's top managers and representatives of its regional offices. They came up with a set of amendments to the law on tourism and other documents regulating the tourism industry. These proposals will be forwarded to the Ministry of Sport and Tourism for subsequent scrutiny by an ad-hoc group encompassing all stakeholders.

The proposals provide for legislative differentiation between national and foreign tour operators, legislative separation of tour operators specializing in outbound tourism and tour operators dealing with inbound tourism, as well as different legal treatment for tour operators and travel agencies. The union also suggests mandatory certification of companies working in this industry and clear-cut rules of the game for travel agencies and tour operators, liability insurance, regulation of activities of tour operators, individual financial guarantees for companies engaged in inbound tourism, regulation of the work of escort interpreters and tour guides.

The Belarusian Tourism Union voiced support for the initiative of the Ministry of Sport and Tourism to unite the visa-free areas of Brest Oblast and Grodno Oblast. As a pilot project, a corridor might be established between the visa-free zones enabling free movement of tourists who bought package tours.

The amendments to the law on tourism were initiated by the Belarusian Tourism Union. In particular, the union upheld the idea of introducing mandatory liability insurance of tour operators, establishment of a state-run insurance fund, and delineation of liabilities of tour operators and travel agencies to tourists.

The amendments to laws regulating the tourism industry are being discussed against the backdrop of the cancellation of tours of the Russian tour operator Natalie Tours. According to the Ministry of Sport and Tourism, about 400 tours that the company sold in Belarus were later cancelled. It is still unclear when refunds will be paid – the decision is to be made by the Moscow office of Natalie Tours. Representatives of the tourism industry have fears that this situation can result in bankruptcies on the Belarusian market.