DND Special Report: Ukraine tourism industry collapsing due to protests in Kiev

Tourism industry dented with protests in Ukraine.

Continuing Unrest Could Undermine Ukrainian Economy

Kiev: There is almost no tourism left in Kiev–the capital of Ukraine that is under the grip of chaos, protests, horror and clashes between pro-European opposition and government of President Viktor Yanukovych. Government machinery including ministries are virtually at stall. Offices are not working and even government buildings are occupied by protesters. Only journalists, photographers and media persons are seen in Kiev instead of real tourists. These media persons are using tourism entry or tourists visa and doing their professional work and giving no support to tourism industry.

The crises started around November 21, 2013 when protesters decided to gather at Independence Square popularly known now as Euro Maidan or Maidan Europe.

According to tour operators, no visa is granted to any foreigner by the Ministry because government fears that international media will flood the country on fake tourism visas. Restaurant business is almost shutdown in the city.

Ukraine is already facing debt crises and dollar hungry and suspension of tourism and tourist flow has multiplying its problems. Growth is slowing, investors and businesses are growing increasingly frustrated with the current political gridlock. The unrest comes just as investors are pulling their money from emerging markets worldwide.

Back in 2010, Western investors and tourists were flocking to Kiev and Ukraine stood at the 8th most popular tourism destination in Europe with 23 million visitors in 2012. The country’s tourism industry is generally considered to be underdeveloped, but it does provide crucial support for Ukraine’s economy. In 2012, the contribution of tourism to the GDP amounted to 28.8 billion UAH, or 2.2% of GDP and directly supported 351,500 jobs (1.7% of total employment). Ukraine’s western neighbours (Poles, Slovaks, Hungarians and even Belarusians) are known to come to Ukraine to purchase products and presents, such as food or gasoline, that are cheaper in Ukraine than in their home countries. Now borders are almost closed for neighbors also and tour operators who are dealing in escort tourism and Dental tourism lost their season —December and January. Tour operator also lost their season of Orthodox Christmas when millions of western tourists usually travel to Kiev to enjoy and attend orthodox Christmas (January 6 to January 12).

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In the past 20 years many modern dental clinics with high quality dentistry equipment, high quality materials and effective anesthetics were established in Ukraine.  They provide patients with high quality dentistry services. But for all that, prices in Ukraine are much cheaper in comparison with Western and Russian clinics. A lot of tourists from USA, European Union and Russia come for cheap dental surgery etc. “There is no business at all. We sold tours but visa process is almost closed down. People from Western countries are scare to visit Ukraine. Escort tourism is fun and enjoyment. How one can come in the city that is giving a picture of battle field for enjoy and fun?’, said one of leading tour operator of Kiev.

Ukraine has impressive landscapes, ruins of ancient castles, historical parks, vineyards where they produce native wines, unique structures such as Saint Sophia Cathedral or Chersonesos. Officially, there are seven World Heritage Sites in Ukraine. The Carpathian Mountains suitable for skiing, hiking, fishing and hunting. Bukovel — is the largest ski resort in Ukraine situated in the Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast (province) of western Ukraine. The 2010-2011 winter season recorded 1,200,000 day visits with foreigners amounting to 8-10% of all visitors. In 2012 the Bukovel was named the fastest growing ski resort worldwide. This year in winter—it was deserted and hoteliers, tour operators etc lost around 80% of their expected tourism.

Tour operators are of the view that they cannot even plan for next month’s because no one knows for how long this unrest will continue?

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Thousands of students in Ukraine particularly in Kiev work part-time as tour guides and escorts and they pay their fees for universities and other expense for their education. Stagnation in tourism industry in Ukraine is actually a financial collapse mostly for youth.

“We’ve seen a slowdown across all sectors, both from international and local companies.  With sales at many companies slow this month and expected to be weak next month. So we are adopting a wait-and-see approach instead of offering cheaper packages to clients, said Anna Kosmakov, a local tour operator.

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