For Kyiv, tourism will be “crucial” to revive the country after the war

Seaside resorts targeted by Russian attacks, hotels empty or closed: since the start of the war, tourism has stalled in Ukraine, losing an important source of income. But for Kyiv, the sector remains promising and “important” for rebuilding the country.

“When the war is over, tourism will play a key role in enabling Ukraine to recover and revive its economy,” said Mariana Oleskiv, president of the National Tourism Development Agency in Ukraine. , a government agency created in 2019.

As head of the Ukrainian delegation invited to the International Tourism Exhibition Features, one of the largest events in the sector held until Sunday in Madrid, Ms Oleskiv deemed it necessary to “work” to prepare for this recovery.

“Of course, it is not a question of inviting tourists to come now: there is no question of making them take risks, even if in certain regions of Ukraine the risks are currently low”, the young woman underlined. , at the head of this agency since March 2020.

“But when the country is safe again, we want to be ready to invite people to come and visit Ukraine”, which means having “enough partners to promote” the country and make it an “important destination”, he added.

– “Destruction” –

Until the early 2010s, the country received an average of nearly 20 million foreign visitors a year, mainly from Russia and Eastern Europe, according to the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). Which makes Ukraine the eighth most visited country in Europe.

But that figure dropped to almost 12 million in 2014 with the start of the Donbass war and Russia’s annexation of Crimea – one of the country’s main tourist areas. And it completely came crashing down with the Russian-led invasion of Ukraine on February 24.

“There is still some domestic tourism, for example in the Carpathian mountains”, which welcomes visitors who want to escape for a few days from the “stress”, “desolation” and “blackouts caused by Russian attacks on cities”, explains Mariana Oleskiv.

But foreign tourists have completely disappeared, with no way to say when they might return, given the evolution of the conflict stuck in a war of positions.

“In Kyiv or Lviv (a city in the west of the country where many refugees live), the hotel industry has managed to survive”, thanks to “international delegations”, “journalists” and “humanitarians”, underlined Ms. Oleskiv.

But in cities like Odessa, a former “tourist hotspot” located “near the front lines”, and once “very dynamic”, the situation is “much more complicated”, he stressed.

– Country pictures –

The rail network is deteriorating, historic and cultural buildings are destroyed… For Ukraine, which earned 2% of its gross domestic product (GDP) from tourism before the war, getting the sector back on track will not be easy and will involve heavy investment.

“It will take time,” Mariana Oleskiv admits. But Ukraine, known for its seaside resorts on the Black Sea, its historic cities or its family ski resorts, has the “potential” to bounce back and “attract visitors”, he explained.

In recent years, Kyiv has begun to look to new markets such as Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries, thanks to visa exemptions and new air routes. Expandable diversification strategy.

There’s still an image problem, Ukraine now associated with destruction and war – likely to deter visitors. “It’s a challenge”, especially because “it is important for us to show the consequences of the conflict and the crimes committed by Russia”, said Ms. Oleskiv.

But “when the war is over, we will be able to promote another image”, betting on another aspect revealed by the conflict: the image of “a brave person, who keeps on fighting when no one is betting on her”, affirms the young woman.


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