Is Ukraine dangerous for tourists?
In 2012, Euro 2012 was held in Ukraine; that sharply and rapidly increased the influx of foreign tourists into our country. In this article, we will explain why after a few years the number of tourists decreased by 15 times, and Ukraine became dangerous for foreign tourists.
Reasons why it is dangerous in Ukraine
The fact that foreigners have become less likely to Travel to Kiev is also evidenced by the data of the State Statistics Committee, according to which 232 thousand tourists visited Ukraine in 2013, whereas in 2015 the number was strikingly smaller – only 15 thousand guests. This figure indicates that today there are 15 times less foreigners visiting Ukraine.
EURO 2012 – Tourism Peak
Many sources indicate that until 2012 foreigners did not know much about our capital, but it was after Euro 2012 that they began to Travel to Kiev and saw that it was green, flowering and welcoming. Even during the revolution, foreigners arrived in large groups and were not afraid. When did everything start to decline? Namely, it was after the cadres of the war; everything stopped, people felt fear and insecurity and chose safer countries as travel destinations.
Another example: despite low prices in Turkey after the attacks in 2015, the Europeans did not go there, because the security issue is very important for them. The same thing happened with Ukraine – no one really understands where Donetsk and Lugansk are and how far Kyiv is. For foreigners, all our cities are one country, which means that there is a war going on in any of its territories, and this war can reach them. This is scary and because of this attitude the flow of foreigners has decreased by as much as 15 times.
Revival after the 2014 Revolution
In 2017, when Ukraine hosted the Eurovision song contest, the number of foreign guests was 20 thousand, and internal tourists (Ukrainians) were about 40 thousand, which is not a bad number as well. In 2016-2017, number of foreign guests in the tourism sector rapidly began to grow up again.
In 2018, during three days of the Champions League final, which took place on 26th of May, more than 30 thousand foreign fans visited the capital of Ukraine, which is already good. Because of the Champions League Final in Kiev, 20 main streets of the capital were blocked for several days; there were so many people that sometimes one had to push people to be able to walk. In that particular situation, it was we, locals, who were getting kind of scared because football fans were in a cheerful state almost 24/7.
According to the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade, 14.2 million foreign tourists visited Ukraine in 2018.
The Ministry of Economy plans to increase this figure to about 30,000,000 tourists annually.
Over the year, revenues to the budgets of all levels from the tourism industry grew by 21%, amounting to 4.2 billion hryvnias, says Roksolana Pidlasogo, Advisor to the First Vice Prime Minister of Ukraine and to Minister of Economic Development and Trade.
“The presentation of Ukraine to the world is very important component of the work of the Ministry. This year, 17 million hryvnias are provided in the budget for the development of tourism in Ukraine. In 2019, we plan to introduce our country as an interesting tourist destination at important international exhibitions in London, Singapore, Barcelona and Shanghai,” the Ministry of Economy said in interview in 2018.
However, according to Volodymyr Tsaruk, the head of the Center for Tourism Development, it is rather difficult to calculate the real number of foreigners who came to Ukraine as tourists.
“We still have the Soviet counting principle, which follows from the data of the State Border Service on border crossing by foreign citizens. That is, the numbers above include a large number of those who visited Ukraine simply on their way to other places, or those who came here to buy certain goods. In neighboring Poland, for example, they use another principle – all hotels, hostels, etc. report on the number of foreign visitors who spent at least one night in their premises. This allows providing more accurate statistics,” says Volodymyr Tsaruk.
Carpathians, Lviv and Kyiv – they come to Ukraine to see the beauty of these cities
Traditionally, the countries with the biggest numbers of tourists visiting Ukraine are those on the border. However, the Ministry of Economic Development report shows another tourist trend over the past year (2018): the number of visits of citizens from non-border countries increased rather noticeably. The number of guests from Great Britain increased by 47.3%, China – by 38.8%, Lithuania – by 23.4%, Israel – by 21.7%, the United States – by 19.7%, the Czech Republic – by 16.0%, Italy – by 15.4%, Germany – by 13.3%, France – by 9.2%, Bulgaria – by 7.9%. The Ministry of Economic Development explains such changes by the activation of Ukraine’s promotion on the international tourist market, bilateral cooperation, visa liberalization, increase of offers of direct and budget air services.
The most visited destination among foreign tourists are the Carpathians, Kyiv, Lviv, Odessa and Chernihiv. Volodymyr Tsaruk notes that foreigners who come to Ukraine as tourists are primarily interested in gastronomic tourism, and sightseeing and entertainments are in the second or third places only, although of course the unique features of each region guests head to play their role.
However, the beginning of the tourist season of 2019 was a bit unexpected for inbound tourism, the chairman of the board of the Ukrainian Association of Guides Yanina Gavrilova said: “Hotel representatives say that January-February were very weak in the tourist flow of foreign visitors. Those who had planned to visit and booked earlier cancelled their visits; today the situation is better.”
Ukraine is becoming more and more popular with foreign visitors, which is evidenced by the fact that CNN, one of the most famous television companies in the world, made separate rating from the top 11 tourist cities of Ukraine. It included Lviv, Chernivtsi, Uman, Kiev, Pereyaslav-Khmelnitsky, Kharkiv, Chernihiv, Odessa, Uzhgorod and Kamyanets-Podilsky. “There are many beautiful places in Ukraine with many tourist activities. Although it is recommended to avoid visiting some regions because of the presence of separatists there, much of this vast country is open to tourism. Vibrant cities, ancient castles, stunning countryside, variety of landscapes and hospitality all make Ukraine a special place, regardless of its problems,” rating states.
In Kiev, they recommend visiting two UNESCO World Heritage Sites – the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra (Cave Monastery) and St. Sophia Cathedral, as well as the St. Andrew’s Descent and the House of Chimeras. Lviv is called the “cultural capital of Ukraine with the most stunning architecture in the country” and Chernivtsi is called “the pearl of Western Ukraine” and “Little Vienna”.
Conflict in the Donbass (Donetsk, Lugansk)
It must be remembered that that crisis zone in the Donbass, where Russian troops are still located, is located 800 km from Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, and 1150 km from Lviv. Ukraine is the largest country in Europe, with its population exceeding 42 million. Up to today (August 2019) the situation remains tense for the residents of Donbass; however, traveling to Kyiv, Lviv, Odessa and the Carpathians you will not feel the slightest tension.
We will give you some examples of peace in Ukraine, but we cannot counteract the Western media or the way you perceive the information. If you believe it is safer for you not to go to Ukraine, we respect this decision and will continue to try to work on our reputation and make our country and cities warmer, more hospitable, improve our service and inform people about the safety of tourism in Ukraine.
Ми точно знаємо, що багато фестивальників цього року приїхали здалеку для того, аби вдосталь натанцюватися під електронну музику. І не дарма! ⠀The Chainsmokers розпалили справжній вогонь під небом Києва, а підтримали його артисти нічних сцен 🔥
Опубліковано Atlas Weekend Пʼятниця, 12 липня 2019 р.
This is how Atlas Weekend, the largest music festival in Kiev was held in 2019; it brought together 500,000 guests, as well as musicians such as The Chain Smokers, Liam Gallagher, Asap Rocky, The Black Eyed Peas, etc.
This is what Bukovel resort in the Carpathians looks like in 2019:
“One of the reasons why you do not know about tourism in Ukraine is the absence of the Ministry of Tourism of Ukraine. In city administrations of cities such as Kiev, Lviv, Odessa are working to attract foreign tourists, but the efforts that are made and finances are not enough to promote Ukraine”, says Kate Dobromishev, tour guide of Guide me UA.
This is Facebook Page of the most famous night club of Odessa – Ibiza (not to be confused with Ibiza in Spain)
On their page, you can see the poster with invited guests, so in the summer of 2019 the venue welcomes Tyga (ex-boyfriend of Kylie Jenner), Solomun, Armin Van Buuren, Chris Willis etc.
This is Instagram Page of one of the best excursion agencies in Kyiv; you can see how many guests take tours of Kiev every day.
To book a table in a good restaurant or bar on Friday or Saturday evening in Kyiv, you need to call at least 48 hours in advance; otherwise, everything will already be booked.
Here is a photo from the opening of the new Pedestrian Bridge in Kiev, dedicated to the 1537th anniversary of Kyiv foundation – May 26, 2019.
Foreigners speaking about Ukraine
Jacob Mischke, German scientist, researcher of Ukrainian culture.
For Mischke, Lviv was like a time travel. There he saw Zhiguli car, old trams, Ikarus buses and small shops with counters where there was no self-service.
Mishka is still experiencing similar time travels. “For example, today, when I walked from the Starovokzalnaya tram station to the Kiev railway station, I seemed to find myself in a movie about Soviet times,” Mischke says.
German scientist had to get used to different sense of time Ukrainians have. Ukrainians do not really like to plan. According to Mischke, in Ukraine it is much easier to organize an event in a week than in a month. “This is what needs to be understood and accepted – when the project deadlines are running out, but there is still a lot of work. Ukrainians will do everything at the last minute, but you can be sure that everything will be done,” Mischke shares his experience.
Sometimes Ukrainian hospitality can be a serious test. Once, Mischke worked as a volunteer in the Red Cross Corps for a year, helping older people from Lviv. Mischke came with his German colleague, and they thought that their help would be to buy groceries, cleaning and other help around the house.
However, it soon turned out that the main task of the volunteers was to eat those many meals that Lviv elders cooked for them. The scientist and his colleague felt like grandchildren on vacation. “It was really hard work! We had to make a plan of our visits with caution, not putting in the schedule places where there was especially a lot of food next to each other, so that we did not get two huge dinners on the same day. And some were very offended when they heard that we had already eaten somewhere,” Mischke recalls.
Arik Toler, Analyst, Bellingcat, USA
Toler does not even remember how many times he has been to Ukraine. Six or seven and every time it is Kyiv. Each time when he leaves for Ukraine, Toler has to explain his friends that not the entire Ukraine but only part of it is in the war. In general, Toler believes that rumors about dangerous Ukraine are exaggerated. Kyiv is pretty safe, and he is more likely to be shot in America, where almost everyone has weapons.
Most of all, Toler is struck by the patriotism of Ukrainians and the same hairstyles as those of the Cossacks. “I have never been to Ukraine before the Maidan, so it’s hard for me to say whether it has always been like this. But the patriotism of the Ukrainians is very noticeable,” says Toler.
Political activism in Ukraine is also quite different. For example, when Toler lived in Kazan for some time, he never saw anything but public meetings of political party United Russia. In Ukraine, public meetings are held on behalf of any party and movement; in this regard, Ukrainians are more free, doing what they consider necessary.
“In general people are the same everywhere. Maybe Ukrainians are a little more addicted to computer games, but overall, we are alike,” says Toler.
In general, Toler believes that not everyone will enjoy the trip to Ukraine; for example, his wife would definitely not like it here. Nevertheless, for people who are ready for adventure it is just right. For Americans, Ukrainians may seem unfriendly. “Here people behave neutrally with strangers when in America you need to be super-polite to everyone. In addition, in the Ukrainian store no one will even say “welcome”. This is normal, just a different kind of service – more straightforward,” explains Toler.
In some places, it is difficult to do without accompanying locals. By the way, a local guide can be found on the website. However, here in Podil you can be fine on your own. There are mostly young people who know English, and Toler likes to drink coffee there.
Bianka Zalewska, military reporter, Poland
Zalewska is surprised how at such low salaries Kiev residents live luxuriously, driving around in expensive cars and buying expensive jewelry and equipment. There are many expensive restaurants that are difficult to get to and boutiques. “Where did people get the money for this? That is a great contrast, when one part of the country is in the state of war, the other part lives in luxury. At the forefront, the military forces lack equipment, while the latest military developments are displayed at the parades in Kyiv.”
Zalewska believes that Ukraine is a country where people spend twice as much as they earn. There are no parking spaces left in Kiev, where you need to work at least three years to buy a car.
Zalewska is also surprised by the number of holidays in the country. For example, normally people stop working from mid-December to mid-January. In addition, on March 8, Ukrainians sometimes have two days off. “Ukraine needs to raise the economy and work, but people are having rest,” says Zalewska.
Tourism boom in Ukraine after the Chernobyl HBO Series
American HBO TV series Chernobyl, which tells about the Chernobyl disaster, drew attention to this story and increased the demand of tourists for visiting the “exclusion zone”.
According to travel agencies that organize excursions to Chernobyl, there is increase in the number of tourists by 40% compared to the same period last year.
Director of one of the agencies, Sergei Ivanchuk, said that the company has 30% increase in tourists traveling to this area in May 2019 compared to the same month last year. After HBO broadcasted the series, orders for June, July and August increased by about 40%. Some travel agencies offer special tours of the places shown in the series.
“Many people come here, ask a lot of questions about the TV show, about all the events. People are becoming more and more curious,” said guide Victoria Brozhko.
Excursions to Chernobyl in English cost about $100 per person if it’s a scheduled tour and you join the group and book thiss tour in advance. The HBO mini-series shows the effects of the explosion, extensive cleaning operation, and the subsequent investigation of the disaster. The area around the plant retains the feeling of a post-apocalyptic wasteland with roaming stray dogs and vegetation invading abandoned buildings without windows.
Pripyat, ghost town where 50,000 people mostly working at nuclear power plants used to live, had amusement park with rusty carousels and a racetrack, as well as a giant Ferris wheel that has never been commissioned. The wheel was supposed to open on May 1 – the Day of Workers’ Solidarity.
Thus, Ukraine is gaining momentum in the development of inbound tourism. Perhaps this country is not suitable for everyone, and may surprise or disappoint in some ways, but it is clearly safe here.
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