Tourism in Ukraine: Very close to the dead end?

Tourism in Ukraine: Very close to the dead end?After a relatively fruitful season-2015—against the background of the military actions in the zone of the ATO and the general decline of the economy in the country—many people are trying to make it out: is there a prospect of further development of tourism in Ukraine? And—in general—should we think about it? What will the government and every citizen in particular get from this?

In order to pour light on this issue, it is necessary to turn to international experience. If you look at the whole global economy, it can be noted that the contribution of tourism in world GDP exceeds the income from the chemical industry and automobile industry. Statistics of the World Council on Travel and Tourism (WCTT) reported that in 2015 the contribution of the tourism industry in the global GDP was close to $ 8 trillion, which is equivalent to 10% of the absolute numbers. According to the forecasts of the same WCTT, by the year 2025 this amount will reach $ 11.4 trillion. I think that Ukraine should at least try to have a bite of this pie. In the meantime, the other countries enjoy this tasty and promising tourist cake.
Tourism in Ukraine: Very close to the dead end?

The global flow of tourists: Steady growth!

As an example, it is useful to analyze only one factor, the number of international tourist trips, which in 2015 totaled 1.184 billion (it is about 50 million, or 4.4% more than in 2014)... And if you compare these figures with the year 2010, the number of tourist trips altogether has increased by 22%! It is a pity that international tourists came in Ukraine only in 2012—for the Euro. That's all.

Meanwhile, international tourism is actively developing, growing and reaching new heights. And it is quite reasonable, since the effective activity of this sector contributes to economic development and job creation in many parts of the world. Therefore, it is imperative for Ukraine to encourage policies which can help to promote the steady growth of tourism, including the facilitation of travelling in Ukraine, development of human resources and sustainability.

But once again, it is clear that nowadays it doesn’t represent the trend of the Ukrainian policy. The Ministry of Economy, for example, is still stuck at a level of the "brand tourist book of Ukraine", in which on 109 pages someone with Jesuit pedantry speculates that "through the centuries the Ukrainians have kept their national identity in the situation of the practical absence of the national State. Even in hardships, a typical Ukrainian is holistic, not fussing between personal and collective, subjective and objective, contemplation and creation, material and spiritual…" In general, we recommend this document for reading only as an example of the most senseless step (probably, paid from the State budget!) aimed to attract tourists in Ukraine.

At the same time, currently we continue to strive to be in Europe, forgetting, or, perhaps, on the contrary, relying on the fact that Europe is the largest "supplier" of money coming from tourists (see the photo below).
Tourism in Ukraine: Very close to the dead end?

By the way, the market experts point out that the results of tourists’ destinations appear to be ambiguous due to the unusually sharp fluctuations in exchange rates in recent years, fall of oil prices and other commodities. Therefore the disposable income has increased in importing countries, but the demand has decreased in exporting countries. It is also happening because of growing concerns about the safety of people and protection.

So, there are quasi-expert opinions that as long as in Ukraine there is an on-going war, we will not see tourists in the country. But this is true only to some extent.

Troubled waters of Ukrainian tourism

At the moment, the main tourist destinations in Ukraine are the Black and Azov coast, the Carpathian Mountains, the cities of Kyiv, Lviv and Odessa. They have a lot of common problems as well as individual ones.

Common problems of tourism in Ukraine:
- Bad roads (and in some places—VERY bad roads);
- The absence of an enabling environment for the development of low cost air travel (first of all—national carriers);
- Tax and administrative pressure on business;
- A negative investment climate;
- Underdeveloped infrastructure (the insufficient level of service culture included).
- Non-European standards for hotels.

It is difficult or even impossible to solve all these problems—except perhaps the last one—without the help of the State. Unfortunately, the State, instead of eliminating the problems in the sphere of tourism, has been engaged in the replacement of certain administrative authorities with the others. So, from the 1st of September, 2015, the functions of “Gosturismkurort” were transferred to the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade of Ukraine.

In addition, tourism is now considered purely as economics. It means, it is being analyzed through the lens of income. The easiest revenue for the State is represented by financial means coming from licensing of travel agencies, which, in most cases, send travelers for a vacation abroad. But what about Ukrainian tourism?

Ways of attraction of foreign tourists to Ukraine:
- It is necessary to popularize local resorts among the Ukrainians and foreigners, arrange conferences and congresses for foreign tour operators.
- Create high-quality regulatory framework to attract investment.
- Ensure rigorous assignment of stardom to the hotels.
- Make a special emphasis on the uniqueness of the national cuisine, Ukrainian traditions, natural and architectural values.
- To conduct international tournaments, competitions and festivals.
- Search for innovative trends in the tourism sector.
- Try to extend the holiday season. For example, using the spa hotels or ski resorts.

Of course, we could rememder about the "green" tourism as well. But in our reality, it is a fiction. No more illusions and hope that a few hundred (or even thousands) of people who came to stay in the Carpathian village and drink fresh milk, would be able to raise the tourism of our country. Of course, it is necessary to create appropriate conditions for them. But it is naïve to consider this as a part of the tourist flow.

Let us remember that one of the prerequisites for the successful development of tourism in Ukraine have been, are and will be rich natural and human factors. Do not forget that in Ukraine there are monuments belonging to the cultural heritage of UNESCO, such as the "Sophia of Kyiv", "Kiev-Pechersk Lavra", the city of Lviv and the others. And therefore it could be quite easy to improve the situation in the tourism industry, even making such steps as:
- simplification of visa and customs procedures;
- independent standardization of licensing and certification of market participants and the development of State programs for the development of tourism.

Of course, in order to succeed on the international market of tourist services it is also necessary to take into consideration a whole set of important factors, such as:
- Competition on the international tourist market;
- Participation in various international organizations that can provide political support;
- The ability to identify our advantages and choose an appropriate position on the international tourism market.

But it is still necessary to start from the local situation, and only then look in the direction of Europe and America. In fact, today all depends on the Ministry and the Government of Ukraine (irrespective of who will be appointed the Prime Minister tomorrow). If they will listen to reason and will be imbued with the national idea, will not abolish yet another administrative structure (but, instead, fight against the corruption in their ranks), then tourism will be one of the most profitable areas in our country. Then not only our citizens, but also our European neighbours will be interested in the visa-free regime. Moreover, foreign currency will flow in the Ukrainian money turnover, and the Ukrainians will be able to organize their vacations cheaply and efficiently. Do not forget about the persons who have been forced out of work. The construction of new hotels, roads and infrastructure will ensure their legitimate and necessary means of subsistence. In the service sector there will be a lot of work for everybody who needs occupation.

Only time will show whether there will be some positive developments in the field of tourism this summer. But something tells me, that the "wind of change" in 2016 will not—once again!—blow in the direction of Ukraine.

Yana Ischenko, especially for "Vector News"

Translated by Maria Kryzhanovska

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