Summer is a time for rest and holidays. For a good number of Ukrainians, this is perhaps the only opportunity to have a long-expected rest from everyday work. However, our resorts are attractive not only for local people but every year, tourists from all over the world come to Ukraine to bask in the sun. And then there is a logical and fair question: what do we do with holidaymakers from Russia? Opinion has found out whether we should allow  Russians to visit Ukrainian resorts, how many holidaymakers from Russia are expected this year, what risks the guests from the “ nearshore ” can bring, whether it is worth limiting it at the legislative level, and whether the annexed Crimea became an alternative to Russians.

Should we allow Russians to visit Ukrainian resorts?

The question, that seems to be rhetorical, may be quite ambiguous. Yurii Samoilov, the editor-in-chief of the “Ukrainian Tourism” magazine, is convinced that such a topic is not really relevant at this time and will not become relevant until the visa regime for Russians will be brought into action. At the same time, one should not expect that Ukrainian businessmen will refuse to accept tourists from the Russian Federation: for now, there are just several isolated cases of such a behavior.

“Letting” or “not letting” Russians, or rather Russian citizens, to come to Ukrainian resorts is not a question. While no visa regime has been introduced for Russia, and no frontier has been built around the border, anyone from Russia’s citizens can freely cross the state border of Ukraine. The only restriction – Russians must have a biometric foreign passport. There are no other restrictions.

You cannot hope, that the Ukrainian business will not accept Russians, who are willing to pay for their services, too: there are only several such cases if any at all. The vast majority of tourism industry representatives are guided by the principle of Titus Flavius Vespasianus: “Money does not stink”, said Yurii Samoilov.

Political analyst Vladyslav Serdyuk, on the other hand, explained to Opinion, that bringing up the problem of banning Russian’s recreation at Ukrainian resorts would be appropriate only when the country’s leadership finally officially acknowledged that we are in a war. A wiser question, according to the expert’s opinion is the question of whether it is actually appropriate to make a travel business during the war.

“Ukraine’s leadership up to this day cannot, or does not want to answer the question, whether there is a war in the country? And if there is neither war, then there is nor an enemy. Then the question arises, why should we not let tourists from Russia visit Ukraine? If there is a fight against organized crime in the country, then there isn’t any problem. And if there is a war, then letting in tourists from the aggressor country is inappropriate. But the more logical question to ask, is it appropriate, in general, to travel during the war? For example, you are unlikely to be able to loll in Syria”, said the specialist.

Olexandr Yaroshchuk, a journalist and analyst, supported the idea that Russians should still be allowed to rest in Ukraine. In the comments to Opinion, he explained: if a person did not commit criminal offenses against Ukraine and did not support the war and the annexation of Crimea, our state should not create any obstacles. Moreover, this is subjected not only to the citizens of the aggressor country. And an increase in the flow of tourists can bring to our country only positive changes.

“Of course, they should be let in. The state of Ukraine should not create obstacles for citizens of any country if they have not committed a criminal offense against the Ukrainian state. Of course, if a person opposes Ukraine, supports the war and the annexation of the Crimea, etc., in this case, we can not let such people in, and it concerns not only the citizens of Russia but everyone. Here is the principle of security issues, which is especially important for our state in this situation. All the others, please, let them arrive and we will be glad because this is a significant positive factor for Ukrainian tourism and the whole economy. From this point of view, there are several positive effects: the overall positive effect for the economy, which is reflected in the trade recovery, the inflow of currency into the country, the revival of the entire service market, etc., and as a consequence – an increase of tax revenues. In addition, it is an improvement in the image of the country, which is important for our cultural policy.

Ukraine is interested in the development of tourism, and therefore we should not forbid anyone who does not harm Ukraine to come to us. We must be open to all as much as possible, and all tourists must comply with Ukrainian legislation and respect the state “, said in the comment.

How many tourists from Russia should be expected this year?

Yurii Samoilov emphasized: it’s almost impossible to talk about the exact number of holidaymakers from Russia because we do not have an effective system for counting the tourists’ flows. According to the expert, the estimated number may reach one and a half million. Odessa citizens should expect for the biggest amount of Russians because their city is most attractive in the summer.

“The number of holidaymakers from Russia is fairly difficult to estimate since there is no effective system for calculating tourists’ flows in Ukraine. I think, in general, one and a half million of them will visit Ukraine. Traditionally, Russians are attracted by Ukrainian seaside resorts, first of all, Odessa and Odessa region, and in winter – Lviv and Carpathian ski resorts. According to the monitoring carried out by Odessa Region State Administration in 2016, in cooperation with the Kyivstar mobile operator, Russians consistently occupy the first place in the resorts of Odessa region in summer”, the specialist explains.

Nataliia Bogush, the owner of a camping site in Zatoka resort in the Odessa region, told Opinion that this year, like the previous one, came her standing customers, for whom a visit to Ukraine has already become a good tradition.

“It’s not right to forbid them to rest in our country.” It wasn’t them who started the war, and they did not take our Crimea away. Those who rest in my recreation center, as a rule, are very critical of the Russian authorities, disapprove the war and love Ukraine, especially our sea. Over the past four years, all those for whom Zatoka has become a long-standing tradition, have not betrayed their habits. The first two couples are already resting, and three are planning to come next month”, Bogush shared with us.

What risks Russian-holidaymakers can provoke?

Vladyslav Serdyuk believes, that tourist seasons can become a perfect opportunity for Russian agents who want to get into the territory of Ukraine, while it is difficult to answer how many agents of influence from the Russian Federation are already in the territory of our state and in other countries. For example, according to an expert, in Poland in 2014, the number of Russian spies was about 300 people. And again: the exact number remains unknown.

“The risk, in this case, is to increase the number of Russian agents in Ukraine, but who, in fact, can answer the question of how many Russian agents of influence (spies) are in Ukraine today? Here you should also take into account the total number of so-called “useful idiots”. Their number is infinite. The number of spies from Russia in Poland is about 300 people, according to the data of 2014, but even this number means, that these are only those people, who are kept under surveillance. The total number remains unknown,” the political analyst stated.

Yurii Samoylov, on the other hand, assured Opinion, that the presence of the holidaymakers could affect the internal situation in Ukraine indirectly, even though saboteurs and provocateurs still have the opportunity to disguise themselves like ordinary tourists.

“It is clear, that under the guise of tourists, saboteurs and provocateurs can enter Ukraine, however, in my opinion, there are many other, more simple ways of entering of the hostile elements into our territory. So, my answer is this: even if the presence of Russians in the resorts affects the domestic situation in the country, it does it really indirectly. As for the ban, I have already said: there are currently no mechanisms to ban the entry of Russian citizens into Ukraine,” says the editor-in-chief of the ” Ukrainian Tourism ” magazine.

What are the threats of the decrease in the number of holidaymakers “from the nearshore“?

Before answering this question, we should obviously note the state of today’s Ukrainian tourism in general, because the war in the east of the country must have left an imprint on. Political analyst Vladyslav Serdyuk in a commentary to Opinion stressed that currently the travel business in Ukraine continues its development and even shows quite decent figures. For example, in 2017 14.6 million foreigners chosen our country as a place for the rest, which is one million more than last year’s figure.

“Tourism in Ukraine fares well because we have very attractive prices, as well as non-trivial ideas for the tourism business: themed restaurants, bars, etc. For example, Lviv has increased the number of tourists from 2 million in 2015 to 2.6 million in 2017. That is 600 thousand people in addition for two years. This is a good figure considering that in 2017 more than 600 million euros were left by tourists in Lviv. An average tourist leaves there about 75 euros in one day. But it should be emphasized, that the number of Russian tourists remains very small in Lviv, less than 0.7%, but it is significant in the perspective of the whole country. In 2017, Ukraine was visited by 14.6 million foreigners, which is 1 million more than in 2016, and the Russians were at third place among the countries where foreign tourists came from,” Vladyslav Serdyuk shared.

But the reduction of the number of tourists from any country is always a purely negative phenomenon for travel business. This is emphasized by Yurii Samoilov. According to him, such tendencies will reduce the profits of the relevant business, which will cause a number of changes, in particular, reducing the number of jobs.

“Reducing the tourist’s flow from any country is clearly a negative phenomenon: the income and profits of tourism and related businesses are decreasing, hence the tax, the number of jobs, salaries in the industry, etc. are reduced. If we talk about foreign tourists going to Ukraine, this is, first of all, Belarusians and Moldovans – they go first of all to sea resorts, and in winter – to ski in the Carpathians. Quite a lot of Poles in these latter days –  besides the sea resorts, they go to our sightseeing tours, mainly to those destinations located in the western regions of Ukraine, which are artifacts of Poland history. These are, first of all, Lviv and Lviv region, as well as Kamyanets-Podilskyi. Recently, due to the substantial liberalization of the visa regime, the number of Chinese and Indian tourists has greatly increased in the territory of Ukraine”,  the expert said.

Is annexed Crimea an alternative to Ukrainian resorts for Russians?

In one of his interviews, the ex-minister of resorts and tourism of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea Oleksandr Liev emphasized, that it is now advisable to divide the entire tourist business of Crimea into two parts, depending on the organization of tourist flows.

«Crimean travel business is divided into two parts. One part receives organized tourists – it’s health resorts and hotels. The other part is taking unorganized tourist flows. These are mini-hotels, private households, apartments”, explains Liev.

And if the first part, according to the expert, suffered from the annexation less, since the Russian invaders “nationalized, seized and assigned these objects and brought there various trade union flows at the expense of Russia’s budget funds,” then the second part of the tourist business actually died.

“As for mini-hotels and apartments, this business remained only in Yalta and a little bit in Sevastopol, less – in Alushta, very few – in Evpatoria and in general died in the Black Sea, Shcholkino, Sudak, Feodosia, Novyi Svit and other cities of the western and eastern coast of Crimea”, the ex-minister stated.

The ex-minister told about the number of tourists, which was accepted by the Crimea before occupation by the Russian army and after the annexation. According to him, the number of holidaymakers has significantly decreased.

“In a peacetime Crimea hosted 6 million tourists. For about 4.5 million of them were residents of Ukraine, about 1 million – residents of Russia, the rest – residents of the other states, primarily Belarus and the Baltic States, as well as the countries of the European Union. And in recent years, Crimea has taken about 1.15-1.20 million tourists, 1.05-1.10 million of which – residents of Russia and about 100 thousand – the residents of Ukraine”, Olexandr Liev estimated.

Is it possible to resolve the issue of tourists from Russia at the legislative level?

Oleksandr Yaroshchuk, a journalist,  is convinced: this issue has been settled for a long time, because those, who visited Crimea not through the mainland of Ukraine or participated in Donbass operations on the side of so-called “DNR” and “LNR” will not be able to rest in Ukraine.

“Such an issue does not need to be further regulated since it is already regulated. According to Ukrainian legislation, entry into Ukraine is prohibited for persons who have entered the Crimea not through the mainland of Ukraine or who are involved in the war in Donbass. Obviously, we should not let such people in”, summed up the journalist.

But Yurii Samoilov expressed his conviction, that the only right decision could be the introduction of a visa regime with Russia. Other ways cannot be sufficiently effective.

“If we talk about restrictions on the entry of Russian citizens (or any other state) into Ukraine, this is possible only through the introduction of a full-fledged visa regime. No other way will be effective”,  Samoilov explained.

Text: Dmytro Zhuravel



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