Will Crimean tourism survive?

Political instability in Crimea can scare away all the tourists who annually vacation in the autonomy. Holiday season is approaching fast, but the number of tourists in Crimea this year may fall by nearly 30 percent. Koktebel, Evpatoria, Yalta and other resorts may lose both Russian and Ukrainian tourists. How will the referendum change the flow of tourists?

Tourism is an important economic component of the Crimean economy. Crimea is annually visited by nearly 6 million tourists, and 1.5 million of them are Russian tourists.  Back in February, experts in the field of tourism released disappointing forecasts for the economy of Crimea. 90 percent of Russians who gladly vacationed at the resorts of Crimea will prefer to spend their vacation this summer in the Krasnodar region, despite the fact that Russian hotels and resorts have always been considered more expensive compared to the Crimean ones. However, Russian tourists account for only one third of the total tourist traffic.

Crimea is also visited by Europeans, Belarusians and, of course, mostly Ukrainians. Today Ukrainian media reports that Crimea will lose Ukrainian tourists if the referendum results in a decision to annex the autonomy of Crimea to the Russian Federation.

According to the information spread by Ukrainian media, this outcome will not make Crimea more interesting for the Russians. At the same time within the Russian Federation Crimea will have a serious competitor, the Krasnodar Territory. Pro-Kyiv journalists claim that Crimea will lose Ukrainian tourists, and the locals will be left empty-handed.

The purpose and the target audience of this information is obvious. It is equally obvious that the future of the tourist flow in Crimea can be discussed only after the referendum scheduled for March 16. Nevertheless, Pravda.Ru talked to the Russian travel industry experts about whether or not there is a risk of losing most of the tourists if Crimean majority votes for the entry into the Russian Federation.

"Logically, Russians will visit the resorts of Crimea more frequently, there are no doubts about that. I cannot speak with certainty about the Ukrainians, but if normal relations between the two countries remain, they will be travelling as well," said General Director of ArtisSpace travel agency Nikolai Koziorov.

"Both Russians and Ukrainians have relatives in Crimea. They will continue to travel there. If there is a decline, it will be temporary, it will not affect anything, and I think no visas will be introduced. If Crimea becomes Russia and if there are investments, the infrastructure in Crimea will improve, and people will be travelling to Crimea. I am not saying there will be an incredible increase, but there will be some increase for sure."

Today, in the times of uncertainty in Crimea, the tourism industry is in despair. Those who were planning their vacation in Crimea for the May holidays are lost for the tourist business in the area. Experts in the field of tourism told a correspondent of Pravda.Ru how Russian and Ukrainian tourists responded to the Crimean crisis.

"There are no sales to Crimea, no interest. Who will go there given the existing information field and the events that are taking place there?" Irina Turina, press secretary of the Russian Union of Travel Industry told Pravda.Ru. "Sales to Crimea collapsed a long time ago, there is absolutely nothing to say here. Without the Russian market Crimea, of course, will lose a lot, almost everything, because basically the visitors are Russians and Ukrainians.

I think Ukrainians also will not travel to Crimea in the summer, at least while we have this situation. No one knows how the events will unfold. It is unclear if the referendum takes place, and what will happen after. I believe that Crimea is not being considered as a tourist destination in the Russian market. Without the Russian market Crimea is not Crimea. It is possible that these tourists would instead travel to the Krasnodar region, because many Russians like to vacation at the warm sea. The Krasnodar Region may get a piece of the Crimean pie."

Lyubov Chumikova, a lead manager for Crimea in a tourist agency is also concerned. She shared with a correspondent of Pravda.Ru that in the last few weeks the work has slowed down. There is no interest in any tours to Crimea, Odessa, or Berdyansk. Sales have stopped for all areas of Ukraine. Even the early bookings placed before the events in Crimea today are mostly canceled.

"Unfortunately, there is no interest. We expect that after the referendum the situation will calm down. Of course, I will take a month, or maybe even more, but we hope that we will start working in at least a month or two. Clients will certainly change their destination. Those who want to stay at health resorts will travel to Belarus, and those who opted for a vacation in Crimea to enjoy the beach will be traveling to Abkhazia. I think that now Sochi will be l, that is, people are actively changing focus," said Lyubov Chumikova.

We can only guess what consequences it will have for Crimea. Crimea residents who make their living catering to tourists, those providing shelter, wine and other delicacies will suffer, and so will businesses. If you consider the number of popular resorts on the Crimean coast in Evpatoria, Koktebel, Yalta, and so on, all the hotels, resorts, restaurants, clubs, you can imagine how much tourists fleeing from the political turmoil will hit the pockets of local business, and the entire budget of the autonomy.

On Tuesday, March 11th, Deputy Prime Minister of the Republic Rustam Temirgaliev said that he expected the Russian business investment in the Crimean projects amounting to five billion dollars. However, this talk is premature, pending the results of the referendum.

What do you think about the latest news and events in Ukraine? What do you think about the results of the referendum in Crimea? What will happen to Crimea? What will happen to Ukraine? How real is the threat of a war over Crimea?

Maria Snytkova


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Author`s name Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey