Walk around central Lviv and you’ll be struck by the historical architecture, buzzing cafes and magnificent courtyards. The Ukrainian capital of culture has the spirit and look of any classic European city. It’s these features that have made Lviv a hot destination for travelers from around the world. In fact, more than two million people visited in 2015, a potential goldmine for budding Ukrainian entrepreneurs and the hundreds of existing hoteliers, shop owners and tourist agencies alike. Deputy Mayor of Lviv Andriy Moskalenko says creating an efficient and fair business environment is essential to fully take advantage of the influx of tourists every year.
“Each Ukrainian tourist who comes to Lviv spends around 282 euros on average. Foreigners spend about 600 euros every trip. You can easily count it up. Every day, we care about what signboards are displayed, what places we should open, what summer terraces we should build and how it will be positioned. The most important thing is that the majority of things are regulated by the market. If you have five coffee houses and 5 hotels, the best one wins. Our aim is to create the market”, Mr. Moskalenko says.
Yet outside of Lviv, Ukraine’s tourism industry is hugely underdeveloped. According to the State Statistics Service, just over 12 million people visited Ukraine in 2014 and in 2015, twice less than before Russia’s invasion of the country’s east. Figures also show each foreign visitor spends $127 on average per trip, small compared to neighboring countries including Poland, Hungary, and Romania.
The lack of state support for the tourism sector is partly blamed, despite the fact the Law on Tourism states tourism is a priority in expanding the Ukrainian economy and culture. Little if no money has been allocated to this area in recent years. Anna Romanova, Head of the Ukrainian parliament sub-committee on Tourism, Resorts, and Recreational Activities argues more need to be done
“There are three things needed: firstly, the political will and understanding the importance of the domestic and international tourism; second, changes in infrastructure and thirdly, promotion”
Anyone who visits Ukraine is likely to quickly become familiar with a warm and generous hospitality. But taking this and turning it into profits is not easy for some Ukrainians, according to Oleksandr Liyev, Head of the Hospitality Industry Association in Ukraine.
“I’ve met mayors of different cities many times and they usually say “Tourism is rising! Come and see!” We come, and they show us that they have dancing girls and say “over there – dumplings.” I ask them how much they earn on it. “What earnings? That’s our hospitality!” – they say. And what does tourism have to do with it? It’s not about tourism, it’s about people’s souls. It can be used for tourism. Of course, there’s a good ground for it, but not a result”