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Tourist Season in Ukraine: Sanitizers in Rooms, Masked Staff, and Lost Millions
13 May, 2020
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A woman on a bicycle rides on an almost deserted tourist street during quarantine in Lviv, Ukraine on April 2. Mykola Tys / UNIAN

Ukraine is unlikely to fully resume international flights until the end of the summer. As a result, many travellers in Ukraine are looking at domestic tourism as an option, if interregional transportation does make a return. Here's what Ukrainian tourism may look like over the next few months, considering government recommendations.

Infrastructure and Domestic Tourism

Experts say that the main problem of the 2020 tourist season in Ukraine is that even if the quarantine is lifted or relaxed, the number of solvent tourists will decrease. Some have lost their jobs, others are suffering significant business losses.

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Volodymyr Tsaruk, Deputy Chairman of the Tourism Committee of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Ukraine, notes that in the current conditions the country is not ready to open for a safe tourist season.

"The biggest problem for Ukrainian tourism is infrastructure. We all talk about safety, cleanliness, but if you drive to Ukraine, then, except for gas stations, there are no normal toilets on the road or even just somewhere to wash your hands. The second problem is the infrastructure of the resorts themselves. Starting from the roads, ending with garbage removal, and the cleaning of the beaches," Tsaruk told hromadske.

This year, 240 million hryvnias ($8.9 million) were set aside in the country's budget for tourism development. Due to quarantine, the budget was revised and this funding had been removed entirely.

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In such conditions, it is difficult to imagine colossal state reforms and ideas about the tourist season on the part of the government’s leadership.

The State Agency for Tourism Development of Ukraine says that there is no clear understanding of what to expect from the tourist season.

"We understand that the first thing they can allow is movement inside the country. The only question is whether there will be a new outbreak after the easing of quarantine. We want people not so much to plan vacations in advance, but to be ready to travel inside the country, to think about their safety, to adhere to sanitary norms," head of the State Agency Maryana Oleskiv said to hromadske.

The southern city of Odesa remains one of the most popular resort cities in Ukraine. The city's council is thinking about how to attract tourists this summer.

Director of the Department of Culture and Tourism of Odesa City Council Tetiana Markova says:

"This year we should count on domestic tourism. We are interested in its rebirth. We are already negotiating special rates for visitors with local businesses. The government noted that if the quarantine were relaxed, it would be possible to hold film screenings on the street. Odesa specifically is very open to various open air festivals. We have already planned several events to attract tourists. We will also talk to hotels about their work to make it safe.”

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Empty area without tourists and citizens near the NSC “Olimpiyskyi” stadium during the quarantine period in Kyiv, April 9, 2020. Photo: EPA-EFE / SERGEY DOLZHENKO

Business is Already Losing

The tourist season has already taken a hit in Ukraine. Tsaruk notes that even if the railways were to reopen in early June, the profits that cities receive during the May holidays have already been lost.

"The situation will depend on whether the borders are opened. If so, solvent clients will fly to Turkey or Egypt. Ukrainian hotels will be empty. The resorts will be visited by the public, which have minimal budgets, and it will not give hotels the opportunity to earn. So even if the tourist season does kick off this summer, it will be very tough,” says Tsaruk.

The losses are already being discussed by the Odesa City Council. Here the season usually starts in April when the city holds "Humorina", the annual festival of humor. This year it took place online. The City Council says that during this time the businesses have already undergone profit losses amounting to several million hryvnias.

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The situation is similar in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv. At peak times, the city's hospitality industry employs about 15% of the working population. May-June is one of the main tourist periods. It contains both the City Day, and is when numerous festivals and conferences are held. Each guest stays in the city for an average of three days, spending from $75 to $90 a day. These funds go to small and medium-sized businesses.

In a comment to hromadske, Lviv Deputy Mayor for Humanitarian Affairs Andriy Moskalenko said that there were more tourists in February 2020 than in the same month a year ago:

"Last year we had 2.5 million guests and received about 10,000,000 hryvnias ($372,500) from the hotel tax. This year we expected to receive even more tourists."

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An empty Kontraktova Square without tourists and locals during the quarantine period in central Kyiv, March 29, 2020. Photo: Anastasia Vlasova / hromadske

Season Recovery Plans

Currently, the Lviv City Council is preparing a plan to resume the tourist season – seven steps to establish business hospitality in the city. With representatives of the tourism business, organizers discuss how to hold conferences after the quarantine and how catering establishments should work. Businesses are advised to take customer’s temperatures, work in masks, and constantly disinfect the premises.

The State Agency for Tourism Development of Ukraine is developing recommendations for hotels by putting together a set of rules for safe accommodation of visitors.

"If it's a hotel with disposable shampoos and shower gels, they could add masks and sanitizers. We will recommend reviewing the work so that there are no queues at the reception, so that breakfasts are served by waiters due to possible restrictions on the buffet," says tourism expert Oleskiv.

The Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Ukraine is developing rules for healthy recreation – sanitary requirements for hotels and boarding guest houses. They will be made public by the end of the quarantine. Among other things, it is said that institutions will be urged to introduce mask requirements, check the temperature of guests, constantly do wet cleaning, and check their staff. In restaurants, there should be a distance of one and a half to two meters between tables.

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However, Tsaruk says that the state will not be able to control the observance of these recommendations by establishments:

"In this case, we rely entirely on the businesses. This is their image, they must regulate their work themselves. Control is possible on the part of the visitors themselves. Nowadays, information is spreading quickly on social networks. And in the future, tourists can write which of the hotels does not comply with certain rules.”

For all the latest updates on the coronavirus in Ukraine, follow this link.