|Select magazine number|
Potential and development of tourism in Ukraine
The development of tourism in Ukraine is coordinated by the State Tourist Administration of Ukraine (STA). Yevhen Samartsev, the State Tourist Administration of Ukraine deputy head, has been working in STA for two years now. Before his promotion to STA, he worked in business and in public organizations. His experience and personal qualities have added dynamic features, purposefulness and modern approaches in the work of STA. Mr Samartsev was instrumental in launching an annual spring tourist exhibition, the biggest of its kind in Ukraine.
What place does Ukraine have in the world tourism today?
There are many features in this country which are advantageous for development of tourism: a rich historical and cultural legacy; natural conditions in the temperate regions conducive to recreation; ethnic originality in many regions of Ukraine; sun and sea areas in the Crimea and in coastal areas; river and sea cruises; mountaineering in the Crimean and Carpathian mountains. These and other features attract tourists and have a potential for further development. All the historical and cultural landmarks in urban and rural areas, parks, scenic nature and ethnic peculiarities work for tourism. The urban areas most attractive for tourism are Kyiv, Lviv and Odesa.
Ukraine has thousands of camps and facilities for children recreation, rest, and health improvement — it is one of the most developed systems in the world. It’s an important social factor providing the opportunity for Ukrainian families to have the health of the children improved, but if developed properly, this system can be made useful in providing similar opportunities for children from foreign countries. The international children centre Artek in the Crimea is well known but it is only one part of a tourist market potential in this sphere. We have to take stock of what we have and assess it to know what we could offer to potential investors and where to apply our own efforts.
We cannot offer to Europeans anything special in the line of rest on the sea beaches because the sunny coasts of Turkey, Egypt, Spain, Croatia, Bulgaria and other countries are major tourist attractions. But the southern Crimean coast is, even compared to the Mediterranean resorts, a unique concentration of tourist, recreational, health-improving, educational and sport promoting features. Besides, the urbanization in the Crimea has made but a mild impact on the environment.
All these things considered, one realizes that the tourist potential of Ukraine is truly great, particularly if we add to the list of tourist-attractive features opportunities for rural tourism, health-improvement centres for the elderly, hunting, ecological tourism, yachting, golf and other advantages. This potential is being realized only to a limited extent because the tourist infrastructure has not been developed well enough — we do not have enough modern hotels, tourist bases, camping sites, parking lots, restaurants and entertainment centres. Both foreign and domestic investors have a wide choice of places and facilities to invest in.
Which countries could supply tourist influxes?
The tourist markets at which Ukraine could offer its tourist product are only being formed but it is clear that we can attract many tourists from the countries of the former Soviet Union, Russia in particular, from the neighbouring countries such as Poland and Hungary. The USA, Canada, Germany and Japan — the countries that lead in the world as to the number of their tourists, are the markets to be actively explored.
Tourism is a very wide sphere of activity and it is hardly possible to be developing all of it at once. What are the main points of application of efforts STA has chosen?
We have to be developing all the spheres at once but we concentrate our efforts at several tourist clusters, rest and recreation complexes and building up of the necessary infrastructure. With the passage of time, these gains will become models of development nationwide.
Some concrete steps have already been made. Last year STA concluded agreements with Zolote Opillya, the Union of Development of Tourism and Crafts in the Small Historical Towns of the Western Region of Ukraine, and with Tavriya, the Association of Resort Towns of South of Ukraine. We are working with dozens of other public organizations and unions, taking into consideration their initiatives and recommendations.
The first major project in this line is the restoration of the historical centre of the ancient town of Zhovkva in the Land of Lvivshchyna. The town recently marked the 400th anniversary of the Magdeburg Law. The tourist, congress and cultural complex will include a hotel that will be created out of a palace — the first such hotel in Ukraine. The tourist and restoration experts from Catalonia, Spain, share their experience with us, and they do know in Spain how to preserve historical landmarks and promote the tourist business.
Askania-Nova, a nature preserve in the south of Ukraine, is being turned into a tourist centre. The preserve boasts rare species of animals and plants from many parts of the world and beautiful scenery.
There are 14 natural preserves in Ukraine which can be turned into major tourist centres but it must be done very carefully so as not to damage the vulnerable environment of these places. We should find a way of promoting tourism that will provide financial support for their preservation and scientific research.
The development of the infrastructure for youth tourism and recreation is another direction of our work. Ukraine has a cultural, ethnic and natural diversity that can be a source of unforgettable impressions for the young people. We shall start work in this direction from developing student hostels.
Which regions of Ukraine are particularly good for developing rural tourism?
Rural tourism can be developed practically in all the regions of Ukraine, but the most prospective are the western regions in which up to sixty or seventy percent of the local population could be involved in it. On the one hand, such tourism will let people see and explore the beauties of the land, and on the other hand, it will promote mountain skiing and health-improvement centres and resorts. Also, such tourism will boost local initiative and will be a good incentive. In 2003, tourism to Western Ukraine grew by 35–40 percent, and it is a good evidence of the fact that the local people began to see the advantages of the rural tourism. The transport corridor Lisbon-Kyiv that will be created in the near future will provide a better access to the western regions of Ukraine both for the Kyivans and Western Europeans. It will be beneficial for the development of the Western Ukrainian tourist market.
Of course, the development of tourism should go hand in hand with taking measures to prevent ecological damage to the unique features of the Western Ukrainian lands.
Tourism may be a source of spiritual enrichment. One of the projects, Tourism that Enriches, is aimed at reviving the traditional way of life among the local population which will become a major tourist attraction.
It’s a bit early to say what the final results of the year 2003 were in the tourist business, but could you give us preliminary results?
In 2003, the number of foreign tourists visiting Ukraine reached 7 million people or more and increased by 15 percent compared to 2002 and by 29 percent compared to the “millennium” year 2000. Foreign tourists spent in Ukraine 24 billion hryvnyas which is an 8 percent increase over the previous year. The total volume of tourist services provided was in excess of 3.3 billion hryvnyas and increased by 8.3 percent. The hotel accommodations grew by 30 percent, and some of the high-class hotels are regularly filled by 90 percent which is a very good sign.
What was, in your opinion, the most important event of 2003 in Ukrainian tourism?
It was, no doubt, the adoption by parliament of the improved Law “On Tourism” which brings Ukrainian law in compliance with the world standards, structures of the tourist market and gives a chance, together with other organizations, to form a wide spectrum of legal acts that concern the tourist sphere.
What is the investment situation in the tourist sphere in Ukraine?
We are not quite satisfied with it. The tourist sphere of Ukraine requires about 1.5 billion dollars a year, but it gets only several hundred thousands. But things get moving. Last year we restored and built 15 percent more hotels than in 2002. We’ll work hard to make investments regular rather than occasional. To achieve it we introduce a comprehensive plan of tourist development in various regions of Ukraine.
We have reached an agreement with the Ministry of Finances to lift the import tax on hotel equipment of the kind that is not produced in Ukraine. STA wants to introduce legislation that will allow the hotels that undergo major reconstruction to get a postponement in paying taxes for the term of one to five years.
Are the conditions in our tourism conducive to further investment?
There’s so much to do in this sphere yet. “The Programme of Development of Tourism up to the year 2010” has already been launched. The local authorities have begun giving sites for building tourist facilities, and all of it gives us hope that foreign and domestic businessmen will increase their investments into Ukrainian tourism. We have published Investment Projects in the Tourist and Recreational Sphere of Ukraine in which we present about fifty projects into which we invite to put investments. For further information one can go to the STA website www.tourism.gov.ua
What about the advertisement strategy?
There are several lines we follow in advertising the tourist product. We believe that the tourist product must be in a condition that makes it worthy of being advertised. We are doing research into how to make it best. Secondly, we must determine which tourist markets our tourist product should be advertised at. We did it last year and will do it in the future. Thirdly, a mechanism of presenting our tourist possibilities to the potential customers should be worked out. It involves participation in tourist exhibitions, advertisement through the local media, cooperation with local tourist operators, production of good-quality advertisement materials and their distribution.
Does the state allot enough money for advertising the Ukrainian tourist potential?
It was only last year that STA was given a real budget for the development of tourism, and compared to what we had before the increase was tenfold. It means the understanding grows in Verkhovna Rada, in the government and in the administration of the president that tourism should be treated as an important branch of economy and as such should be invested in. For the money we were given we have published a number of tourist guides and maps, prepared in a much better way Ukrainian sections at the international tourist exhibitions, started new research, worked out new standards for hotels and done many other useful things.
All of these things are our steps towards achieving our goal — to make Ukraine a European Mecca for tourists.
Mr Samartsev was interviewed by Yevhen Budko,
senior editor of Mizhnarodny Turyzm magazine.