|Valeriy Tsybukh has been heading the Derzhkomturyzm for eighteen months now. Soon after he filled the post Welcome to Ukraine Magazine published an interview with him. Since then a lot of positive changes have occurred in the tourist industry of Ukraine, largely thanks to the active work and extensive organizational experience of the Derzhkomturyzm’s head. It is about these changes and about perspectives for Ukrainian tourism in the future that Valeriy Tsybukh talked in an interview given to Oleksandr Horobets, Welcome to Ukraine editor in chief, and Yevhen Budko, a WU correspondent.|
Mr Tsybukh, you’ve been heading the Derzhkomturyzm, State Committee for
Tourism, for about eighteen months now. A journalist has dubbed you “tourist
#1 of Ukraine.” Before you came to head the Derzhkomturyzm, it was hardly
more than “an organ of coordination and control.” Have the situation with
tourism in Ukraine, in general, and functions of the Derzhkomturyzm, in
particular, changed ?
Tsybukh: Yes, definitely so. Tourism is more than just another branch of industry. It also used to be called here “a sphere of activity.” At last, a new definition for the role of tourism had been found at the official level: “a composite inter-branch social and economic complex.” Probably, because of its composite character there is no separate item for tourism in the state budget. Tourism is sort of “diluted” in other branches of economy, in other items in the budget. Tourism unites in itself efforts of the transportation workers, culture workers, ecology service workers, sports and recreation workers, plus many others. And of course, there must be someone who would control and direct all these disparate efforts. But strange as it may seem, some of the Verkhovna Rada deputies (MP’s) have come to doubt the necessity of one central coordinating and executive body in the sphere of tourism, saying that, in their opinion, state-run tourist facilities do not work too well. In fact, there are only 23 state-owned tourist facilities, nothing much to speak of. Some of them are really very successful, and privately or corporately run tourist facilities can look at them as at a model to follow. Take, for example, the Dnipro Hotel in Kyiv, it’s very successful, it quarterly gives to the state budget a million hryvnyas in taxes alone! Besides, when such doubts are expressed, people seem to forget that Ukraine, with its great recreation, history and culture potential, does not actually have an integrated industry of tourism. Recently, I had a meeting with a group of Irish businessmen and they told me an amazing thing: their country, with its rainy and foggy climate, with a population of only three million people, earned thanks to tourism, three billion dollars last year! Ukraine with its population of 50 million people, with its enormous recreational potential, made only about four billion dollars. And at the top echelons of power of Ukraine this gain is considered to have been achieved by branches of the economy other than the tourist one. But who provides jobs, attracts customers, organizes services?
WU: It is unfortunate that there are people who do not understand the necessity of the state coordination of the tourist industry. But there must be others, who do.
Tsybukh: Well, I have to admit that such negative attitudes are not typical now. Now we’ve got a situation in which the top legislative and executive bodies have begun to understand the social and economic necessity of developing tourism. I think we, that is those who are directly involved in tourism and those journalists who write about tourism, have managed to change the public opinion as far as tourism is concerned. The government now sees that in developing tourism lies a chance of improving the general economic situation, of dealing with social problems more successfully, and creating a more positive image of Ukraine. At the same time, in some of the areas of Ukraine there is no one responsible for the development of tourism there. So, a lot yet is to be done to have the tourist policies embraced by the state and implemented at the bottom level.
WU: Could you describe those concrete signs that show that the state does understand the necessity of developing tourism?
Tsybukh: Recently, the President of Ukraine has issued decrees which will secure the creation of an adequate foundation for the further development of tourism. In the 10 August, 1999 decree “On the Main Directions of the Development of Tourism in Ukraine” the basic functions of the Derzhkomturyzm are established. The Derzhkomturyzm will have the legal mechanisms to influence the tourist market, to coordinate the recreation and health centres, to set the transport corridors rather than just register tourist companies and control their work. It will make it possible to use the natural, historic and cultural resources of Ukraine, up to now almost neglected, for the benefit of our country. Another thing: this decree has put an end to the local lawlessness as far as tourism is concerned. Corresponding departments will be created at the Oblast and Raion administrations, and it means that many issues connected with tourism and tourist facilities will be dealt with much greater efficiency at the local level.Knowing that we have now high executive support, we have submitted our own proposals as to the main directions in the development of tourism in Ukraine for the next ten years, with the needs and requirements of the related branches taken into account. Our proposals have been met with the approval of the Cabinet of Ministers and of the special committee of the Verkhovna Rada. Of course, the support of the President means a lot for us. The President has suggested that our proposals be taken into account in the working out of state programmes of social and economic development of the country. The project of the Ukraine 2010 Programme has a section that deals with tourism, describes the most important features of the tourist complex, what it can give to the people, and also maps its further strategies.But the most important thing for us is that the President has charged us with working out a programme for the development of tourism up the year 2010. When it is ready it’ll have to be approved by the Verkhovna Rada.
WU: Wasn’t there a similar
programme up the year 2005? It’s not working, is it?
At the general assembly of the World Tourist Organization, held in Santiago de Chile, September 27 through October 1, 1999.
| Now I know that it
means that the systems of taxes and establishment of prices, credit policies
work against tourism rather than for its benefit, and they should and must
WU: A pessimist would immediately tell you: there have been so many good decisions and declarations but they have never brought any palpable results. Is there any guarantee that the decree you’ve mentioned will be fulfilled, say, by the tax administration? Is there a mechanism to make it work?
Tsybukh: Yes, it must be admitted that very many excellent decisions have sunk into oblivion because at the low levels they have not been properly understood. You’ve got to be pushing things ahead all the time, to be controlling them all the time. So, the Derzhkomturyzm is working out these mechanisms, and then, being a body most interested in the fulfilment of the presidential decree, begins to control the process, paying attention to the whole complex of tourism-related branches.Such is an answer to those who oppose the state coordination of tourism. The world tourist organization keeps warning all the time: in those countries where the mechanism of state regulation of tourism has been lost, it’s very difficult to renew it. 130 countries of the world have official bodies which deal directly with tourism. If Ukraine had a well-established tourist infrastructure, similar to the one, say, in Italy, we could let the regions coordinate tourist issues. But we don’t have it and one Italian region receives as many tourists as the whole of Ukraine.
WU: So, it’s important to have not only the ruling bodies understand the problem but the local bodies as well. Is a proper attention paid equally in all the Oblasts of Ukraine?
Tsybukh: I visited almost all the Oblasts of Ukraine and did not meet a single governor who would not understand the importance of tourism and what’s to be done now. We have established good contacts with most of the Oblast administrations. A joint decision has been taken with the Chernivtsi administration to develop tourism in the Chernivtsi area. A joint meeting was held in the city of Mykolayiv and a similar meeting was held in the Carpathian region. We visited Chernivtsi, Yaremcha, Uzhgorod and other towns.I’ve singled out for myself those Oblasts which are “absolute blanks” as far as tourism is concerned: Poltava Oblast, Sumy Oblast, Luhansk Oblast, Zhytomyr Oblast. They have a tremendous tourist potential! They must be helped to develop it, they should enter the tourist market.
WU: The Crimea and the area of the Carpathian Mountains are most promising in the line of tourism. What is being done for these areas?
Tsybukh: The National Council of Ukraine for Tourism, which unites all the ministries and departments connected with tourism in this or that way, had a session in the Crimea in order to draw the attention of the world community to this great tourist region. The decree of the President of Ukraine, giving privileges to health and recreation centres and abolishing value added tax for tourist vouchers is of great help for the development of tourism in the area. But the area of the Carpathian Mountains also needs help from the point of view of developing tourism there. We are dealing with this problem now and the President will support our efforts.The Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast has put forward a tourism-development initiative and together with the neighbouring Oblasts it has joined the Tacis programme in the field of promoting tourism. Together with the European Commission on the Development of Tourism we’ll work out a separate programme for the Carpathian area and thanks to it, the area will get technical and financial support.
WU: Investments are a time-tested measure to boost the economy in general and tourism in particular. Which mechanisms should be put in action in order to get investments?
Tsybukh: We are conducting a policy open for investments, we inform foreign businessmen of our potential, incidentally with your journalistic help, too. Welcome to Ukraine Magazine does a lot in this respect. In order to use this potential to a greater extent, we have to renovate the infrastructure of the roads, we have to build more hotels and other tourist facilities, we have to open new yacht-clubs in the Crimea and new tourist camps in the Carpathians. The international experience shows it is the right way. The Avto-ZAZ-Daewoo investment project has turned out to be not very successful but the actual mechanism used in getting foreign investments is worth keeping for the future. We must create active investment mechanisms in the sphere of small and medium-sized businesses, and not only for foreign but also Ukrainian investments, the latter being of greater importance. Here is an example of our own Derzhkomturyzm experience. There is a new grandiose show-park in Kyiv called The Golden Gate of the Millennia. We managed to convince the city authorities that it was necessary to collaborate with private companies in staging such shows. In a similar way, we are promoting the creation of golf clubs and other facilities that are in demand among the foreigners who live and work in Kyiv. We provide assistance to tourists from Italy who want to come to hunt in Ukraine and are ready to pay a lot of money. There are many things like that and they show that there’s hope for further progressive steps taken in the right direction.
WU: Seems not much more is needed for a major tourist leap forward. What is actually needed to bring it about?
Tsybukh: Firstly, in order to increase the volume of tourism two or three times, without investing too much money into the effort, we have to create a new infrastructure. Secondly, we have to raise the general level of services. Thirdly, we have to create a positive image of our country with the help of spreading information and with the help of advertisement. On these three pillars the civilized tourist business should stand. If we have understanding and support at all the levels then we’ll be able to achieve success.I have to say here that in the past several years we have lost a lot - we have not managed to preserve what was gained by the Intourist and Sputnik tourist companies of the Soviet times. Now the project Tourism in Ukraine is being realized. It should be a holding that would unite all the tourist facilities, partly owned by the state, provide enough work for all of them, introduce unified standards of quality, regulate the prices. I believe all of it is achievable.
WU: The complex approach towards the tourist business requires a similar approach to the tourist advertisement, doesn’t it?
Tsybukh: A complex programme, Geo-Information System of Tourism, is being worked out in Ukraine. An electronic information system, UTIS, has been in operation for several months now. Several tourist catalogues have been released, for the first time at the state level. Active measures have been taken to have Ukraine adequately represented in Cyprus, a state with excellently developed tourism. But all of this is not enough. A Japanese delegation has recently visited the Crimea and then the town of Kamyanets-Podilsky to see the mock knights’ tournament. They were in raptures. And they expressed their regret that they had not heard much about Ukraine earlier. Now, newly wed couples, who so desire, will come to Ukraine to spend here their honeymoon.
WU: Concerning the spreading of information about Ukraine and its tourist potential in the world and about the world tourism in Ukraine: a lot in this respect can be done thanks to the participation of the Derzhkomturyzm in international tourist organizations. Ukraine is a member of the World Tourist Organization (WTO) since 1997.
Tsybukh: Right you are. Ukraine enjoys a strong support in the WTO. It was evident at the WTO assembly that took place in Santiago de Chile, September 27 through October 1 this year. Our delegation, headed by me, was promoted to the membership in the WTO Executive Council. It’s a great honor, you know. Russia has only recently applied and will have to wait for two years before she is accepted. But being a member of the WTO Executive Council puts additional responsibility on us, we have to raise the level of our tourism, especially in view of the fact that during our stay in Santiago de Chile a possibility was mentioned of holding one of the WTO assemblies in the city of Kyiv.
WU: Tourist representations of Ukraine abroad have always been a painful subject. They are very effective in informing people in foreign countries about Ukraine. What is being done in this respect?
Tsybukh: We are solving this problem through giving the status of state representations to private companies which work at the tourist market of this or that country and have enough prestige, and which we have faith in. Such representations you can already find in Russia, Estonia, the USA, Chile, Egypt, Japan, Austria, and Cyprus. Soon, they will work in Italy, Cuba, Great Britain, Portugal, Belgium, and Greece. But the mechanism of creating such representations is probably more important than representations themselves.
WU: How is the problem of entrance visas being solved?
Tsybukh: At the Ministry of Foreign Affairs they understand that both these problems must be solved and help us solve them. Now we are working at simplifying the procedures of obtaining the entrance visas with foreign Ukrainian representations taking an active part. Visas will be obtained faster and cheaper. We are even thinking of introducing temporary permits instead of visas that would allow entrance to Ukraine. It is more convenient for people travelling to Ukraine but at the same time it requires a lot from the Ukrainian side. If we want to be integrated into Europe, then we must overcome such ills as terrorism, high crime rates, illegal immigration. The President of Ukraine, at an international conference in Yalta, also spoke of simplifying the entrance formalities for foreign citizens. So, in this respect we’ve got quite a formidable support.
WU: Let’s come over from the general strategy to the things at hand. What are the preliminary results of the tourist season and which conclusions could be drawn from them?
Tsybukh: The tourist season actually lasts, with diminishing intensity, until the end of November. All the Crimean resorts were full, and most of the people filling them were Ukrainian citizens. On the one hand, it’s good, but on the other hand, it shows that we’re losing foreign tourists, particularly Russian. Last year, Russians made up about 80 percent of all the tourists who visited the Crimea, this year - only about 30 percent. The Russian government has reduced the price of tickets to Sochi, a major resort area in the east of the Black Sea, and it has attracted the bulk of Russian tourists. It is cheaper for Russians to go and stay in Sochi than in the Crimea. It’s a lesson for us, it shows we have to pay more attention to price policies. There were some other factors that have negatively affected Russian tourism to the Crimea, and the financial crisis is the most important among them. For two years before August 1998 the number of tourists to Ukraine was constantly growing but when the financial crisis struck, these numbers began to go down. They are likely to continue to fall because we have not been able to get out of the crisis yet.
WU: Let’s have a look into the future. The advent of the third millennium will be widely celebrated, it’ll be a major tourist event. Are we in Ukraine getting ready for that? By the way, in connection with the year 2000 computer problem, the French and US governments have advised their citizens to leave Ukraine for some time. Can you comment upon this?
Tsybukh: Well, I can only call upon the international tourist community to compete fairly. It’s unfair when some countries use such methods for diverting the tourist flows in a manner beneficial for them only. We put forward an initiative which was supported by the President of Ukraine who has issued a decree On the Preparation for the Third Millennium Celebrations in Ukraine. An organizing committee has been set up, with Valeriy Pustovoytenko, Ukrainian prime minister, at its head. The committee is made up of heads of ministries, departments and also governors. We have studied what is being done in other countries, particularly in Russia, and have submitted several projects to the Cabinet of Ministers: Place of the III Millennium Celebrations; Trip to the Millennium; Ukrainian Quality of the Third Millennium; Professional Results of the Third Millennium; Museums of National Culture of the Ukrainian Diaspora; Information Capsule into the Future, and many others. Among them - Computer 2000 project, which shows that we are aware of the computer problem and will do what is needed to prevent it from causing any trouble.Not only the year 2000 itself is going to be widely celebrated, but also 2000 years of Christianity. In Ukraine, there are places held sacred by all the Orthodox Christians and Christians of all other denominations: the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra Monastery and the Pochayiv Monastery. We will work close together with hierarchs of different Christian denominations in Ukraine in organizing pilgrimages. We have reached agreements as to the special privileges extended to the pilgrims, with the ministries of tourism of Israel and Egypt, and with some Ukrainian airlines. Tourist companies will offer credit tours which will give our pilgrims better chances of visiting the holy places. The Derzhkomturyzm will do everything possible to have Ukraine, not only Israel, receive pilgrims, and we’ll promote Ukrainian pilgrimages.
WU: Summing up, we can say that we’ll enter the third millennium hoping for positive changes in our life.
Tsybukh: We’ll achieve a lot if we are given the green light.