How Ukraine's tourism industry is prevailing despite Russia's invasion

How Ukraine's tourism industry is prevailing despite Russia's invasion
War has devastating effect on tourism in Ukraine's Odesa

Amid the ongoing war against Russia, the UK's foreign office has understandably advised against all travel to Ukraine.

Its website says "your travel insurance could be invalidated if you travel against FCDO advice. Consular support is severely limited where FCDO advises against travel."

Given multiple attacks from Russia, it also says "There is a real risk to life."

The war has showed no signs of stopping and yet, while chaos resigns, signs of normality continue. One such sign of normality is the tourist industry prevailing.

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While there are no direct flights to Ukraine, travel into the country is possible and hotels and other forms of accommodation are still taking bookings.

The official Visit Ukraine website even boasts of wine and food tours for visitors to the country to enjoy, but less cheerily offers war risks insurance which even covers repatriation of a travellers body in the event of their death.

In Lviv, sits Hotel Leopolis, still open despite the war. General Manager Kateryna Matiushchenko told CNN that business was "not bad", considering.“

January and February 2023 were not that bad,” Matiushchenko said. “Better than we planned, given the constant threat of massive attacks and electricity switch-offs.”

The hotel, among others, has bomb shelters. Many customers come from other areas of Ukraine and they report they do so for respite from the war, to socialise with other people or to meet up with family in different places.

Meanwhile, plans are being drawn up for a mega-ski resort, the largest in the country, expected to accommodate 65,000 visitors.

But how does tourism in a war-torn country work?

Mariana Oleskiv, chairperson at the State Agency for Tourism Development of Ukraine told Investment Monitor that there is more to Ukraine than the war.

“People [associate] war with Ukraine right now,” she says. “It is important to keep also another image of Ukraine: that of a well-developed country with a good infrastructure and with a lot of things to do. We have huge tourism potential and a rich culture and rich history. With the world looking at Ukraine, we want to tell that story now.”

“We are now preparing a campaign to attract people to Ukraine after the war,” she said. “We want tourists to support our country by coming here to spend their money. That way they can [directly] support Ukrainians and tell them: thank you for bravely fighting for democracy and stopping the evil terrorist state of Russia.”

“The western part of Ukraine has not been touched much by the war,” she added. “The eastern and southern parts have seen a lot of destruction and, after liberation, they will need new resorts and hotels, especially by the seaside.”

But all may not be as it seems.

While Airbnb seems to be flourishing, this may be because members of the public are paying for rentals they have no intention of staying in to help get money to residents who are facing extreme financial hardship.

An Airbnb spokesperson said it would be waiving fees in the country. “We appreciate the generosity of our community during this moment of crisis,” she said. “Airbnb is also waiving all guest and host fees on all bookings in Ukraine at this time.”

Whether it is to support those living in the country or to escape the war for a brief while, it is clear that even in the most tough times, the human desire for things to remain stable lives on.

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