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SLAVSKE, Ukraine – Ukraine’s war-torn economy is expected to shrink at least a third this year, hit almost every field. This includes the tourism industry, which officials say had begun to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic before Russia invaded Ukraine in February.
But the Ukrainian government still hopes its people will continue to travel within the country – and spend money locally on the Black Sea and the Carpathian Mountains to the west.
Mariana Oleskiv, President of Ukraine’s National Tourism Development Agency, told NPR: “Many people in Ukraine still feel unwell when going on vacation or traveling.
More than seven months after the war, “we understand that many people in our country live in very poor conditions, some without electricity and our soldiers have to sleep in trenches,” she said.
According to agency data provided to NPR, domestic travel, which the agency defines as leaving your home city for leisure, grew 24% from 2019 to 2021. Nearly 4.2 million Foreign tourists visited Ukraine in 2021 – up 30% from the previous year.
Oleskiv says she forecasts that this trend will continue into 2022, but then the war begins.
Oleskiv says international tourists’ trips to Ukraine are down between 85% and 90%. Tour operators in the safer regions of Ukraine have reported to the government that occupancy rates have fallen by 50% this summer compared to last year. She said that tourism in places like Odesa and other areas of southern Ukraine near the front lines of the conflict had “completely stopped.”
Ashley Westerman / NPR
The slowdown is taking place across the country, including in the Carpathian Mountains, a popular vacation destination in the relatively safe western part of the country.
Managed by Katerina Minich Dvir Kniazhoiy Korony hotel in Slavske, a popular ski resort town about 85 miles south of Lviv. Minich told NPR that occupancy at her 15-room hotel was down about 60% from last year.
“In general, from February to [August]Minich says hotel earnings are between 70 and 80 percent lower than last year.
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Oleskiv said that the true damage that Russia’s large-scale land invasion has done to Ukraine’s domestic tourism industry will not be fully known for many months. But her company plans to start trying to turn the tide with a new tourism campaign called “Ukraine-Inspired” – a campaign she says aims to tell Ukrainians they have the right to rest.
“At some point, we need to stop and take a breather and not get too caught up in the news,” says Oleskiv.
Some Ukrainians have followed the advice.
“I think to be more effective, sometimes you have to relax,” said Natalii Baliuk, 35, from Kyiv during a visit to Slavske in August. “Otherwise you won’t be able to do anything and you cannot serve this country.”
Baliuk and her friends went to the Carpathians for Ukraine’s Independence Day not only because they believed it was safe, but also because one of her friends could not go abroad because martial law prevented men from 18 to 60 years old. leave Ukraine.
The conflict in Ukraine could affect tourism across Europe, according to a report by the Economist Intelligence Unit. Russian and Ukrainian tourists spend a combined $45 billion per year, but this number is expected to decrease. In addition to the loss of tourists, the report says the conflict will also increase food and fuel prices, affect tourist confidence and disposable income, and constrain airlines and airspace. .
Ashley Westerman / NPR