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Why Ukraine is again courting tourists

Ukraine's booth is the most modest of all at the International Tourism Exchange ITB in Berlin.

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Why Ukraine is again courting tourists

Ukraine's booth is the most modest of all at the International Tourism Exchange ITB in Berlin. A brochure stand without brochures stands in front of a simple wooden wall, there are no give-aways, no giant colored posters and computer animations, like those that shine in all the other country pavilions at the world's largest tourism fair. “Be brave, support Ukraine” is all that is written on the wooden wall.

The fact that the neighboring stand of the Ukrainians belongs to the European sleeping car cooperative ("European Sleeper") could be seen as a political statement by the trade fair organizers, but it was probably just a coincidence.

In any case, the message that Marina Oleskiv brought to Berlin is political: "We want to say thank you for the support of the tourism community," says the head of the state agency for tourism development. "And we want to show that Ukraine is looking forward to holidaymakers again after the victory: put us on your travel list!"

Before the war, in 2019, Ukraine was the destination of around 14 million travelers a year. Most came from Poland, followed by Turkey, Israel, Germany and the USA. Many moved to the big, old cities of Lviv, Kiev and Odessa. In the south, Cherson, now destroyed, was also well visited, but there was also nature tourism, for example near the Danube Delta near Ismail on the Romanian border.

There are no estimates of how many people in Ukraine lived directly or indirectly from tourism, says Oleskiv, but travelers from home and abroad made a significant contribution to prosperity, especially in the structurally weak, rural areas. Also the ones from Russia.

Since the Russian annexation of the Crimean Peninsula in 2014, Ukraine has not allowed anyone from the aggressor state into the country, and the ban on travelers from Belarus followed in 2020. In the future, travelers from southern or western neighboring regions will be targeted more, says Oleskiv: " We are already working with the United Nations World Tourism Organization on a plan to rebuild tourism infrastructure.”

What will not be rebuilt are destroyed monumental buildings from the Soviet era, emphasizes Julia Zgurska at the exhibition stand. She is responsible for questions of international cooperation in the city administration of the badly damaged Kharkiv in the east of the country. When she talks about the future of tourism in her city, she never says "after the war" either, but always: "after the victory."

Ukraine used to be largely unknown as a possible holiday destination. "Abroad, I was often asked: Ukraine, where is it?" says Zgurska. That will be different in the future: "I'm sure that after our victory, many will want to come to us to get to know our brave people."

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