Roads, restrooms, and lack of information: What discourages EU tourists in Ukraine
European experience of tourism development is very close. Ukraine needs major changes to use them
Read the original text at eurointegration.com.ua.
While Ukrainians are waiting for announcement of visa-free travel to the EU, EU citizens can travel to Ukraine without visas since 2005.
The then decision to cancel visas for them could be a basis for successful tourism component of the Ukrainian economy. However, Europeans still are scared of difficulties that overpower positive moments of this visa-free proposition.
If we look at the tourism competitiveness ranking of the World Economic Forum (WEF), this year, Ukraine took the 88th place among 136 countries and territories. The rating is based on 14 studies of key parameters, including - cultural resources, available infrastructure, cost, health, safety, international openness.
Recently the press tour of Ukrainian journalists took place near the Ukrainian-Hungarian border (Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg region). Media professionals communicated with tourism industry experts, including organizations involved in traveling to our country.
Border and roads
Tourist Information Center Manager in Nyiregyhaza, Oniko Totar, remembers two projects implemented several years ago in collaboration with the Center for Ukrainian-Hungarian regional development in Transcarpathia. Journalists from both countries visited the border areas of neighboring states.
Hungarian media workers then told that hotel and mineral water in Zakarpattya made a very good impression. But the border crossing and the state of roads in Ukraine frustratingly hit them.
“Ukraine should take care of organizing group tours; individual tourists would unlikely want to travel by their own cars to your country because of the terrible state of the roadway,” concludes Onika Totar.
Meanwhile, chairman of Association of Rural Tourism, Head of Tourism and Tourism Institute of Geography of the University Nyíregyháza, Arpad Hanus, notes that if you want to organize group tours to Ukraine, it almost impossible to find a carrier - they simply refuse to take orders.
“Few time ago, Romania received a 30-percent increase in tourist flows since it build major road highways,” Arpad Hanus noted.
Lack of local attractions marketing
Experts of Nyíregyháza Information Border Crossing Consulates could not even remember something authentic, which would currently attract foreign tourists to Ukraine.
“There is no effective marketing to promote Ukraine in the EU. Name any capital in Europe - and we would enlist the associative array, which arises in terms of tourist attractions. But now I can not say anything or remember of Kyiv,” says Bohlarko Iloshvoy, Information Border Crossing Consulates.
Arpad Hanus said that tourism should be built primarily on tradition: “How to serve the tourists, how to make comfort for visitors - it is something secondary. But it is not that easy to teach crafts. And it must be presented as a tourist destination.”
Transcarpathia, said the expert, has even more unforgotten and authentic part of tourism than Hungary and other European countries do. But these attractions are not properly presented to international tourism community.
Arpad Hanus notes that rural tourism sector cannot be adjusted from "above". Self-regulation should take place at the village or district. But branding and marketing must be shared.
“Western Ukraine has very good restaurants, opportunities for ski holidays - but we know there is no specific information on it. And people will not go there if they do not know about the place,” said Onica Totar.
Particular attention should be paid to war factor. Information about Donbas conflict is alarming for tourists. Ukraine should share more information about security in unoccupied areas.
The absence of magnets
Arpad Hanus formulates the main "secret" successful tourism industry: “I am travelling to a place, which I have heard of, but never seen. Therefore, you need to create this magnet - tirelessly tell what the European must see in Ukraine. He must hear, remember, and then want to see the with his own eyes.”
A few decades ago, people from the West had been attracted by the border as such - "here begins the Iron Curtain." And now they know to see something in Ukraine, which could be shared with friends.
These magnets, according to Arpad Hanus, could be reflected in two things.
First, the historical identity of certain territories of modern Ukraine to other states. Expert advises not to ignore it and not to give up historical facts. Many tourists from neighboring countries are attracted just by this fact, and the modern life of minorities.
The second component is the actual "Ukrainianism of Ukraine." It is a focus on Ukrainian culture.
Lack of signs and accurate advertising information
To implement information campaign to attract European tourists in Ukraine billboards or brochures, no TV shows or lengthy articles in the media would not be helpful, but rather some active promotion of modern means of communication. First of all, the Internet, social networks.
However, there are some "exotic" things that can make a negative impression of the country and ward off tourists.
“We went to Rakhiv. Students wanted to go to the washroom, and could not understand why this is a problem, - said Arpad Hanus. - They went into a cafe and even ordered coffee (though in Europe it is a usual thing to use the washroom without ordering something). But they were told that the toilet is outside. Surprise. And it was new and "trendy" cafe.”
Some components of tourism in Ukraine develop very rapidly, such as rural tourism. And some poor things remain unchanged.
Here is a great contrast with neighboring Hungary.
Nyíregyháza – which is comparable with Uzhgorod or Ivano-Frankivsk by the number of residents – was visited by about 100 thousand tourists that last year.
By the way, visitors from Ukraine are in sixth place there. The place is often visited by Slovaks, Romanians, Poles, British, and Germans.
The European experience of tourism development is very close. Ukraine needs major changes to use them.