Big city lights: How foreigners go crazy in Ukraine

Author : Olena Holubeva

Source : 112 Ukraine

Most of the foreign guests go to our country not to visit historical sites, but to hang out
09:36, 19 December 2017

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It is well-known fact that Kyiv is a leading city among Ukrainian cities in terms of the number of foreign tourists. According to the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade, Lviv and Odesa are taking second and third places respectively. As a rule, foreigners prefer resting in the downtown. Thanks to a favorable location (Bessarabka in Kyiv), Arena City is the greatest beneficiary in this situation, which is traditionally considered the most popular place for foreign guests (despite high prices, not the best service and not the newest interior). The LED screen on the facade of the Arena broadcasts a non-stop advertisement of the Men's club, regular strip clubs. We go along the boulevard of Taras Shevchenko, to the Premier Palace hotel, where we have arranged a meeting with an art director of one of the most expensive strip clubs in the city. Vlad is a guru of nightlife. His career as the art director of the Paradise Cabaret began in 1993, in one of the first nightclubs in Ukraine - Joss - in the Split casino.

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In the 90s, except for the Joss club in Kyiv, "Red and Black" and "Budapest" clubs were available, Vlad recalls. Then the clubs and strip shows have been opening almost at every corner. Already in the 2000's, there were about a dozen of large nightclubs, in which even world-famous artists performed. "Many performers, known now in Ukraine as pop stars, passed through night shows (first clubs), they grew up there," Vlad says.

A ban on gambling in 2009 caused a serious blow to this industry. According to Vlad, the high budgets of the clubs and strip shows of the time were tightly tied to casino revenues that operated in the establishments: "All the nightlife was at the casino." Almost all nightclubs had the casinos, and so financial resources were completely different then (and accordingly, budgets of the show, costumes for dancers, special effects, etc.)". Those institutions that recovered after the ban, suffered one more strike after the economic crisis (the rental rates in most establishments were tied to the dollar rate). The nightlife in Ukraine has almost died. 

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Now, when the economic situation has slightly improved, new establishments are opening, but it is just incomparable to the level of the 90's, Vlad complains. He shares his impressions of visiting a newly opened facility (strip show): "Frankly speaking unconcealed porn industry: you came and took her away." He talks about the network of strip clubs: "They kept a brand for a long time, they had their own rules, they were considered to be an institution, clearly moderate in terms of depraved actions. An advertising manager at Paradise Cabaret, Yana, who participates in our conversation, adds that girls who work for them from this network were mad that they were forced to show up to the guests' lounge hall topless or completely naked. "In our facility, after having danced on a pylon, girls go down in a hall to visitors, necessarily wearing the evening dresses and beautiful footwear," Yana emphasizes.

Night and strip clubs also lost weight in the eyes of professional artists now: now they are earning money elsewhere, Vlad complains. Institutions feel a terrible staffing hunger: "90% of the girls who come to us from casting are not staying long, they are amateurs and not professionals, so only 10-15% of these girls stay and perform in those shows” says the art director. And we can understand his position as his is dreaming about shows like the famous Cirque du Soleil and the Paris show Crazy Horse.

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It is known that nowadays in Ukraine all men are the target market for strip clubs. The format of the male strip-show for the rich tourists is not accustomed to us.

And what about Paradise Cabaret? On one hand, sophisticated guests who have seen a lot in their lives - other Premier Palace guests do not go up to the 8th floor with the willingness to pay 18 USD for the entrance and leave an average check for about $ 200 for the evening. On the other hand, they have to work with what they have, make a lot of efforts to create a worthy commercial product. For example, use special effects to hide some of the disadvantages of the girls.

Aesthetics in Paradise Cabaret is very special. For example, for "Samurai" room, they ordered a real katana from South Korea. During her performance, the dancer cuts off the elements of her clothes with katana. The "Orchid" rood, during which the girl comes out of a huge flower and sways on its petals. And also tasting tequila from the naked breast of a dancer (11 USD), eating sushi from a naked body of a girl (296 USD), an erotic private dance - a girl in the image of Marquise de Sade, female cat, maid, nurse or policeman (37 USD). 

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Nightlife as a phenomenon was born in Ibiza. People came there with only one purpose - to go crazy. No one was going to have a cultural rest, go sightseeing. Just a lot of clubs, young people, and everybody got to know each other. Gradually, others began to pick up this trend - in particular, the Cypriot city of Ayia Napa. Before the occupation of Crimea, the trend was reflected in the Kazantip festival, focused on the club audience and easy relations. Therefore, initially it was not a tourist format, but, rather, as a movement, said the chairman of the board of the "Tourism Development Agency" Civil Agency Roman Kozlovsky. He adds, the poorer the country is, the closer such events to the sex industry, which we are now witnessing in Ukraine.

Today Kiev competes, for example, with Bucharest and Chisinau as tourists are going there to see a cheap nightlife. "In Romania, this is just like a stream, Ryanair flies there, and for 9 euros you can fly even from Brussels – it is cheaper than to call a taxi around the city," says Kozlovsky.

The development of a low-cost network promotes the transformation of Kyiv into one of the popular destinations of a cheap nightlife. "Those tourists who are visiting us now, are often not ready to leave 50 euros per hour on the street of red lights in Amsterdam because here they can spend only 10 euros in Kyiv," said Kozlovsky.

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We tried to set a meeting with Ukrainian agencies, on the website of which nightlife is mixed with services of "an erotic massage with a happy ending". The cost of the service, by the way, with the participation of one girl is $ 100, two girls - $ 150. The agencies did not respond to the proposals. Representatives of those agencies that agreed to talk with us, warmly assured that the nightlife offered by them has nothing to do with either escort or erotic services.

A slim hot blonde with minimal makeup came to a meeting by car and ordered a currant tea. I tried to change a subject of our conversation to the main point - what is the Nightlife in Ukraine? "The Nightlife service, which we offer, is a three-hour bars' tours: if tourists are over fifty + and they like jazz, we can show them good jazz bars; if our guests are students, we can show them budget parties with a live music, in particular with rock music," Svyatoslava states.

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Svyatoslava admits that bachelor parties are taking place as well. "If earlier Warsaw, Prague, Berlin were the mecca of the bachelor parties, now Kyiv is on the list. And foreign agencies are increasingly applying to us with such proposals: they include Kyiv in the list of cities that they offer for the tour. A large Hummer limousine will pick you up ... and often there is Ukrainian beer because everyone wants to try it. Usually, these are people who want to change place, as they cannot relax in their own cities. Yes, they like to go to the bars, go to the night clubs," Svyatoslava admits.

She does not deny that one of the factors contributing to the growing interest to Ukraine among foreigners is the devaluation of hryvnia: "If earlier tourists received 8 hryvnias for one dollar, now it is 27 ... of course, it pleases them.”

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Ukraine is now a low cost destination for any tourist.

According to Svyatoslava, agencies that organize tours and stag parties, perfectly understand that for the money a person needs to go to a nightclub in London and have fun until the morning, is enough to pay for the entire trip with accommodation in a five-star hotel in Ukraine. "Nightlife as a direction is mainly interesting for young people (25 – 40 years). They settle in 3-4 stars hotels and are ready to spend up to $ 40 for dinner, and up to $ 50 for a night. These people have different occupations: managers of companies, pilots, medical students from Europe, USA, Australia, Canada," Svyatoslav told.

Our other interlocutor Vlad Klesso, a professional guide from an agency Kiev Walking Tours, told us about the attractiveness of Ukraine, as a country with low prices. The agency in which he works also sells a nightlife services.

"Undoubtedly, foreigners are attracted to Ukraine because of low prices. When people come from Denmark or Sweden, where one beer costs 10 USD, and here it is only 2 USD, they are very happy." Vlad notes.

According to Vlad, it happens that people, who come to the country from abroad, are willing to spend money on parties and alcohol while saving on excursions," says Vlad.

We were curious if guests are asking about sex services. "Of course, but we do not help foreigners to buy girls. These questions arise quite often (about the girls), but I honestly say that I do not know," he confessed. “I tell them just to Google it."

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According to observations of Svyatoslava, mostly guests of her agency come from the United States, Canada, Britain, and Scandinavian countries. "Now we are also seeing a great interest from Chinese and Indonesians. We even have a couple of Indians who want to spend their honeymoon in Bukovel, Ukraine" says the director of Kiev friendly tours.

According to Vlad's observations from Kiev Walking Tours, many foreigners come from the USA, Australia, and Britain. We have people who come only for one weekend, usually students. I recently had a group: young people from different countries, but they all study together in Budapest. They came to Kyiv for a couple of days.

Ukrainian nightlife as a form of sex tourism is in demand among tourists from Turkey. In Odesa this year, the number of flights to Ukraine has increased because of the high demand. "Typically, they are mid-level managers with a salary of about $ 500 a month, they can afford a flight, rent an apartment, go to nightclubs, bars, strip-salons." This category of men do not even seek help from travel agencies," says Kozlovsky.

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Svyatoslava admits that, in fact, because of a large number of requests for sexual services, her agency avoids working with tourists from Turkey. "Of course, we see that a lot of visitors are traveling from Turkey, and the statistics show that Turkey is the leader. But, you know, there are such requests ... I really love Turkey and I have many friends from Istanbul, and some tourists from this country are even interested in excursions to the Lavra, but we often have to refuse some of our guests, especially those who are requesting services that are not part of our job. We are not engaged in escort services."

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During 2014-2016, the number of foreign tourists from Europe (Hungary, Poland, Romania, Germany), as well as from Israel and Turkey, has increased. At the same time, the absolute majority of those tourists are still citizens of Moldova, Belarus, and Russia.

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