Chinese tourists: a goldmine for Ukraine

Author : Vyacheslav Lysenko

Removing excessive entry requirements for Chinese tourists could generate millions of dollars for Ukraine’s economy.
16:15, 1 June 2016

Few people know but for every thousand tourists, up to 1,000 jobs are generated (200 in tourism and 800 in related sectors). Meanwhile, the cost of creating a work in a tourism-related field is almost 20 times lower than in industry. Tourism is also a source of foreign exchange earnings as a result of the export services’ to foreign tourists. 

Ukraine’s tourism industry has large but underdeveloped potential. According to experts, tourism can become a driving force to actively develop the Ukrainian economy. It’s not only able to generate a sustainable, positive image for the country. It can also optimise the balance of payments, provide 5-20% of GDP and stimulate the development of infrastructure and related sectors, including transport. The tourism sector might be a future priority for the Ukrainian economy. According to forecasts by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), Ukraine’s GDP will grow annually by 4.1% from next year due to the direct contributions of tourism. By 2025, the sector will be worth $42 billion to Ukraine (1.8% of GDP), estimates suggest. 

On top of this, Ukraine’s Ministry of Economic Development and Trade have proposed issuing a single visa for up to 15 days if the visitor has documents confirming his business or leisure trip.

Related: Ukraine joins China-led Silk Road Economic Belt

Visas not only protect against migration flows. They are also a significant barrier to investment, money, and tourists flow to the country. After all, the potential of the Chinese tourism today is no less than $129 billion annually. Also, since 2004, the Chinese have increased their spending abroad by more than 10% annually, according to findings by the World Tourism Organization. By the end of last year, spending had increased 25% to $292 billion. An average Chinese tourist spends about $3,000 on each trip. If we remove excessive visa obstacles, we will be able to increase the flow of travelers from China. That will lead to hundreds of millions of extra dollars to Ukraine’s economy. We could host around 60,000 Chinese tourists in the first year alone if a special visa regime existed.=

At the First World Conference on Tourism for Development in China, the National Tourism Administration ChairmanLi Jinzao said:

”Today, China is one of the countries in which tourism is developing most rapidly. China is number one in the world by volume of domestic and outbound tourism, as well as by the average tourist expenditure abroad." 

Related: Yatseniuk: Ukraine needs cheaper and faster route to China by-passing Russia

In 2015, tourist flows in China increased by 10.5% - to 4.1 billion people. Total revenue from the sale of travel services increased by 13.4% to 4.13 trillion yuan ($1 equals about 6.5 yuan), while investments in the tourism industry increased by 42% - up to 1.7 trillion yuan. According to forecasts, by 2020, the domestic tourist flows will increase to 6.8 billion, and outgoing tourism will exceed 200 million people. The scope of investment will reach 3 trillion yuan.

Related: China connects Russian and Ukrainian economies

If we want to attract more foreigners to Ukraine, visa liberalization is not enough. They must be persuaded that our country is safe. For example, Poland, Georgia, and Lithuania spend EUR 5-7 million per year on advertising their tourism potential on the international arena. The state budget of Ukraine for the third year does not include funds for the promotion of the country abroad. Ukraine has something to show to foreign tourists. But the impressions of the wonderful nature, unique historical and architectural monuments can seriously spoiled by the destroyed roads, crowded buses, dirty street toilets, and other "charms" of our reality. For example, we have a lot of hotels (4,500), but now their average occupancy rate amounts to 50-55%. I doubt that tourists would be satisfied with Ukrainian hotel service. 

"Both China and Ukraine, of course, are very attractive countries in terms of tourism. We have a very long history during which we accumulated huge historical and cultural heritage sights and numerous historical monuments. So we have a huge field of activities in the tourism industry. But the results are not impressive. For example, last year, Ukraine was visited by about 27,000 Chinese, mostly businessmen and members of official delegations, but not tourists," China’s Ambassador to Ukraine Zhang Xiyun said. Analyzing the words of the Ambassador, it can be summed up that visa barriers and the lack of infrastructure in this country are not the main problem preventing the influx of tourists. Chinese partners are mostly concerned about the regulatory framework. So we, businessmen and diplomats here also have work to do.

Related: Kyiv tops list of most affordable European cities for tourists

Related: Chernobyl tourism: excursions to the exclusion zone

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