Although the pace of the Ukrainian tourism sector is picking up, it is still too slow, difficult, and sometimes barely visible. The Ministry of Culture and Tourism is certain that Ukraine will have a tourism breakthrough this year, in contrast with the past two years, when no funds were made available for this sector. The ministry has now allotted 20 million hryvnias to develop the domestic tourism infrastructure. These funds will be used to launch a high- profile promotional campaign and finance several culture and tourism projects.
Premier Expo (Ukraine) and ITE Group Plc (UK) supported by Ukraine’s tourism ministry and the Kyiv municipal authorities, will hold the 13th international specialist exhibition “Ukraine: Travels and Tourism in 2007” in the Ukrainian capital in late March. This exhibit, which will gather representatives from about 60 countries, has already been called the most important tourism event in Ukraine.
Our country will be represented by a stand with tourism proposals from all regions. The organizers claim that, in comparison with the past few years, there is a 20-percent rise in national tourism proposals. Traditionally, most proposals have come from the Crimea, the Carpathian region, and spas based in Sumy oblast. A real novelty at this year’s exhibit is the “Business Tourism” exposition that is expected to attract the attention of foreign business people. But according to Premier Expo manager Oleksandr Perov, this kind of business is still in its infancy here.
“Tourism is very multifaceted. It is closely intertwined with culture, and businessmen in the tourism field should take this into account in order to instill quality and content in people’s vacations,” says Yevhen Samartsev, who is the head of the National Civic Council that deals with resorts and tourism in Ukraine, advisor to the minister of culture and tourism, and vice-president of the Association of Sport Tourism. “For example, when you are building a tourist hotel, you should think about the museums, castles, and historical estates in the region and promote their restoration and renovation. This year we are planning to give comprehensive support to several culture and tourism projects. One of these is the restoration of a late 19th-early 20th- century historical estate in Kopyliv, which is along the Zhytomyr highway.”
As for rural (“green”) tourism, the culture minister’s advisor says that about 800 estates in Ukraine are ready to welcome visitors. The ministry has promised to work with the Association of Sport Tourism to establish walking and cycling itineraries and to raise the quality of rural tourism. Experts are also urging parliament to pass a law on preferential crediting for this business. The drafters of this law are putting the finishing touches on it and will soon submit it to parliament.
“It is difficult to build a hotel in Ukraine, as it is to launch any other business,” says Viktor Bezverkhy, director general of the National Tourism Association of Ukraine. “It takes expensive loans to make a quality product. We are also facing a serious problem of personnel training. We are also trying to ease the VAT burden on the tourism industry. There are two VAT levels in Europe: the general level of about 20 percent and the special one of 5 to 10 percent for hotels and the tourism sector. We are now drawing up proposals for the respective parliamentary committee.”
Actually, experts link the heavy tax burden in this sector with prices at Ukraine’s Black Sea resorts, which are sometimes higher than those in Turkey for higher-quality services. The plan is very simple: in order to increase the cost-effectiveness of a hotel as quickly as possible, tourism operators have to offer expensive services. Perov calls this an “evolutionary process,” where prices for services at first do not correspond to quality, but in time either the service level goes up or the businessman goes bankrupt.
According to Samartsev, ahead of the summer season his association, together with the Ministry of Culture, is working on a strategic plan to develop the tourism sector. In addition to legislative initiatives, a major role in this plan will be assigned to promoting the cultural potential of the Carpathians, the Crimea, and the rest of Ukraine. If this plan is implemented, at least it will be easy to answer the question of where to spend the weekend.