Crimean tourism industry hit by Ukraine war disruption

Tourist activity in Russian-controlled Crimea is preparing for a difficult summer season, as large numbers of Russians cancel planned trips due to flight suspensions and security concerns caused by the war in Ukraine.

“About 50% of our [prospective] customers chose to cancel their reservations with us,” a hotel representative from the Crimean resort of Alushta told The Moscow Times.

With its warm temperatures and scenic coastline, Russian authorities have invested billions of rubles to transform the Crimean peninsula into a center of domestic tourism since its annexation from Ukraine in 2014, including the construction of a 3 .7 billion to the Russian mainland.

But the disruption of ongoing fighting in eastern and southern Ukraine, including local airport closures, is expected to deal a major blow to the region’s appeal for holidaymakers.

Along with 11 other airports in southern Russia, all commercial flights to Simferopol were suspended on the first day of the invasion of Ukraine. Closures have since been widened 13 times, with the last date of reopening Position for May 19.

Alushta, Crimea.
V_Sykov (CC BY 2.0)

“We record en masse [hotel] cancellations of reservations for May and June because air carriers distribute notices of flight cancellations,” said the chairman of the Russian National Union of the Hotel Industry Leonid Volkov Told the state news agency RIA Novosti last week.

With no direct air connections to Crimea, many tourists have opted to suspend or cancel their vacations rather than embark on a long overland journey.

“Airlines offer travelers the opportunity to exchange their tickets and fly to [the Black Sea city of] Sochi airport instead,” said the Alushta hotel representative who spoke on condition of anonymity. “[But] the trip to Crimea from Sochi takes 12 hours by bus or requires several train connections.”

Reservations at hotels in Crimea are at less than 45% capacity, according to Volkov.

Beyond travel logistics, many Russians are also choosing to forgo Crimean vacations this year for security reasons.

Local Russian authorities in Crimea raised their “terrorist” threat level last month, citing a risk of “potential provocations”. Although no incidents were reported on the peninsula, a aftermath of explosions and fires in the southern regions of Russia since the beginning of the war have caused at least one death and dozens of injuries.

Alushta, Crimea.  Artyom Trofimov (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Alushta, Crimea.
Artyom Trofimov (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Kremlin-appointed leader of Crimea Sergei Aksyonov mentioned Thursday that the authorities will take measures to ensure the safety of holidaymakers.

“Crimea is protected,” said Svetlana Rus, head of the Crimean Hotel Union.

“We’re not really worried about the hotels being empty. Those who want to come will find a way to reach us,” she told the Moscow Times.

A replacement for Russian vacationers could be those already living in Crimea, and the Alushta hotel representative said her employer had started lowering the prices of vacation packages in a bid to make them more attractive to locals.

Nevertheless, there appears to be little chance that hotel bookings in Crimea will increase substantially as fighting in Ukraine continues.

Instead, Russian resorts around Sochi and in the North Caucasus are expected to attract more visitors, according to domestic tourism expert Ilya Umansky Told Russian media Rosbalt last week.

“Places further away from the mainland like Crimea… will lose more than anywhere else,” he said.

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