Recently, the Russian government was actively engaged in attracting domestic tourists to the Crimea: it is already planned to reduce the price of air tickets up to 7000 rubles, to build new hotels and repair sanatoriums (health centers). However, the real impetus to the development of tourism in the region may be done by good will of tourists themselves.
To say that the tourism potential of the Crimea during the Ukrainian independence was used only partially, is just to say nothing. In recent years, the peninsula was visited by no more than 5.5-6 million tourists a year, with about 60% of Ukranian citizens, including residents of neighbouring regions who usually get to the peninsula by car. For comparison, during the Soviet era “the federal resort” was attended by up to 8 million people per year, despite the difficulties with air and rail tickets, as well as low incomes of Soviet people.
This allows many experts to say that the peninsula could potentially host no less than 10 million tourists per year, with wealthy Russians as a substantial part. Today, many Russian tourists have already visited the main tourist places in neighbouring countries and are looking for new destinations. It is remarkable that one of the tourist centers of interest for Russians became Kemer in Turkey, strikingly similar to the Crimea: the same mountains, the same climate, identical landscape, pines – and the most important for the Russian tourism – a mix of cool weather and warm sea. How can we lure Russian tourists back to the Crimea?
Nowadays, the Russian federal authorities have offered a variety of solutions. So, first of all, it is expected to increase the availability of flights to the Crimea. Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has ordered to start the process of reducing costs of tickets, including subsidies. The federal government already has similar positive experience in a scheme for subsidized flights to Kaliningrad and the Far East. As a result, Aeroflot dropped the price of one-way ticket from Moscow to Vladivostok to 5500 rubles. Another important aim is to increase the frequency of flights and to establish direct flights between the Crimea and large Russian cities. Thus, the same Aeroflot (with Donavia air company) has already begun to sell tickets for the new mutual flights Rostov-on-Don – Simferopol – Rostov-on-Don. The flights will be operated every day starting from April 26 with the carrier Airbus A319.
Another focus should be the opening of charter flights to the Crimea: for these purposes is planned to use Bel’bek military airport. There are a lot of examples of such a collaboration of civil and military usage in the world: for example, the main airport of Kyrgyzstan – Manas, was developed in that way. Rosturizm already promised to assist Russian touristic companies that are engaged in the Crimean tourism. And famous Russian entrepreneur Ruslan Baysarov decided to build a seaside resort with a hotel, SPA-center, restaurants, a marina for yachts and a golf club worth 12 billion rubles.
For their side, the Crimean authorities decided to use the maximum number of different means to attract tourists. According to the local government, about 200 facilities in the Crimea decided to reduce their prices by 10 to 20%. For tour operators, local authorities decided to hold a workshop called «The Crimea. Resorts. Tourism. Reboot.”, including visiting all main attractions and developing new tour programs. As a result, in 2014, The Crimea plans to host the number of tourists at the 2013 level, about 6 million people, but this time 60-70% of them will be Russians. Thus, the number of tourists remains the same, the quality changes dramatically.
What can Ukraine do to prevent the development of the Crimea? First, the complexity of tourism development in the Crimea is that a significant part of Russian tourists arrive on the trains passing through the territory of Ukraine. Passengers already have concerns about the safety. In particular, according to the Russian Foreign Ministry, on March 21 in Vinnitsa was robbed a train №65 going from Moscow to Chisinau. And according to the Foreign Ministry, people wearing a uniform of Ukrainian Rebel Army came in for “checking the documents”. The travelers, who granted Russian passports, were forced to hand over their money and gold jewerly. This robbery was accompanied by “political elucidation work” – declared the Russian Foreign Ministry. Regarding this, the Minister of Resorts and Tourism of the Crimea Elena Yurchenko has already stated that nobody can guarantee safe road through the territory of Ukraine. Due to the fact that the Kerch ferry is currently overloaded, and the new bridge is not built yet, there is only one option – to develop air transportation. Secondly, Ukrainian authorities are trying to block the development of local airports, including the help of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). This organization, in particular, has already recommended to refrain the airspace of the Crimea, and also there were flights from European airports to Simferopol, including Vienna and Rimini, which were cancelled. The most strictest step could be an exception from ICAO and IATA registers: it is enough to deprive airport’s international code – as it happened with Sukhumi airport in Abkhazia and Ercan Airport in North Cyprus. However, even this solution does not block the transportation system: all airports on the territory of the former Soviet Union also have duplicate Cyrillic codes. The similar problem was solved by Northern Cyprus, which uses an internal Turkish code.
The main driver for the development of tourism in the Crimea can be not bargain tickets and vouchers, but patriotic tourism. More and more potential tourists take into account not only the cost of the trip, but the fact that their money will be spent in the region. In fact, travelers began to reflect on the issue who they are helping with their money, and from this point of view the Crimea can make a real revolution in minds.
In particular, the recent publication of “Kommersant – Money” made a research about Russians willing to go to the Crimea. The most surprising results of the survey were those who had never been on the peninsula: over 44.58 % of the respondents had “never been in the Crimea, but now I’ll go” and only about 8.5 % said that they “went, and now will not go”. Nearly similar results are demonstrated by the poll of Finam.Ru: 41,3% against 6.68%.
This direction can be a key for the “promotion” of the Crimea. Reacting to the civil inquiry, the authorities have already prepared a draft of a program “Support your Crimea!”, in which billboards in Russian cities will call to have a vacation in the Crimea in 2014. In addition, it is planned to record a series of videos from simple Crimeans, which will be broadcasted on federal television channels. All these measures, according to experts, may help to restore Russian tourists to the Crimea, and to get back the status of “all-Russian resort”.