Tourist season in the Crimea against the backdrop of a full-scale war of the russian federation against Ukraine is extremely difficult. On the one hand, russians cannot get to European resorts due to the fact that the EU has closed its airspace to russian aircraft, on the other hand, they are afraid to go to the peninsula due to hostilities near its borders.
However, there are other difficulties, because of which tourists refuse to travel to the annexed Crimea. For example, the russian federation closed the sky over the peninsula for civil aviation, which made it much more difficult to get to the Crimea. In addition, many sanatoriums and boarding houses were given to the needs of the russian military. Also, because of the imposed sanctions, the prices of many goods are breaking records.
As for the opinion of the Crimeans themselves, according to the observations of OstroV's interlocutors, they were divided into two groups. One advocates a war till final victory, despite the negative consequences for the region. As a rule, this category of people is not associated with the tourism business on the peninsula (military personnel, officials and law enforcement officers). Another group, realizing the severe economic consequences for the tourist region, is in favor of an early end to the war and the restoration of the holiday season.
And there are things to restore. According to the official statistics of the occupation authorities, almost two times fewer tourists visited Crimea during the May holidays than a year earlier. This is despite the fact that, according to OstroV, at least half of those who visited were state employees who came on free vouchers.
According to various sources, the workload (booking) of the Crimean hotels for the summer period is only 40%. And this is not the limit, the figure will decrease, since most of the places were reserved before the start of the war, when people planned to come to the Crimea by plane, and provided that there were no hostilities.
"The peninsula is calm and safe, beach areas, public spaces, embankments and parks are being improved", - the occupation officials and departments repeat like a mantra.
But these reassurances have not yet brought positive results.
"The Crimea is losing tourists. Dissatisfaction with the war is growing", - one of the local travel agents succinctly described the current situation on the peninsula to our news agency.
It has always been difficult for russians to get to the Crimea anyway – air tickets cost several times more than to European countries, and not everyone wanted to spend two days on a train or bus.
After the outbreak of a full-scale war on February 24, the Federal Air Transport Agency completely limited flights to airports in the south and central part of russia, including in the Crimea. So it is possible to get to the peninsula only by train, car and bus through the Crimean Bridge.
"This is our big misfortune. We have just established normal air traffic, the prices have stabilized at least a little and coronavirus pandemic has attracted tourists to us, and here you are. Most tourists, especially wealthy ones, arrived by plane. A normal person will not be shaking in our trains in the summer heat. It is also uncomfortable to travel by car or bus with our roads. Therefore, now tourists are massively cancelling reservations that were made in the winter – before the start of the "special operation". And new ones, as you understand, do not appear very actively", - Crimean realtor Natalia told OstroV.
Indeed, in past years, about 30% of tourists flew to the Crimea by plane. According to travel agents, these were the most prosperous and "monied" visitors, and not state employees on vouchers. Now they tend to choose other available destinations: Turkey, Georgia or Egypt.
"Airplanes fly there, and the prices are adequate. So they call us and cancel the previously made reservations. Someone else believes that in July-August, the planes will fly, and save the reservations, but they are not in a hurry with prepayment. Everything is based on an honest word. Otherwise, they refuse as well. Therefore, we have to make some discounts and promotions, offer elite rooms at standard prices, etc. Some tourists call and ask to rebook their holidays to other russian regions, where it is easier to get, or put a condition to find good places on trains. Buses are categorically denied", - travel agent from Sevastopol Svitlana told OstroV.
According to her, some hotels open only part of their buildings or even floors for tourists, some are forced to reduce prices by up to 50%, and others have decided not to open at all.
According to the russian Association of Small Hotels, as of the beginning of June, about 20% of the places were occupied in the Crimean hotels, for July and August – only 40% of the rooms were booked.
According to President of the National Union of the Hospitality Industry of the russian federation Alexei Volkov, russians have begun to refuse bookings in the Crimean hotels.
"Hotels (in the Crimea - ed.) are still 40-45% loaded for the summer, and in some booking sites, they reach up to 60%. But so far, with the expectation of tourists that air traffic with the Crimea will be opened. As of today, massive cancellations of bookings have been recorded for May and June due to the airlines sending messages about flight cancellations", - he informed.
Occupation authorities also recognize problems with the tourist season. However, the Federal Tourism Agency stated in May that only a small number of bookings are cancelled by tourists "who planned to visit the Crimea for two or three days and cannot do this now due to the temporary restriction of air traffic". According to the Federal Tourism Agency’s forecasts, demand should have recovered after opening of the Simferopol airport. But this has not happened yet.
And it is obvious that air traffic will not be restored until the end of active hostilities, so some russian airlines have stopped selling tickets to the peninsula until the end of summer. For example, Ural Airlines cancelled all flights to the Crimea until the end of September.
Only buses, cars and trains remain. But not everything is so simple here either.
It is almost impossible to find train tickets from the mainland of the russian federation to the Crimea. There are no train tickets for both mid-June and early August. The fact is that not many trains go to the peninsula and tickets have been sold out long ago.
Now you can find a free seat in the SV wagon of the Moscow-Sevastopol train for $350-525. However, it will take a day and a half to go.
Buses are not better. A ticket from Moscow to Yalta costs around $88. Before a full-scale war, it was possible to fly to Turkey or Cyprus by plane for this money, and now it is only more than a day to go to the peninsula along dubious russian roads.
If one half of the materials in the russian media are devoted to the topic of how to get to the Crimea, the other half is about how safe it is there. The local occupation authorities launched a whole PR campaign in order to tell people how to safely relax on the peninsula.
Almost every second article or news about the tourist season in the Crimea is devoted to the topic of security. It is easy to guess that, according to the occupation authorities and experts, nothing threatens tourists.
The "authorities" emphasize in almost every public speech that the fighting is being carried out far from the Crimean borders, and they cannot reach the southern coast at all.
"All directions in the Crimea are protected without exception. It is clear that taking into account the conduct of the special military operation (war, - ed.), from the point of view of accidents in life, everything is possible, but there are no systemic moments associated with the fact that we will be attacked. The Crimea is protected, nothing threatens the residents, the situation is under full control. Tourists can and should come, there is no doubt", - the russian "head" of the Crimea Sergey Aksyonov stated.
However, this illusion was slightly spoiled by the destruction of the Moskva russian cruiser, which was not far from the Crimea at the time of the defeat by the Ukrainian missile.
The fact that Western partners have already begun to transfer long-range systems to Ukraine, which theoretically can reach Crimea, does not add confidence in security. Military experts repeatedly say about the fact that Ukrainian troops can hit the military targets of the russian federation on the territory of the peninsula or even try to free it by military means. Moreover, both Russian and Ukrainian.
The possibility of destroying the Crimean Bridge is a separate topic. At the end of April, the NSDC Secretary Oleksiy Danilov stated that Ukraine could attack it, if possible.
"If there is a possibility to do this, we will definitely do it", - he said.
Freelance adviser to the head of the President's Office Oleksiy Arestovych also did not rule out such a possibility, but according to him, Ukraine currently does not have such weapons. In addition, the bridge today is heavily covered by air defense.
In addition, a website appeared on the network, on which there is a countdown to the fall of the Crimean Bridge. However, after the counter reaches the coveted "o", it starts again, highlighting the new date.
Ukrainian experts repeatedly raise this topic, arguing how the destruction of the bridge would help our country in the war with the russian federation. Although these are all theoretical talks, they are heard in the Crimea forcing people to respond.
"Nothing threatens the Republic of Crimea. We heard these fake threats to the Crimean Bridge and so on. Everything is under control today", - Sergey Aksyonov stated.
But people cannot be reassured by mere assurances. Especially against the background of the repeated statements by the russian authorities about the alleged shelling of some border oblasts (Bryansk and Belgorod oblasts).
"Of course, we read news about the shelling. I wouldn’t be surprised if russia shelled the Crimea itself to further provoke negativity towards the Ukrainians. Therefore, from time to time the topic of the security of both the Crimean Bridge and the whole peninsula is raised by local residents. They say that because of this, there are fewer tourists coming to us, so they are especially waiting for the cessation of hostilities here. I have a friend in St. Petersburg who occasionally came to visit the Crimea, so now he refuses to go until the end of the war. He says: "They will hit the bridge, and how will I then go back?" So he is waiting", - resident of Simferopol Mykhailo told OstroV.
Missile launches from the Crimea across the territory of Ukraine also scare vacationers away. Relevant photos and videos are repeatedly posted on the network. According to the local residents, this does not make it attractive for tourists.
Resident of Sevastopol Krystyna told OstroV that she occasionally hears the sounds of missile launches in the Cossack Bay. In addition, the military closed access to several beaches without explanation.
"This is quite a tourist area of the city. How can vacationers live and relax there? Even I am sometimes scared to hear these sounds. It is very loud. Either planes take off, or just missiles are launched", - she says.
According to OstroV, some sanatoriums and boarding houses were transferred for military needs. And not by the good will of their leaders.
"We received a lot of refusals from large boarding houses that they will not open in the near future. Their employees tell the wounded military are taken there, as well as just for recovery and rest. Some units from the mainland of the russian federation are simply stationed there. At least local residents and employees of boarding houses say about this", - one of the representatives of the Crimean tour operators told our news agency.
The information was confirmed at that time by Commissioner of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine for Human Rights Lyudmyla Denisova. According to her, sanatoriums and recreation centers in the occupied Crimea are overflowing with wounded russian soldiers, who are being transported from the mainland of Ukraine.
In general, local residents note that in recent months, the Crimean peninsula has turned into a military training ground, and "tourist status is lost with each missile fired from the Sevastopol Bay".
"The main beneficiaries are military personnel who have normal salaries, who are given special mortgages and other benefits. But not everyone here is military. Most are ordinary people who rent out rooms and apartments to vacationers, conduct excursions, sell souvenirs and work in seasonal cafes. They are now in the red. They live for a whole year on the money earned in the summer. You will not be fed up with patriotic slogans alone", - pensioner from Sevastopol Raisa says.
Food prices in the Crimea have risen significantly since the beginning of the full-scale war, Even the local occupation authorities do not hide this.
Russian head of the Crimea Sergey Aksyonov reported that after February 24, prices for some products doubled on the peninsula.
"All small-scale retail facilities inflate prices from 60% to a multiplicity of 150% and 200%. It is unreasonable at all", - he stated.
However, the official does not consider the full-scale invasion of Ukraine be the russian federation to be the reason for this. According to him, this all is about speculators.
"People do not have extra money on their hands today. Speculation is unacceptable here. The cost of food and medicines is the number one problem for us among all that we have. We need to achieve a result”, - he stated in May.
He also demanded that the relevant "ministers" personally keep the issue of the cost of food under control.
For more than three months, local residents of Crimea have been hearing only talk from the "authorities" that prices will not rise. In practice, things only get worse. For example, the prices for socially significant products, which were already regulated by local "authorities", have increased. For example, the price of a loaf in a social store has increased by 20% since the beginning of the war - from $1 to $1.4, but even it is not always in stock.
"What kind of speculators are there? This is social bread, prices are regulated by the local government. They sell it all out in the morning. If you did not have time, it is your problem – buy it for $1.75 or more", - a pensioner from Sevastopol told OstroV.
In order to prevent the price of bread from skyrocketing, in April, local "authorities" promised subsidies to local bread producers. But judging by the fact that prices are not falling, it did not help.
Prices for all other products also increased, including seasonal fruits and vegetables. Theft of Ukrainian products from Kherson did not help – local residents do not see them on the shelves. It is rumoured that they are being cheaply bought in bulk by local wholesalers and then sold in the markets at standard prices. Sometimes, to attract attention, sellers hang signs "From Kherson", but the price does not differ much.
Given the ongoing logistical difficulties with the delivery of products to the peninsula, prices here continue to be at the record highs. The cost of services is growing together with them, especially in the tourism sector.
"The logic is simple – if a tourist has already arrived, then he will spend money. The main thing is to lure him. Therefore, prices for excursions, restaurants, water parks and other tourist attractions this season have increased by an average of 20%. There is no other way out. Since there are fewer people, we need to raise prices. Otherwise, the business will not survive", - one employee of the Crimean tourism sector said in a commentary to OstroV.
Along with this, prices for rental housing in the Crimea are falling. But this is a forced measure, otherwise no one will go. Local hotels and landlords are forced to offer discounts and promotions in order to somehow fill the empty rooms. On average, accommodation prices have fallen by 30-50%. And locals are not happy about this, because their incomes will only fall.
"Recreation this year will be cheaper for tourists than in the past", - Sergey Aksyonov said.
However, this does not make it easier for the locals. For many, this is their only source of income.
Andriy Andrieyev, OstroV