A woman advertising tours and trips for visitors in Yalta this month finds small crowds and few customers. Russia’s invasion and illegal annexation of Crimea has prompted many Ukrainians and international tourists to boycott vacations on the peninsula. The peninsula’s two million residents, who depend heavily on tourist spending, are heading for a bleak summer season. Less than half of last year’s six million tourists are expected this year.
SIMFEROPOL, Crimea – By this time, Simferopol railway station should be bustling with tourists hauling summer holiday luggage. Yet, it is remarkably empty.
The mini-bus to the seaside resort of Yalta was half empty, and the few people on it were all locals. The winding road that climbs over the Angarsky pass to the coast was largely free of traffic. Billboards along the route showed forlorn, tatty advertisements for Ukrainian firms that don’t exist anymore in Crimea, or airlines that no longer fly here. About every fourth billboard was a poster urging people to vote in a referendum to join Russia that took place nearly three months ago.
On arriving in Yalta, the cafe of a smart hotel in a prime location near the seaside was closed.
“There you go: your first indication of how the tourist business is going this year,” said Ihor Brudny, the tour firm owner who had arranged a meeting here, with a resigned shrug.
Early June is usually a busy and hopeful time for Crimeans.
Half of the peninsula’s two million people make their living from tourism. And now they should be gearing up for floods of visitors – 6 million last year – who flock to the beaches and mountains from June to August, bringing their Ukrainian hryvnias, Russian rubles and, increasingly, dollars and euros.
This year, the Russian takeover of Crimea after a sham referendum in March that most the world didn’t recognize, has turned this world upside-down.
People walk near the seafront of Crimea’s famous resort city of Yalta on June 4. Continue reading