War in Ukraine: Ukrainian domestic tourism sees resurgence as city dwellers seek rural breaks to escape war

Ukrainian domestic tourism is beginning to see a resurgence, the head of the country’s tourism agency has said, as city dwellers look to short rural breaks to escape the horrors of war.

Speaking at an online webinar for the tourism industry into the effect of the Russian invasion on the global travel sector, Mariana Oleskiv, chairperson of the State Agency for Tourism Development of Ukraine (SATD), said people were taking weekend breaks to areas such as the Carpathian mountains, in the south west of the country.

Meanwhile, some Ukrainians are continuing to take overseas holidays, travelling via Poland to holiday resort destinations such as Turkey and Egypt in an attempt to create some normality during the time of war.

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Ms Oleskiv said: “We Ukrainians who decided to stay in the country – and there are a lot of people and a lot of people are coming back here – we even are trying to rebuild a little bit of domestic tourism, and it's starting to recover slowly.

Participants pack up their gear after visiting the Shypit festival in the Carpathian Mountains in Ukraine. Participants who have been coming to the festival for several years claimed attendance was down this year due to the war, with many people evacuated and others serving in the military.
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People do travel to the Carpathian [mountains], to some nature sites which have less risk or very low risk, that a missile would go there. So people do travel there, for mostly a couple of days, no long-term planning with the family. That’s what type of domestic travel is now popular.”

She said the tourism industry had been badly hit by the war.

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"We'll see by the end of the year, what the actual losses are, but they are horrible,” she said. “And our main goal now is to think how we can help industry to change their focus and to work in this new reality.”

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However, Ms Oleskiv warned against the creation of organised “dark” tours aimed at tourists wanting to see the effects of war themselves. It emerged last month that tourism website, Visit Ukraine, is providing tours of war-torn cities in Ukraine, where visitors can see shelled buildings, bomb debris and destroyed military gear.

The British Government's FCDO advises against all travel to Ukraine.

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“We made our official statement that we do not recommend organised tours to Ukraine now," Ms Oleskiv said. “We don't want to become a dark tourism nation because we have beautiful destinations and we don't people to have a vision that we are some kind of war destination. So we will do official campaigns after, when we win. We will invite all of you and then we will look for help to promote Ukraine worldwide as a tourism destination.”

One Ukrainian travel industry worker, who did not want to be named, said she had heard of people taking short breaks within the country.

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“People are so tired of the situation, full of 24/7 stress, that they need a short break,” she said.

“Some of them escape from big cities to the Carpathian mountains, for several days to relax away from civilisation. It is in the west of the country, and has mountains and deep forests that really give you a sense of peace as it is really calm there.”

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In July, revellers met in the Carpathian mountains for the annual Shypit festival, which celebrates hippie culture, which was banned in Soviet times.

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