Cultural routes of Europe will appear in Ukraine soon. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has already signed the necessary documents. But how will this affect the tourism industry, which is most affected by the coronavirus? What kind of tourism is beneficial for pandemic Ukraine? Let’s consider the latest trends and weigh the prospects based on the facts!
New routes for Europeans: how will it work?
So, Ukraine has officially joined the agreement on cultural routes of the Council of Europe. Within the framework of this project, 40 tourist routes have been developed to cover more than 50 countries of the world. These “highways” are thematic and form a common historical and cultural picture from the sights of different states. There will be 3 transnational routes through Ukraine.
“Now we are inside the pan-European context,” said Oleksandr Tkachenko, head of the Ministry of Culture and Information Policy of Ukraine.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, also, said:
“We have a wonderful country, very multifaceted and interesting. But, unfortunately, due to bad roads and lack of attention to our historical monuments, Ukraine was almost not represented on the tourist routes of Europe. But we will change that. ”
Note the progress – there is no word about beautiful women, delicious food, chestnuts, and public undressing.
As Zelensky noted, the Big Construction project affords the restoration of domestic attractions. The Big Restoration program starts already this year. So the authorities plan to restore and complete about 150 historical objects and “fill them with new meaning” within the next 3 years. This is a little alarming because the “new meaning” is different for everyone.
The main thing is that they do not repeat the fate of the old Dnister hotel in Ivano-Frankivsk.
The reconstruction of the hotel began in 2016. The unique building of the early 20th century has grown by one floor. Its roof, clock tower, facade color, and windows have completely changed. The elegant colonnade was sewn up with glass. The beautiful historical building has lost its original appearance. According to the law, it is forbidden to rebuild objects transferred for restoration. But who follows the rules in Ukraine? They are to break them!
So far, the press has not reported what the pan-European cultural routes in Ukraine will be. Economic impact projections have also not been made yet. Olexandr Tkachenko, head of the Ministry of Culture, notes that municipalities will receive the main benefits. Volodymyr Zelenskyy expresses that the additional cooperation with the EU will attract foreigners and residents to Ukrainian monuments. But will this happen?
Perhaps this is how foreign travelers call Kyiv. Preparing for Euro 2012, the Ukrainian government counted on attracting tourists. They did not fully justify these hopes. True, a significant number of foreign guests of the capital do not come to see the old churches at all. They are interested in “priestesses of love.” But this is not the only reason why I called Kyiv “bedroom.”
It’s a paradox, but the tourist and event infrastructure is underdeveloped in the country’s main city. The quality of services lags far behind European standards. Cultural events, entertainment facilities, even banal “walls” where they could be held are critically lacking, as for the capital of a 40-million people state. In fact, it is difficult for a Western tourist to spend money here since it is almost impossible to find reliable information, build a route and be sure that he or she will not be fooled. Moreover, the infrastructure of certain areas (minibusses, navigation, excessive chaotic development, long-term construction, unplanned parking, quality of roads) and the ecology of Kyiv (garbage and air quality) are increasingly reminiscent of a depressed town rather than a European metropolis.
For these and other reasons, cultural tourism to Ukraine is not in significant demand. While everything is so, we attract foreign tourists, in many ways, with short skirts. Do we have nothing more to show?
If the approach is not changed, investments in cultural tourism will result in significant reputational and financial losses. Until Kyiv and other cities become conceptual, they risk becoming huge “bedrooms.”
To not trash the investing in the cultural direction, the government needs to work out a strategy for developing business tourism and correlate it with the development of private tourism. How does this happen in modern times? How to attract travelers in a pandemic era?
Business tourism takes a 13% share of all the tourism volume worldwideBusiness tourism: features and benefits
Over 160 million business tours were carried out annually in the pre-pandemic world. It is worth noting that this figure does not consider the data on business travel of entrepreneurs within their countries. However, this factor is also of great importance, especially during the global epidemic.
Business travel share is only 13% of the total tourist flow, but the economic benefits are impressive. Roughly 50% of airline revenues come from business travelers. They also form 60% of the total hotel profit.
The revenue from the global corporate travel market amounted to USD 1.283 billion in 2019. The industry is expected to grow over 3.7% annually with the end of the pandemic.
This area is especially advanced in the United States, leading European countries, and the Asia-Pacific region.
The bulk of corporate tourists travel in the format of business trips. Most of them travel to participate in different MICE events. MICE is an abbreviation introduced in the 70s of the XX century, stands for Meetings (meetings, seminars, training), Incentives (motivational team trips), Conferences (conferences, congresses, forums, assemblies), Exhibitions / Events (exhibitions, concerts, festivals, and other events).
This branch began to develop in Ukraine in the early 2000s and especially flourished in the 2010s. This was facilitated by economic growth after the 2009 crisis and the intensification of EU integration. A lot of Western politicians and businesses began to attend more and more specialized events. The United Nations Development Program has also made a significant contribution to this area. Within its framework, many different conferences and forums on the development of civil society, entrepreneurship, culture, medicine, education were held with the participation of European entrepreneurs.
Economic growth contributed to the development of MICE. No wonder that the growing economy in the 40 million countries and the warming investment climate are, so the more attention of international companies to developing their business here it attracts. It brings more business tourists and business events as well. The obstacle to a tangible breakthrough in Ukraine was not even COVID but, in general, the state policy of restricting economic freedoms, the lack of the rule of law, and fair courts.
Nevertheless, difficulties allow us to find new creative solutions for which our event market is famous.
All over the world, the competition between cities and countries for the right to host large international events like Web Summit, etc., is conducted through public organizations – Conference and Tourist Bureau. They are engaged in communication with the organizing committees of large events, involve local governments and businesses to form attractive “buns” from the city for delegates. For example, in Europe, it is common that cities finance the branding of public transport for the period of a major event, provide the mayor’s office for receptions in honor of the opening or closing of an event, and provide special cards for the public transport. After all, the authorities clearly understand the effect of 5,000-20,000 tourists staying for 3-5 days on the city’s economy. These visitors spend money on food, accommodation, entertainment, shopping, travel, organizers pay for the rent of venues, technical support, hire staff, and much, much more, which replenishes the budget through paying taxes.
There is only one city in Ukraine now with a well-developed sphere of corporate tourism and a formed vision and development plan for the industry. It is not surprising that we are talking about Lviv. With the mayor’s support, the local authorities created a special agency, “Lviv Convention Bureau.” Its task is to stimulate corporate tourism. According to Andriy Pavliv, director of the Lviv Convention Bureau, 1 business tourist brings about 180 US dollars a day to Lviv. Why is Kyiv lagging?
HOW TO MAKE KYIV ATTRACTIVE FOR BUSINESS TOURISTS?
Yana Matviychuk, CEO of ARENA CS creative agency, comments: “Business tourism is a powerful economic tool. It is beneficial for the city to host large international congresses and assemblies. An international event is a bulk budget, which the city receives or does not receive, depending on the results of the international tender for the congress. Paris occupies the world leadership in congresses; for the rest of the chairs, there is a wild struggle between New York, Singapore, Barcelona (which went on for 25 years!). The first place required huge funds from Paris: investments in the information structure, restructuring the entire transport and hospitality system, etc.
Kyiv is lagging because there is no strategy at the city administration level to make Kyiv the center of world congresses. There is little that private companies can change at the individual level. International tenders assume support for the event from the city’s top leadership and sometimes the country. This is especially true in a pandemic. But the pandemic will pass!
Thanks to successful negotiations and a favorable environment with democratic development after the Maidan of 2004, our agency ARENA CS back in 2008, brought to Ukraine an assembly of historical significance: the 5th World Movement for Democracy Assembly was held here.
The Assembly is held once every 2 years in different countries of the world with developing democracy. That is, The Organising Committee chose Ukraine and Kyiv from all countries! It was an incredible victory for my team and me! Almost 600 participants (the former President of Peru – Toledo, activists, and fighters for democracy from Kenya, Somalia, monks of Burma, guests from Ukraine – President Yushchenko spent the whole day at the conference, the First Lady – spent all 3 days of the event at meetings with the participants, Myroslava Gongadze and many, many other iconic personalities of that period). The Assembly was attended by representatives from more than 100 countries of the world. We have been preparing the event for over 2 years.
And all this in a city that is completely unsuitable for such a scale and level of events! For example, a week before the guests’ arrival, one of the large hotels sent a letter stating they were refusing to accommodate them. The management started renovating the building, even though we made the reservation 2 years before the event! The agreement to postpone the start of renovation work 2 weeks later cost a lot of effort and a lot of gray hair … I remind you that at that time, there were no 5 * hotels in the city with large conference rooms and infrastructure suitable for such an event …
On April 6-8, 2008, the assembly was very successful. Then the crisis of 2008 … Although ARENA CS often participated in tenders at the international level to attract major events to Kyiv. Then 2013, 2014 … In 2019, we spent 6 months preparing for a major international scientific event for 2021; about 2,000 guests from all over the world should have gathered in Kyiv… but an epidemic happened … Nevertheless, Kyiv has all the prerequisites to become the center of congresses and international events. ”
BUSINESS TOURISTS: HOW TO ATTRACT THEM?
The sphere of corporate travel requires a special infrastructure. Airports in large cities, efficient and comfortable railways, clear and safe public transport are important components that are still not enough. It is important to remember the emotional component. A business trip is an element of tourism, so it should bring maximum positive impressions and inspiration. A corporate tourist in a good mood, inspired by a beautiful environment, innovation, good service, is more likely to deal with a local business and decide to invest.
A foreign guest should not be restricted in travel. Transport should be comfortable and accessible for those who do not speak Ukrainian. The language barrier also needs to be finally overcome by taxi drivers, waiters, and salespeople. Besides, most business tourists prefer cashless payments – this must be taken into account by all small entrepreneurs in the segment of hospitality and emotions.
The city should finally install interactive maps of attractions with QR codes and an effective multilanguage mobile app.
Foreigners are interested in the uniqueness of the place where they arrived. Therefore, restaurants and hotels need to respond to the Authenticity Request. Business conferences can and should even be held in historic locations. It’s impressive and inspiring.
All of the above leads to the need to create and implement a clear concept of the city. Lviv has one. This city is successfully positioned as a tourist Mecca. Therefore, a significant part of the funding goes to support and create the necessary infrastructure. An equally important element of it is the legends associated with the sights. The mysterious and romantic stories, and not the age of the monument, attract tourists.
Kyiv has something to show and tell, but it does not care about it, replicating ugly houses within the historic center.
It is important to remember that a business traveler does not spend all his time at conferences and excursions. A banal park with carousels and another mall with faceless shops will not particularly interest him. Therefore, it is necessary to thoroughly think over the spheres of entertainment, shopping, gastronomy – they should also be conceptual while working on the concept of the city.
This is not only additional income but also additional business prospects.
At the same time, the government needs to take care of the country’s investment attractiveness. I think business associations need to insist on this, and as confidently as possible. Visiting a conference in Kramatorsk, one Austrian entrepreneur said: “If we were as passive as you, our investment climate would be similar.”
TRENDS AND PANDEMIC INNOVATIONS
It seems that quarantine restrictions take away all development opportunities. But this is not at all the case.
Going online is not a bad idea. Virtual conferences can also attract business travelers in the future. It all depends on the manner of organization and presentation.
Simultaneously, people do not want to be limited to live or online, and states will not hold out for a long time beyond closed borders. Tourism is quite a feasible subject to quarantine regulations. Dubai was one of the first to reopen and welcome corporate travelers back in. More and more countries are creating so-called travel bubbles – open corridors with each other. Ukraine has not become isolated from this process. It looks like the pandemic situation will begin to change in the coming summer gradually. The world has already started talking about the need to return to the usual life. Mass immunization contributes to this. Those who could not or did not want to be vaccinated will travel if they have a negative PCR test.
At the same time, during the pandemic, completely new formats of business travel appeared. Many people who switched to “remote work” began to travel while at work. In reality, this is a fascinating opportunity. A change of scenery and new emotions have a positive effect on the quality of work. Of course, such resourceful employees are interested in business hotels or apartments.
This type of tourism was invented by freelancers who are completely free from work schedules. Especially for free “remote workers,” some countries have created special conditions – special visas for freelancers, allowing you to enter the country and work remotely. Ukraine should also take advantage of this trend.
Also, our country needs to activate domestic business tourism. Perhaps you can start with conferences on the development of MICE.
A big business audience is a huge possibility for sharing and promoting ideasCONCLUSION
Business tourism is a very profitable industry that does not depend on the season. The corporate traveler is about to spend more. He also brings the prospects for a new business partnership. Thus, the country’s economy gains at least a double benefit. But to obtain this, it is necessary to create a business and tourist attractiveness of the country. In this area, the authorities need to work closely with event agencies, the hospitality sector, cultural centers, and travel companies. How diligently the government will interact with us depends on our persistence and reasoning.
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