As reported by Interfax.ru, Boris Zelinsky, the Chairman of the Board of the Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol regional branch of the Russian Tourism Industry Association, has stated that in 2017, Crimean tourism has fallen by 20%. This is a significantly greater decline than stated in the official figures of 6-7%. Zelinsky stated:
The government considers the flow of traffic, rather than tourism [when calculating its figures]. We believe, that this year, the tourism flow to Crimea has declined by 20%, at a minimum.
According to Zelinsky, there are four principal reasons that Crimean tourism has experienced this decline:
• The improvement of relations between Russia and Turkey, which has made it possible for Russian tourists to travel to Turkey again. (Ed: In November of 2015, Turkey shot down a Russian fighter jet which had violated Turkish airspace, resulting in strained relations between the two countries, including Russian sanctions against Turkey.)
• The strengthening of the ruble, relative to other currencies, which has made it easier for Russians to travel to other destinations, such as the EU.
• The month of May was anomalously cold in Crimea, in 2017.
• The cost of plane tickets to Crimea is expensive.
Indeed, Zelinsky’s assessments can easily be anecdotally confirmed: Russian social networks are rife with complaints about prices and service in Crimea, as well as the alleged unfriendliness or hostility of the local population. Many Russians tourists who have the means, prefer more exotic destinations, such as Turkey or Egypt, or European Union destinations such as Greece and Spain.
Zelinsky also notes that the official tourism sector in Crimea is losing business to unofficial tourist accommodations (Ed: in Crimea, many people earn extra income by renting out rooms or beds to tourists – this is acknowledged by Russia as part of Crimea’s “shadow economy”).
Interfax states that in 2016, according to the Crimean Ministry of Resorts and Tourism, Crimea was visited by 5.6 million tourists, a 21% improvement over the previous year. Russia projects that after the completion of the Kerch Strait Bridge in 2019, Crimea will receive up to 10 million tourists annually; until then, a figure in the range of 5 to 6 million tourists per year is expected.
The Kerch Strait Bridge is an illegal construction, which has hindered maritime travel through the Black Sea and Sea of Azov, and consequently, has interfered with transport from Ukraine’s port cities of Mariupol and Berdiansk, damaging Ukraine’s steel industry. The bridge violates, among other agreements and laws, a 2003 Agreement between Ukraine and Russia, on the use of the Sea of Azov (legal construction of the bridge would require Ukraine’s consent; since Ukraine cannot recognize Russia’s illegal annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula, Ukraine is extremely unlikely to provide such consent). Ukraine intends to sue Russia for this violation.