Monday, March 19, 2007

"The Readers' Question from April'03 were

1. Do you believe Kyiv and Ukraine could support a significant resort and hospitality industry? Why?

2. What would you suggest? resorts? golf courses (hereto unknown); skiing; riverside developments in Kyiv and other river cities; sports; camping facilities; backpacking trails; marinas; festivals (music, historical, etc.); etc.

3. Other thoughts?

Responses to the question from April follow:

Ukraine and Kyiv in particular COULD support a significant hospitality industry IF, and only if, Ukrainian officials could make some substantial changes in the bureaucratic systems. Particularly bothersome are the Visas and high Visa fees. The concept of making 1 million times $20 rather than 100,000 at $100 still has not sunk in. Likewise the Customs and Immigration procedures at the airports and places of entry are overly burdensome. (They exude an aura of paranoia and totalitarianism). Ukraine certainly has a lot to offer and it is still perceived as an "exotic" destination which would attract many tourists. The industry (hospitality) itself needs a big make-over - better prices, better service, and better accommodations. The government should TOTALLY get out of trying to run the hospitality industry and leave it strictly to the professionals. Meanwhile, there is a big need for recreational facilities, particularly (my passion and life's work) golf resorts. Many hotel operators have indicated to me that if golf was available in Kyiv, the tourists and business travelers would extend their stay by at least 3-4 days. This is very substantial.

However other recreational facilities beg to be developed in Ukraine. Specifically: water parks and theme parks. I'm very surprised this has not happened yet considering how Ukrainians love to spend time and money on their children. This is an industry that would prove to be fantastic. Ukraine also has many other resort possibilities: SPA's in the Carpathians, Eco-tourism in almost every region, Summer resorts on the Black and Azov seas, fantastic Crimea, historical site such as the 7000 year old Trypilska culture and the various Greek ruins in southern Ukraine. Still, the biggest setback to the development of Ukraine's vast hospitality potential is the stagnation brought on by the unrelenting bureaucracy and their desire to make a few quick bucks rather than let the industry make millions.

Walter Prochorenko

Kyiv and Ukraine have the natural resources to support tourism; The Crimea, The Carpathians, The Dnipro River, The Black and Azov Seas to start with, then there is also; the architecture in many of the cities, the art and the performing arts.

However for this to develop there has to be a considerable change in the mindset, both collective and individual, of Ukrainians. Tourism to be successful requires a high standard of service which, with some exceptions, is absent in Ukraine. There also needs to be a change in the bureaucratic and self interest mentality that is strangling development in this country in tourism and many other fields.

And finally there needs to be a move away from the get rich quick, get rich now and not worry about the future because we will have made our fortune now and it is only the others who will suffer mentality that prevails in Ukraine. Tourism like agriculture, the other potential main stay of the economy that is also under performing, requires a rolling up of the sleeves and putting in a lot of hard work to reap the rewards over a long and sustained period of time in the future.

As to what, it better not be a golf course as that is why I left Kyiv!!!

Here is my curmudgeonly response to your EQOTM:

Kyiv and Ukraine truly have a great treasure trove of historical landmarks, natural beauty, and potential tourist sites that could host a significant hospitality industry. However, like many other sectors of this country potential means almost nothing when contrasted with the realities of this part of the world. There are a lot of wonderful aspects to the country and being here and living here has its own unique challenges, but for the tourism here to break out the niche market (historical buffs wanting to see famous locations, Slavic literature specialists who want to visit more of the famous poet Shevchenko's past, etc.), and attract the mainstream business some drastic changes would have to be made.

1) Ukraine would have to become user friendly. This means that the customs service would have to change out its carnivorous self and into some entity that promotes people visiting here rather than discouraging it. Probably the most disgusting episode of several was watching a customs officer telling a visiting American missionary that the bibles, cassettes, and other items he was to give away here at Ukrainian churches were worth more than a certain amount of Euros and he would have to pay duty on them. Another aspect that encourages tourism is the ability for the tourists to purchase goods at bargain prices, not at 25% higher than the highest price anywhere in Europe. Again, the customs duty makes sure that this place is uncompetitive.

2) Foreigners would have to be treated as people who are guests and accorded some level of hospitality and respect. Many people here treat foreigners in general - and Americans in particular - as some lower form of life. After all, none us could be as clever, educated and cultured as any Ukrainian. If we were civilised our fast food places would serve some revolting and indigestible low-grade kolbasa and shashlik that could not pass a health inspection in any modern nation instead of having been responsible for the creation of McDonald's. And it takes a crafty and shrewd businessman to know how to promise to deliver something next week and then still have produced nothing six months later. Only an American would think such people are babbling, disorganised buffoons.

3) Most places in the world that are super successful in the tourism area recognise that in order to encourage tourism you have to keep the criminals away from the tourists as much as possible. Tourists are commodities to be protected in places that have seen their hospitality industry boom, but here tourists are looked at as bags of money to be ripped off. Sure, you can find other places in the world where a trinket worth six cents goes for 20 dollars, but it is limited to selected locations. Everyone in this city has some scam going on - many of them laughably unbelievable. If you want to go a country where there is a con man on every corner there are plenty of other places that are more interesting and do not have the other problems of Kyiv.

So, when all this changes let me know and I will be glad to come in as an investor on that B&B you are planning.
Reuben Johnson