March 6, 2014 3:50 pm

Tourism officials promote travel to Ukraine at Berlin fair

Workers chat in front of the Crimea counter at the Ukraine stand of the ITB International Travel Trade Fair in Berlin March 4, 2014.

John MacDougall (AFP)/Getty Images

Sure things are tense in Ukraine right now, but that’s apparently no reason not to consider sunning yourself on the Crimean coast.

It may not be your top choice at this moment, but Ukraine’s travel industry has pushed ahead with promoting the country’s tourist destinations at a fair in Berlin this week, despite ongoing protests and a diplomatic and military stand-off.

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Tourism industry representatives served up glasses of Crimea sparkling wine in front of picturesque posters of Kyiv’s Independence Square (which isn’t exactly at its most lustrous at the moment) – with the remains of three months of anti-government demonstrations and violent clashes still visible.

Tourism is a burgeoning industry in Crimea, and the port of Yalta serves as a stop for about 10,000 cruise ship passengers a year.

Ukraine’s travel season typically runs from April until October.

Even though Russian troops and pro-Russian groups essentially control the peninsula, Crimea tourism representative Kateryna Suprovych is looking toward brighter days on the horizon.

“We’re hoping for a good season. The situation in the country is not stable but it’s not war,” Suprovych told Agence France-Presse at the International Travel Trade Fair in Berlin, running from Mar. 5 to Mar. 9.

According to AFP, visitors took advantage of the free “champagne” but passed on the Crimean sales pitch.

Other representatives admit selling Ukraine as a travel destination might not be an easy task at this point.

“Right now, we’re working on the 2015 season, hoping that tensions will have ebbed,” Marta Naumenko, representing the tourism board for the city of Lviv, told AFP.

Everything could depend on what happens next, as a war of words between western countries and the Kremlin continues.

Russia has pledged it would support the Russian and Russian-speaking population that lives on the peninsula. But with a referendum on whether the autonomous region wants to become a part of Russia set for 10 days from now, Moscow may also be looking at how it could benefit from Crimean tourism.

A report attributed to Russia’s Interfax news agency quoted Russian Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky saying Moscow is also promoting Crimea’s travel destination worthiness.

“We hope the Crimea will be a safe place in Ukraine, and we would like to re-divert as many passenger flows as possible from the well-trodden and clearly unsafe destinations such as Turkey and Egypt to useful and historically justified ones, not only our Krasnodar Territory, but the Crimea too,” Medinsky said Monday.

“In terms of climate and recreational facilities, (the Crimea) is probably the best place in the former USSR.”

© Shaw Media, 2014

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