Since the beginning of summer, Ukraine has earned $25 million on tourists from the Persian Gulf countries. This is just the beginning – on July 13, direct flights between Kyiv and Kuwait were launched, and direct flights between Saudi Arabia and Odesa.
According to a Reuters report, among the benefits of a vacation in Ukraine, citizens of Saudi Arabia single out delicious food, reasonable prices, and friendly people. The nature of the Carpathians also played an important role: Saudi tourists are already comparing it to Switzerland.
Interesting thing: in 2019, the pre-pandemic year, Kyiv was often called the “new Berlin” due to the growing techno music industry and nightlife. Now dance rhythms have given way to the attractiveness of Ukrainian nature.
As the European borders are closed to the people of Saudi Arabia due to the coronavirus pandemic, they are spending their holidays in Ukraine. If the local service sector fulfills the quality of the en.”tire flow of foreigners, they will return next year.
We’ve already described Saudis’ “tourism rush” to Ukraine in this article by Chas News.
Flights from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Oman to Ukraine continue to beat occupancy records: from early June to mid-July, over 10,000 Arab tourists were flown to the Ukrainian capital.
And this is just the beginning – they assure Visit Ukraine of uniting the participants of the Ukrainian tourism market. Shortly, flights from Kuwait and direct connections between Saudi Arabia and Odessa will be launched. Revenues to the budget of Ukraine from such tourism can exceed $100 million per season.
There will be even more Saudis in Ukraine: 3.5 thousand tourists a day will arrive.
As the head of Visit Ukraine Anton Taranenko told UBR.ua, the Ukrainian economy has already managed to earn about $25 million by attracting eastern tourists.
(The All-Ukrainian NGO Union Visit Ukraine is an association of representatives of the tourist transformation of Ukraine).
Their high solvency plays an essential role in this: the average check of such a foreigner is about $500 per day, including accommodation in a five-star hotel. And given that the duration of their stay here is about 5-7 days, then potentially natives of Arab countries leave in Ukraine $2,500 per trip, Taranenko noted.
Today, Kyiv receives about 500-700 Arabs every day. This is directly related to the increase in the number of direct and transit flights, mainly operated by Flynas, Qatar Airways, FlyDubai, and Emirates.
“We generally think that we can receive more than a thousand tourists a day from the Gulf countries – two and three. Especially if Odessa and other markets are launched in our country,” says Taranenko.
An essential factor that ensures a stable interest in Ukraine is its favorable climate. While in Saudi Arabia the air temperature goes over 55° C, posing a danger to life, here they can literally “breathe.” By the way, Georgia and Azerbaijan are in less demand among the Arabs precisely due to the higher temperatures.
“I guess the season will last until the end of September – the beginning of October. In Ukraine, Arab tourists are quite comfortable “closing” their key queries: “green territory” (quarantine restrictions – Ecolife), food. But here we still need to work, because not everywhere there is “halal” and shopping. Lack of alternatives in Europe and post-Soviet countries makes Ukraine as attractive as possible,” – emphasizes the head of Visit Ukraine.
In general, there’s no global rise in prices in the sphere of services and accommodation in Ukraine, along with an overestimated demand among eastern tourists. But experts say that the hotel business has already managed to return to pre-quarantine prices, which is precisely due to the flow of Arab tourists: now a room in a five-star hotel costs $350-$400.
A year ago, Ukraine made simple the visa regime with a number of the Gulf countries. The first direct flight was initiated by Saudi Arabia, a country that occupies most of the Arabian Peninsula and is the second-largest country in the Arab world after Algeria.
The flight of the Arab company Flynas on the route Riyadh-Kyiv, which was first launched on June 11, will now run daily. Flight time is five and a half hours. To cross the Ukrainian border, Saudi citizens only need a passport and a PCR test for coronavirus. Tourists from this country have a good reputation and a reasonably high average check and therefore are among the most desirable in the world.
A country where rain is possible
Tourists from the east mostly travel in pairs or families.
The Maali family stayed in the center of the Ukrainian capital, in the hotel “Ukraine,” which is on Independence Square. In a nearby square, a girl walks with her sister and rides a scooter.
“I am pleasantly surprised by the city. But I’m still waiting for the rain. This is a real rarity in Saudi Arabia. Therefore, the rain will be the best gift from Kyiv for me personally,” Maali said.
Seeking summer breeze and natural getaway
Nabeel Kensara and Nasal Alzamzmi, a couple from Saudi Arabia, used to go on holidays to Switzerland twice a year. Still, coronavirus travel restrictions across Europe have forced them to discover new destinations.
Ukraine, which only requires a coronavirus PCR or express test upon entry, is one of just a few visa-free countries for Saudi tourists.
Ukraine stopped all regular flights last March to prevent the spread of COVID-19 but in June resumed domestic air traffic and flights to foreign destinations.
Besides traditional city sightseeing, the country offers various close-to-nature getaways – from the picturesque Carpathian mountains in the west to the bustling Black Sea coastline in the south.
In June, Saudi national carrier Flynas launched a daily direct flight between Riyadh and Kyiv, bringing hundreds of holidaymakers seeking escape from the extreme heat. Flynas also offers a connection to the most prominent western Ukrainian city of Lviv.
Out of 100 rooms in Lviv-based Bank Hotel, 60 are booked by Saudis, some coming for honeymoon, hotel manager Taras Kuzyk said.
Kuzyk said an unexpected influx of Saudi tourists highlighted areas demanding changes to serve clients’ needs like ordering halal food, translating menus into Arabic, and extending restaurant’s working hours.
Kensara and Alzamzmi came to Lviv after having visited Kyiv and the country’s most prominent mountain resort in the Carpathians.
“It’s like other countries; it’s like Switzerland. It needs a little bit to keep up. But people here are friendly, prices here are good. And the environment and everything else is good,” Kensara told Reuters.
Ukraine’s state tourism agency called Gulf Arab states a promising area for the cash-hungry tourism industry hit by a coronavirus.
In June, it brought representatives of Saudi travel agencies on a guided tour across the country, introducing them to the main tourist attractions, local culture, and cuisine.
“Saudis like to discover new places. We’ve been impressed by so many things in the country – nature, the weather,” tour manager Mohamed Almasoud said.
“We like the food. The food is like the Mediterranean, more like Turkish food.”
There will be even more Saudis in Ukraine: 3.5 thousand tourists a day will arrive
In June, Ukraine opened its borders to tourists from Saudi Arabia, who previously preferred to wait out the summer heat in European resorts. The minimum entry requirements, delicious food, and reasonable prices will attract more than 3.5 thousand Arab tourists to our country per day. Taranenko made this forecast, Reuters reports.
According to Taranenko, 3,500 Saudis are expected to visit Ukraine daily comparing to 4,000 tourists in total during the entire 2020.
He specified that only 4 thousand people arrived in Ukraine from this Arab country in the entire last year.
Cosmopolitan Kyiv and historic Lviv primarily attract the attention of foreigners.
Now there are three direct and about five transit flights a day to Ukraine. Their number is planned to increase by introducing a new message between Saudi Arabia and Odessa, Taranenko told UBR.ua.
The unexpected influx of Saudi tourists has spurred local hotels to make significant changes to meet customer needs: they now offer halal food, translate menus into Arabic and extend restaurant opening times, the agency writes.
The Ukrainian side is doing its best to create favorable conditions for travel from Saudi Arabia to restore the national tourism industry affected by the coronavirus. The impetus for the interest in the country was a promotional tour for Saudi travel agencies organized by the State Tourism Agency of Ukraine.