ST. PETERSBURG, May 19 /ITAR-TASS/. There is a growing demand for tours to Crimea, a former Ukrainian region that recently joined Russia, in Russia's northwestern city of St. Petersburg, unlike in early April, executive director of the Northwestern regional division of the Russian Union of Travel Industry, Yekaterina Shadskaya, said Monday.
“Tour operators have an optimistic mood,” Shadskaya told journalists.
She said St. Petersburg residents are mainly interested in family tours lasting 14 days.
The current season will be longer than usual in Crimea due to Russian holiday-makers coming in the third and fourth quarters of the year, Crimea and Sevastopol Tour Operators Association President Boris Zelinsky said.
“Crimea hopes to withstand competition with foreign resorts due to the unique complex of services provided to tourists - not only rest at sea but sightseeing and treatment,” Zelinsky said.
The Crimean Peninsula has 825 large tour industry facilities - health improvement centers and hotels with over 160,000 rooms. In addition, there are some 4,500 private mini-hotels. Over 12,500 natural and historical-cultural sites are open for visitors.
However, Zelinsky said the flow of tourists into Crimea this year will reduce due to the absence of Ukrainian tourists who have constituted some two-thirds of the overall tourist flow.
"In the past few years, some 6 million tourists, 65% of them Ukrainians, some 25% Russians and 6% Belarusians, have annually spent holidays in Crimea," he said.
Asked about foreign investment projects in Crimea’s travel industry, Zelinsky said that “in the past 10 years, the key investment projects in Crimea have been carried out by Russian investors”.
The Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol, a city with a special status on the Crimean Peninsula, where most residents are Russians, refused to recognize the legitimacy of the new self-proclaimed Ukrainian authorities, who came to power amid riots during a coup in Ukraine in February.
Crimea and Sevastopol adopted declarations of independence on March 11. They held a referendum on March 16, in which 96.77% of Crimean and 95.6% of Sevastopol voters chose to secede from Ukraine and join the Russian Federation. Putin signed the reunification deals March 18.
In the Soviet Union, Crimea used to be part of Russia until 1954, when Nikita Khrushchev, the first secretary of the USSR’s Communist Party, transferred it to Ukraine's jurisdiction as a gift.
The West and the de facto Kiev authorities refuse to recognize the legality of Crimea’s reunification with Russia despite Moscow’s repeated statements that the Crimean referendum on secession was in line with the international law and the UN Charter and in conformity with the precedent set by Kosovo’s secession from Serbia in 2008.