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Crimean tourism minister: Crimean tourism prepares for ‘a very difficult tourist season’

SIMFEROPOL, March 04, (ITAR-TASS). Despite the recent normalization of the situation on the Crimean peninsula, the tourism industry - one of the main sectors of the autonomy’s economy - is expected to fall into recession.

“Crimea expects a very difficult tourist season but it is difficult to say now how far the market will decline. The situation is not clear yet,” Crimean Minister of Resorts and Tourism Alexander Liyev told Itar-Tass.

He said that since the beginning of the year, Crimea has received more than 100,000 tourists from different regions, and first of all, from Ukraine - about ten percent less than in 2013.

The minister stressed that most travellers cancelled their trips to Crimea following media reports on the alleged security risks on the peninsula, though there were no real risks in the region.

“The situation is absolutely calm. All government authorities and the police are working as usual, and all communications, food stores and filling stations are functioning properly,” he said. “Unfortunately, this certainly influenced tourists’ sentiments because the tourism industry is most sensitive to changes of this kind.”

Liyev said Crimea’s Council of Ministers was taking steps to avoid the future crisis. There are plans to change the pricing policy and to make therefore travelling to the peninsula much more attractive for tourists.

“Trips to no other destination will be cheaper than to Crimea. At the same time, the quality will be good enough,” he said, adding that the Crimean authorities would also organise familiarization trips for journalists from Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and the European Union countries in order to beef up the profile of Crimean resorts.

The minister said earlier that preparations for the upcoming high season were underway “despite evident risks that Ukraine’s tourist image might fall and competition in the Black Sea region might grow as a result of the political crisis”.

“Tourism for Crimea is not only a business and a motivator of culture, but also the linchpin of peace. One thousand Crimean families work in the tourism industry and the current season is the main source of income for them,” Liyev said, adding that works were underway to repair, reconstruct and build new hotels, restaurants and health centres.

The Crimean authorities have promised to ensure comfort and security of guests on the peninsula that has been a top-rated cluster of seaside and mountainous resorts since the beginning of the 19th century.

According to official data, about six million tourists travel to Crimea annually. Market operators estimate that about two million of them are Russians. There are about 15,000 restaurants and caf·s in Crimea today, about 4,500 private hotels and the biggest number of lodging facilities on the Black Sea coast. According to the ministry’s data, the tourism industry generates almost 40 billion Ukrainian hryvnias ($4 billion).