Previously, Odessa has competed on the Black Sea as a tourism center with the Crimea. However, since the Russian annexation of the 2014 peninsula, the number has risen from one million to 2.5 million visitors. This also applies to other regions in the southern Ukraine.
“It’s amazing. Odessa was full in the summer even in the Soviet times. But since 2014, the city is really crowded,” says Vitaly Chemij, an experienced television journalist from Odessa. With a population of about one million, Odessa is the third largest city in Ukraine. Founded in 1794 by Catherine the Great as a military port on the Black Sea, the city has evolved over time to become the tourist ‘ pearl on the Black Sea ‘. Odessa’s biggest competitor: the Crimea.
Odessa Benefits from Crimean annexation
But with the annexation of the Crimean Peninsula 2014, the tide turned: because of the political situation, but mainly due to the border between the Ukrainian mainland and the Crimea, as well as the elimination of direct rail and bus connections, the number of Ukrainian Visitors to the peninsula greatly reduced.
And so Odessa has experienced an unexpectedly large increase in tourists – one that could not be expected in advance, “explains journalist Chemij. This is also evidenced by the official figures: While 2013 only a million tourists visited the city of Odessa, 2015 were already 1.8 million. And last year, the city administration even reported 2.5 million visitors, of which about 70 percent came from Ukraine.
Former Soviet Beach as the Main Attraction
“Clearly, the annexation of Crimea has to do with it, but we improve ourselves as a city constantly and present us more and more beautiful,” says Tatiana Markova, who is responsible for tourism in the city administration of Odessa. She refers to the transformation of the ever-famous Arkadija beach into a modern holiday complex.
From one of the largest beaches in the Soviet Union, where some well-known films have been filmed and whose infrastructure has been very outdated, there has been a whole district with countless restaurants, cafes, hotels and nightclubs. With ‘ Ibiza ‘, Odessa can now also be one of the most popular nightclubs in Eastern Europe.
Infrastructure has Air Up
Journalist Vitaly Chemij sees this differently: “Unlike Lviv, I don’t see the city really changing. While there are private investments, overall the infrastructure remains unsatisfactory. ”
In concrete terms there are many traffic jams, hotel places are not enough and staff in cafes and restaurants in the city centre is missing. So is Odessa with 2.5 million tourists at borders? “no “, says Markova of the city Council. But there are also different opinions on this. Fact is: The hotels were booked out in the high season 2017.
Growth for Foreign Tourists
In addition to the domestic tourists, more and more tourists from abroad are coming to Odessa. “2014 had foreigners still a bit scared. Now everyone sees that Odessa is a safe city, “stresses Markova. So there was a ten percent increase in foreign visitors last year.
Most of them come from Belarus, Romania, Israel and Turkey-and even the Russians are returning slowly. The increased focus on the Asian market, for example, also brought 20,000 tourists from China. “Odessa is good enough for tourists from all over the world “, it says from the city administration.
Low Cost as Argument
While prices in Odessa are at the level of the capital Kiev, the costs for foreigners still remain in the frame. From the point of view of the travel guide Leonid Baraz, this is the most important reason why you come to Odessa. Most recently he had many tourists from Turkey, Israel, France and Lithuania. “Odessa is the cultural capital of Ukraine for me with countless museums and theatres. The foreigners do not visit them at all, “regrets Baraz. “You spend your money on shopping and restaurant visits because everything is cheap. “