Updated at 21:04,23-03-2021

Free tours to Ukraine: 'There are no bandits'


A beach season is just round the corner, but Belarusians are deciding against spending their holiday in Ukraine. Travel agencies even offered journalists a tour to Odessa seaside for free so that they could see what is going on in the neighbouring country in their own eyes and describe the events for readers.

Loyal customers opt out of going to Crimea

Hrodna-based travel agency Rit Tour take tourists only to Zatoka and Koblevo (Ukraine, Odessa region). 'This is the most budget choice,' its director Aliaksandr Rybachak says. Last year it was not until May, 20 when all the tours were sold out. This year even loyal customers who had booked trips to Crimea earlier cancelled their reservations. 'Everyone is playing a waiting game. People are scared and gossiping about murders and robberies in Ukraine. I have been to Odessa lately: on my way home there have been neither bandits nor 'Banderovites'. Let journalists tell the truth,' he adds.

Last-resort assistance

Aleh Rusnachenka, director of Minsk-based travel agency Kazachny Tou' also came up with the idea of organising a promotion tour for journalists to show the real situation in Ukraine. 'Our offer is to go to Zatoka and Koblevo through Maidan. After coming back the journalists are expected to write articles about all that they have seen firsthand,' he says.

The tour scheduled on April 15-18 is free of charge. Directors of travel agencies are encouraged to join as well. 'Let they make sure that there is alright in Ukraine and know what they offer to their customers,' Aleh Rusnachenka says.

In Odessa journalists and directors are to meet with the local authorities. 'If you don't come we will go bankrupt,' Mr Rusnachenka quotes the owners of resorts.

Why doesn't the route include Crimea?

'This year tour operators are not going to Crimea, because when one reaches the Crimean border problems might pop up – for example, they [border officers] might start checking documents and then send half of the group back to Belarus,' Mr Rybachak believes.

There is another way to Crimea, though Russia, i.e. through Homel-Bryansk-Voronezh, Rostov-on-Don, which takes 3 days. But as one will have to cover 2,700 km it is highly unlikely that anybody would opt for it.

Tour operators are ready to take tourists to Crimea as soon as the situation stabilizes.