Tourism of the Azov region before and after the Russian invasion: Central Azov region
I want to restore the traditional column on tourism in the Azov region. Today I will talk about the destination “Central Azov region”, namely Berdyanskyi and Melitopolskyi raions of Zaporizka Oblast. This region was the most developed in terms of tourism and recreation in the entire macro-destination of the Azov region. For example, the existing conference tourism infrastructure of the “Central Azov” destination was the best in the region. There were 60 conference halls with 4.5 thousand seats.
Melitopol, although not located on the sea, was a strategically important city, as the center of the macro-destination of the Azov region. Two local universities fruitfully collaborated with our team to create the headquarters of the Azov DMO – the Azov destination management organization. They helped with personnel, provided premises, etc. The local authorities saw tourism as one of the leading branches of the city’s development. Only here, unlike other macro-destination cities, the Tourism sector was assigned to the Department of Economy by the city authorities. Mayor Ivan Fedorov, with the support of People’s Deputy Serhiy Minko, held the Azov Regional Development Forum in February 2021. I had the honor of representing our tourism development team in the Azov region and was the Forum’s speaker. Our team also helped the city in creating the Museum of Cherries.
The tourist highlights of Melitopol were the National Historical and Archaeological Reserve “Kamyana Mohyla”, the Melitopol City Local History Museum, the city’s interculturality, the Chereshnevo festival, cherry orchards, the tradition of treating Karaim pies, and the proximity to the Sea of Azov. The only thing the city lacked were hotels. Their number at the time of occupation was not enough for Melitopol to become one of the significant tourist centers of the Azov region.
Melitopol was occupied by the Russian aggressor on February 26, 2022. The invaders kidnapped the mayor of the city, Ivan Fedorov, twice, but, thank God, everything is fine with the mayor and he is in the territory controlled by Ukraine. Of course, the Russians are not interested in tourism at the moment. They moved the command of the southern front to Melitopol after leaving Kherson. The city is a strategically important point from where a direct road to the Crimea opens for our liberators. Therefore, the Rashists are engaged in the fortification of the city and, probably, take away valuable exhibits and things, as well as destroy everything related to Ukraine and authentic history and culture.
After the liberation of Melitopol, it will be necessary to focus on the reconstruction of the hotel sector, as well as on the resumption of work on the creation of the Azov DMO coordination center.
Kyrylivka (population – 3.4 thousand people) is a sea resort in the Melitopol raion, which holds the record for the largest number of accommodation facilities in the entire Azov region. According to local authorities, more than 500 hotels, boarding houses, sanatoriums and other accommodation facilities are located here. Every year, Kyrylivka received 2-2.5 million vacationers. We actively cooperated with the village head Ivan Maleev and his team. They developed grant and investment projects, exchanged experience, and conducted trainings for the tourist community of Kyrylivka. We also interacted with entrepreneurs in the field of tourism, in particular with owners and top managers of local hotels. The village was occupied on February 26, 2022. About a third of the residents left and settled in Zaporizhzhia. As Ivan Maleev told “News of Azov” project, a large number of Russian soldiers are coming to the occupied Kyrylivka and are staying at local accommodations.
After the occupation of Crimea in 2014, Berdyansk (116,000 inhabitants) became the largest Ukrainian resort in Azov by population. There were about 200 hotels and guest houses here that offered recreation on the sea coast. In addition, Berdyansk was a mud and climatic health resort with 10 sanatoriums. The mayor of the city Valery Baranov, who was elected at the end of 2020, cooperated very actively with our team. He saw tourism as the most priority direction for the development of Berdyansk. Unfortunately, the mayor retired from business in the fall of 2021 due to his health. He never had time to realize his plans for the development of tourism.
Berdyansk was occupied by Russian aggressors on February 27, 2022. Several entrepreneurs who worked in the field of tourism were pro-Russian. So, in our opinion, they are now cooperating with the occupying “authorities”. The Russians use the city’s hotels to house their troops, and sanatoriums are used as hospitals for the wounded. The occupiers provide logistical support for their army through the Berdyansk port. In my opinion, after the de-occupation of Berdyansk, the tourist and recreational infrastructure of the city will be in great decline due to the actions of the Rashist occupiers.
After the liberation of the occupied parts of Zaporizka Oblast, the question of demining, inventorying and restoration of regional and urban tourist infrastructure, creating strategic and tactical planning, restoring attractions, establishing interaction between entrepreneurs and the authorities, etc. will arise. Thanks to the development of tourism, post-war Germany and Croatia have recovered. We have excellent experience in this area. We studied the region for 1.5 years. Our team created a Roadmap for the development of tourism in the Azov region until 2030. Therefore, we are looking for like-minded people and those who will be interested in the restoration of tourism in the regions of Ukraine affected by the war.