Visit Ukraine encourages tourists to visit ‘Brave Cities’ despite worldwide travel advice

‘If you want to see our destroyed cities and brave people fighting, please come now,’ says tourist board CEO

Lucy Thackray
Wednesday 10 August 2022 09:31 BST
The main image on Visit Ukraine’s ‘tours’ page
The main image on Visit Ukraine’s ‘tours’ page (Visit Ukraine)

Visit Ukraine has promoted new city tours in recent weeks, despite governments worldwide advising tourists not to visit the country.

In the “Tours” section of its website, the hero image has text proclaiming “Set off on a tour to awesome Ukraine right now”, while a city tours section has been renamed “Brave cities”.

“Visiting Ukraine now is not just about walking the streets of beautiful cities, learning what Ukraine is like. It is about following the footsteps of defenders, seeing how cities are recovering from the horrors, looking into the eyes of people for whom life will never be the same as before,” advises the website.

In the Brave Cities section of the website, tourists can read information on trips called “Indestructable Kharkiv”, “Heroism of the Northern Capital (Chernihiv)”, and “Strong and Invincible Bucha and Irpin”.

The conflict tours initiative is thought to be a reminder of Ukraine’s place as a destination on the world travel map, rather than a literal call to visit this summer.

The UK Foreign Office, along with governments in most countries worldwide, is currently advising against all travel to Ukraine.

‘Indestructible Kharkiv' is just one renamed city tour (Visit Ukraine)

A recent Visit Ukraine Facebook post promoting the “tours to the brave hero cities” suggests that the trips are aimed at domestic visitors.

Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, with dangerous warfare continuing between the two countries six months on.

Many of the cities mentioned in Visit Ukraine’s tour pages are currently occupied or under siege by Russian forces.

Alongside the new tours, the website’s Latest News section includes updates such as “What to do in a radiation accident” and “How to apply for a passport with a new surname while abroad?”

Of the new tours, Visit Ukraine’s CEO Anton Taranenko told CNN: “It’s not only about the bombs, what’s happening today in Ukraine is also about how people are learning to co-live with the war, help each other.

“There’s real change, a new street spirit.

“Maybe across the street from where a bomb recently struck you’ll see friends eating nice traditional food at a re-opened bistro.

“We are happy for some moments, there are not just the bad and sad things as seen on TV.

“Life goes on and there’s hope that soon all this will be over.

A recent Facebook post suggests that the tours are aimed at domestic visitors (Visit Ukraine)

“Children are growing up, we try to live life as much as possible no matter what.”

In late February, Ukraine closed its airspace to civil aircraft; meanwhile, even tourism to adjacent Eastern European countries has been damaged by the war.

Despite this, Mr Tarenko told CNN: “If you want to see our destroyed cities and brave people fighting, please come now.”

In March, Poland’s deputy minister for sport and tourism, Andrzej Gut-Mostowy, told reporters that cancellations from international tourists were up between 30 and 40 per cent.

Yesterday at least three Ukrainian civilians were killed and 23 others were wounded by Russian shelling in the southern town of Nikopol, including an attack not far from a Russian-occupied nuclear power plant.

The Independent has contacted Visit Ukraine for comment.

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