In Russian-annexed Crimea, the holiday season is approaching its peak, but hotels are mostly empty.
Olga, the owner of accommodation in Olenivka, a village alongside one of Crimea’s most picturesque beaches, told RFE/RL’s Ukrainian service, “Usually we’re booked solid from June to September." This year, she says, “barely 10 percent of the rooms are booked,” adding, “There’s virtually no one on the beaches either.”
Other business owners said their current bookings are hovering at around 40 to 50 percent capacity, despite steep discounts being offered to entice vacationers.
Since Russia’s February 2022 full-scale invasion of Ukraine, flights into Crimea have been suspended, meaning travelers from Russia now face long overland journeys to reach the peninsula.
Routes into Crimea were further complicated on June 22, when Ukraine targeted a bridge in the Chonhar region with Western-made missiles. The bridge is known as the “gateway to Crimea."
Yevgeny , the owner of an apartment in the village of Kurortnoye in eastern Crimea, also confirms a sharp drop in tourism, which he pins on difficulty reaching the peninsula.
“Not everyone wants to use up several days of vacation on the road,” he said.
Others point to the increasing militarization along the Crimean coast as a turnoff for Russian tourists.
Since the end of 2022, the Russian military has dug dozens of kilometers of trenches along the Crimean coast and added firing points and anti-tank barriers amid fears of a potential Ukrainian attempt to retake the territory. Many beaches have been closed off as a result, locals say.
The village of Popovka, about 30 kilometers northwest of Evpatoria, is traditionally the site of the Z.City summer festival. It has been canceled this year due to beach closures.
“The beaches in Popovka unfortunately are still closed," local resident Munire Akmullayeva explained, adding that patches of nearby coastline remain open.
The dearth of tourists has been acknowledged by the occupying authorities. Sergei Aksyonov, the Kremlin-appointed head of annexed Crimea, said in early June that the tourist season this year would be held "in a truncated version" and promised compensation to businesses.
Aksyonov put the blame on transport difficulties, but admitted many tourists “are simply afraid” to travel to the annexed peninsula. He claimed “there are no threats” to vacationers in Crimea.
Statistics recently released by Russia’s Association of Tour Operators put the collapse in Crimean tourism in stark terms. In 2021, Crimea’s share of the Russian tourism market was 19 percent. This summer, it represents just 1 percent.