Europe on Five Demonstrations a Day

Is the ongoing post-9/11 slump in the worldwide tourist industry getting you and your country down? Those canny business-writers at the Czech Republic’s leading business newspaper, Hospodárské noviny, have an idea for you: cue a massive public protest against your government! That’s what has done the trick for the Ukraine, a land which prior to last month’s second-round presidential election ranked among desirable tourist destinations somewhere around Upper Volta, but which is now experiencing a tourist boom, as HN reports (Crisis in Ukraine As Advertising Trick).

Yes, says the head of the Ukrainian Union of Tour Operators Igor Golubjach, “the revolution has been the best advertising campaign in the country of the past several years.” But then you realize that he’s being a bit modest about it with just that. Anybody ever remember any “come visit Ukraine!” advertising campaign in the past? First of all, it has only existed as an independent country since 1991, but neither is it true that the former Soviet Union exactly beckoned outsiders with open arms to come pay a visit and snoop around a little.

What do we know about this new wave of Kiev-bound tourists? They are mostly from the US and Western Europe, and obviously many of them are anxious to find a revolution to experience before they get a bit too old to be traipsing around anymore among the local masses in the streets of a foreign capital. It’s the Johnny-come-latelies of the Ukrainian capital’s touristic attractions that now have the most sight-seeing appeal: Independence Square most of all, which has been the epicenter of the massive demonstrations that followed that run-off election, but also even the campaign offices of the two electoral contenders. We also know that, for all their apparent desire to find the political “cutting edge,” these tourists are not interested in joining any revolution that gets too, shall we say, “rowdy.” This we can infer from the article’s report that bookings for Kiev skyrocketed only after 8 December, which is when the adoption by the Ukrainian parliament of a key package of electoral reforms made likely a peaceful, procedural resolution to the national crisis (namely via a re-run election second round).

BOXING DAY IN KYEV

Then we know that very many of these tourists want to be there for the Big Day, December 26, when that repeated election is to be held. (Forsaking their Christmas holiday in order to be present at the birth of a new democracy! It kind of chokes you up.) But that’s a problem, since there are already thousands of other outsiders who are supposed to be present at that point as well, and who by-and-large have tied up most of the hotel accommodations. These are namely the outside election observers and the outside journalists. Looks like the supply of Ukrainian mangers might be stretched to the utmost as well – and it does gets downright cold over there in December!

All of which is somewhat unfortunate in light of the last thing we know about these tourists, namely that they are not the sort that Ukrainian hosts could handle most easily: perfectly used to the cold, not to mention the inferior accommodations, and even speaking the same or a similar language. In other words, they are not Russians; the so-called “orange revolution” taking place next door has left the Ukraine’s neighbors cold.

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