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Ukraine Protests May Cause Travel Downturn; UK Issues Travel WarningDecember 2, 2013 By: Jena Tesse Fox
Travel to Ukraine may suffer a setback in the wake of political protests that escalated over the weekend. In an echo of the Arab Spring, which caused travel to Cairo to drop precipitously over the past few years, an estimated 300,000 people took to the streets on Sunday calling for the resignation of President Viktor Yanukovich. Following the president's refusal to sign an association agreement with the European Union, protestors have taken over Independence Square, one of Kiev's biggest plazas, and the New York Times says that demonstrators are also in City Hall.
While no reports have emerged on travel downturns because of the protests, world governments are already taking notice. Last week, the British government warned its citizens in Ukraine to "take extra precautions," UPI is reporting, aptly predicting the protests that followed. As of press time, the U.S. Department of State has not issued a similar warning or advisory.
Following significant investment from global hotel brands in recent years, Ukraine's tourism scene would be in danger (much like Egypt's) should the protests continue and visitor numbers fall. Earlier this year, Starwood's Frits van Paasschen said that the company would include Kiev in its planned 11 new hotels throughout Russia and the CIS. (The Sheraton Kiev Olympiysky Hotel is due to open in 2016.) Similarly, Marriott is also focusing on the same region and is also looking to open 11 hotels, including the Renaissance Kiev Hotel, its first Ukrainian property, in 2015. Luxury hotels are also making inroads: In Odessa, the Hotel Bristol is set to join The Luxury Collection portfolio and will mark the brand’s entry into Ukraine when it opens early next year. The Fairmont Grand Hotel Kyiv, meanwhile, opened in March last year. No word yet on whether the protests will affect the planned openings, but prolonged conflict will undoubtedly have a negative reaction across multiple segments of the country's travel industry.
In late October, Swiss Airlines launched direct flights between Zurich and Kiev, further opening the city to traffic from Western Europe and the Americas, and Emirates is scheduled to launch flights from Dubai to Kiev in January. Lufthansa, meanwhile, will reportedly end its flights between Dusseldorf and Kiev at the same time.