By Olga Tokariuk
Lviv, Ukraine, Aug 7 (EFE).- “We have won the lottery,” says Oleksandra Gagárina, assistant manager of a hotel in the historic Ukrainian city of Lviv of the unexpected influx of Saudi visitors in the midst of a pandemic that has seen global travel plummet and many traditional tourist hotspots close their borders.
“They are tourists who are sought-after by the whole world,” Gagarina tells Efe in a central hotel in the capital of western Ukraine.
Ukraine, a popular destination for tourists from Central and Eastern Europe, expects to pocket some 50 million dollars in July thanks to the arrival of travelers from Saudi Arabia, a new destination that opened up to the country during the global health crisis.
In June alone, revenues from Gulf tourists amounted to $25 million, explained Anton Taranenko, executive director of Visit Ukraine, an umbrella NGO for travel industry companies.
“The numbers for July are not yet available, but it will easily double the June figures,” Taranenko says.
After last year, when it lost more than 2 billion euros, the sector is already showing signs of recovery, according to experts, who attribute it mainly to an influx of wealthy tourists from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries.
Estimates by tour operators show that each Gulf tourist spends up to $500 a day during his or her stay in Ukraine.
In June and July 2021, the Saudi airline Flynas launched direct flights to the country’s capital Kiev and Lviv, two of Ukraine’s most popular tourist destinations.
At least 14,000 Saudi tourists visited Ukraine in the first month after the launch of four weekly flights, Ukrainian authorities said.