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What do you do when your country unexpectedly becomes the subject of global headlines?
It’s a question that burgeoning tourism destinations are increasingly facing these days, thanks in no small part to the whims and obsessions of the unpredictable U.S. president.
Who can forget recently when it seemed the entire world was talking about Greenland for a week after President Trump expressed an interest in buying it? It’s not for sale, of course, but the country’s tourism board was happy to point out its ample offerings for adventure travelers.
Ukraine found itself in a similar place last week, at the center of an impeachment inquiry in the U.S. that journalists will cover obsessively for weeks and months to come. Even if the matter of President Trump’s phone call is of little consequence to ordinary Ukrainians — “we were dragged into this,” as one Ukrainian said to Radio Free Europe — it’s undeniable that the intense focus a news story like this brings can lead to the kind of name recognition which is helpful to underperforming tourism economies. Travel and tourism directly contributed just 1.5 percent of Ukraine’s gross domestic product in 2017, putting it at the lower end of the World Travel and Tourism Council’s most recent global rankings.
Which is why it was notable that the country’s minister of culture, Volodymyr Borodiansky — who also is an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky — weighed in on Ukraine’s tourism prospects on Sept. 27, which was World Tourism Day. In a Facebook post, Borodiansky shared an English language promotional video created in August by JC Travel Ukraine, an independent tour operator and marketer of Ukraine. Though Ukraine does not have a government-backed tourism board, several private destination marketing companies and initiatives promote it. The video shows footage of Ukraine’s ornate cathedrals, baroque architecture, and pastoral landscapes.
“I am convinced that Ukraine has all the prerequisites for becoming one of the top tourist destinations in the world,” Borodiansky wrote in his post. “Our ministry has an ambitious goal to popularize Ukraine in the world and increase the share of the tourism industry in the GDP.” He added the hashtag #VisitUkraineNOW to the post, and credited JC Travel Ukraine for the video.
Of course, it’s possible the culture minister’s enthusiastic endorsement of the tourism industry on the week the country hit the headlines is a coincidence. His office did not respond to comment about whether this was a renewed focus or ongoing campaign. And to be fair, World Tourism Day is a valid reason enough to post such a sentiment. But in a world where tourism and politics overlap, such public-facing posts can hardly be separated from the news of the day.