This travel agency wants tourists to visit Ukraine now

(CNN) — Visiting Ukraine now to experience what it’s like to live in the middle of war, see its besieged cities, feel the danger and meet its fighters may not be on the list. love to travel.

But six months after Russia invaded the country, unleashing a wave of death and destruction, a group is inviting tourists to come.

Website Visit Ukraine Recently, guided tours have been introduced in the days called “Brave Cities” that resisted and continued to resist the Russian invaders, offering travelers look at how the country is living in the midst of conflict.

Despite international warnings against travel to Ukraine, the company said it had sold 150 tickets, although its website provides information about safe travel and from Ukraine getting 1.5 million hits a month, 50% more than pre-invasion numbers.

It is said that those who sign up for the tours can expect to walk among bomb rubble, destroyed buildings, churches and stadiums, and burned military equipment, with the usual wail of air raid sirens. Landmines are also a problem.

While it may seem like a ghoulish way to spend a vacation, Visit Ukraine founder and CEO Anton Taranenko told CNN Travel it’s not like “dark tourism” seeing the visitors to other places of death, destruction and destruction around the world.

Taranenko said that the marches represent an opportunity for Ukraine to show the resistance spirit of its citizens and to show the outside world that life still goes on, even in war.

‘Live life without anything’

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Visit Ukraine. Today encourages foreign tourists to go to Ukraine.

Visit Ukraine

“It’s not just about the bombs, what’s happening today in Ukraine is about how people learn to live with the war, help each other,” he said. . “It’s a real change, a new street spirit.

“Perhaps on the other side of the street where the bullet struck you will find friends eating good traditional food in a newly opened bistro.

“We were happy for a few moments, not only bad and sad things like what we see on TV.

“When children grow up, we try to live life as much as possible.”

The US Department of State currently has a “Level 4: Do Not Travel” warning to Ukraine due to the Russian invasion. He urges all US citizens to leave the country immediately and says that, after the suspension of operations at his Kyiv Embassy, ​​consular assistance cannot be provided.

Similar notices have been issued by other countries. The UK Foreign and Commonwealth and Development Office said there was a “real risk to life” due to the attacks on cities and towns.

However, Taranenko urges people to visit. “If you want to see our cities destroyed and our brave men fighting, please come now,” he said.

But, he added, visitors should know that no place in Ukraine is 100% safe, although having a guide will help reduce the risk.

“We often show the situation so that we can check the different levels of security,” he said, pointing out that many Ukrainians have returned to the places they first fled, the capital Kyiv, due to the attack.

“Ukraine is waking up again, people are returning to the cities, the cities are starting to rebuild, the cities are recovering from the horrors and there are a million foreigners in the country. Kyiv now it is visited and safe,” said Taranenko.

To see the country, he added, is to look into the eyes of Ukrainians whose lives have been changed but who are still waiting for victory.

Visit Ukraine has been recognized by the government for its work in supporting the war-torn tourism industry and providing information to help citizens arrive and leave. But there is no official approval for his journey so far to encourage visitors.

“This is not the right time to visit, but after we win and the war is over, we will invite people to visit Ukraine,” said Mariana Oleskiv, head of the State Agency for Tourism Development. of Ukraine, told CNN.

“At the state level we want Ukraine to open to tourism but for that we need more weapons, we need to win and stop the war. Our position is to visit Ukraine in When it’s safe to visit, it might be possible. Next year, I hope.”

Oleskiv said that domestic tourism has resumed in Ukraine, up to 50% of the pre-war levels despite the fighting, but it is too fast and too difficult for foreigners to come. He suggested that the tours could be purchased in order to support the tourism industry.

‘Like rolling a knife’

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Other countries have warned their citizens against visiting.

Visit Ukraine

Although martial law has been imposed in Ukraine and air travel has been suspended, Taranenko said visitors can easily travel in and out of the country, traveling through the country’s eastern regions. including Europe.

Although the trip is possible, independent travel safety experts advise against it.

Charlie McGrath, owner of Objective Travel Safety, a UK organization that prepares people for war zones, says that areas of Ukraine that are known to be safe can be very dangerous.

“I invite extreme caution because of the Russian attack,” he told CNN. “While the west of Ukraine is very safe and life is going on, the east is more dangerous. It’s like rolling the dice.”

He said that visitors should be reassured about the safety that will be provided to them on the trips and what to do if they get hurt or their guide dies. There are also questions about hospitals and local resources.

“I prefer not to,” he added.

Taranenko says, regardless of the problems, there is a desire to visit Ukraine. Of the 150 tickets sold so far, 15 have gone to America, he said.

Tour groups will be limited to groups of 10. Participants will meet their guide at designated locations and be ready to take action in case of an emergency – such as where to find a break if it sounds atmospheric sounds.

“Having a guide who knows where to go and the right way to go is reassuring,” he said. “If you push your 10 meters to the left, or 10 meters to the right, you can detonate a mine or a bomb.

“For example in Bucha region there are forests with improvised explosive devices that can explode at any time.”

‘Ordinary Life’

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Ukrainian authorities are also urging immigrants to stay until the end of the war.

Visit Ukraine

Tour days are 3-4 hours long but can be extended, depending on requests. According to the company, the proceeds from the sale of all tickets go to support war refugees.

Oleksii Vlasenko, 32, a Kyiv-based tour operator, told CNN he went on one of the trips in July, visiting several affected cities. He said that although he did not see any accidents during the trip, there were natural hazards.

“Of course it’s still a problem, even as the war continues, but I think it’s different now,” he said. “People want to go to see the destruction after the war. I don’t recommend the trip to women and children, but to young men, why?

“In Kyiv, Lviv, Bucha, Irpin, life is normal now, even though rockets are fired every day, there are no Russian soldiers.”

Among the tours offered is a collection called “Brave Cities,” which takes in places like “strong and invincible Bucha and Irpin” — two places near Kyiv that have been persecuted by Russia in the first days of the invasion.

The scenes read like a look at some of the worst themes of the conflict, including trips to bombed-out settlements and damaged cultural properties.

Other city tours are “Continuous and challenging Sumy,” “Kyiv In One Day,” “Sightseeing Tour of Lviv” and “Odesa – a Pearl by the Sea.”

Some areas such as Mariupol and Mykolaiv, which are under Russian control or under constant attack from Russian forces, have no travel restrictions.

But Taraneko is confident that he will be inviting guests there next year, he thinks, after the war is over.

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