The Chinese market has enough money to strengthen the Ukrainian economy

In order to strengthen its own economy, Ukraine needs to look for new markets. One of the potential areas is the tourist and investment market of China. Unfortunately, so far Ukraine has not established strong enough ties with the Celestial Empire.

In 2016, 122 million Chinese people traveled the world. However only 20 thousand of them reached Ukraine

Technically, Ukraine is a participant in the global project for the development of the new Silk Road, “One Belt – One Way,” which opens up many opportunities for investment. Just think about the following fact – in the next three years $ 8.7 billion will be allocated for the needs of the participating developing countries. Altogether three trillion dollars will be invested in the Silk Road project by 2030. This year the PRC will additionally send another 14.5 billion to the Project Fund.

However, Ukraine’s cooperation with the PRC today cannot be called proactive. While the whole world is fighting for Chinese investors and tourists, Ukraine has not yet systematically worked on this.

On the one hand, President Petro Poroshenko expressed to Premier Xi Jinping in Davos the aspiration of Ukraine to actively participate in the implementation of the China One Belt – One Way initiative. On the other hand, when in May this year the government of the People’s Republic of China organized a huge forum of the heads of all the states participating in the “Silk Road”, Ukraine was represented at the level of the deputy prime minister. While this can be explained by the foreign policy course of Ukraine aimed at Euro-Atlantic integration and the fact that Putin attended the forum, we still need to activate the relationship with the superpower as soon as possible in order to open new opportunities for Ukrainian business. After all, we are talking about potential billions of investments and a million tourist flow.

For example, last year 122 million Chinese people traveled the world. At the same time, only a little over 20 thousand Chinese visited Ukraine. That is, less than 0.02% of the total external flow of Chinese tourists. But we understand that even those 20 thousand visitors came to Ukraine not only with a tourist purpose. It turns out, the amount of tourists is even lesser. By contrast, last year Ukraine was visited by more than 4 million Moldovans…

Why is that so? The fact is that no one is systematically working on increasing the tourist flow from China. At the same time, given the fact that the Chinese spent 260 billion dollars while traveling during the last year alone, it becomes clear how much money the Ukrainian economy is failing to  receive.

Why aren’t Chinese going to Ukraine?

First of all, the Chinese know absolutely nothing about our country. I felt it during meetings with the largest tour operators in China. They were not even asking about the military conflict with Russia, because for them Ukraine is generally a “gray spot”, “terra incognita”. Perhaps they heard something about Chornobyl, sometimes they heard that it was the former part of the Soviet Union, they know Chinese film “How the Steel Was Tempered”, which was shot in Ukraine, or something else.

It should be taken into account that information about significant European events that took place in Ukraine – for example Euro 2012 or Eurovision – often does not reach China, because it is another part of the world with its own culture, its own social networks. Therefore, we need to provide the Chinese with information about Ukraine, to make them interested. It would be expedient to conduct information tours for businessmen, tour operators, journalists – just like this has been done for a long time by other European countries.

The second reason is that it is difficult for Chinese people to enter Ukraine. Today, it is sometimes easier and cheaper for Chinese citizens to open the Schengen visa than the Ukrainian one. Certain steps to facilitate the receipt of the Ukrainian visa have already been done: the terms for obtaining the visa have been shortened from 15 working days to 5, the fee has been reduced from $125 to $65, now the visa can be obtained upon arrival at three airports in Ukraine. But this is not enough.

We will bring the largest Chinese tour operators to Ukraine

In May, together with a delegation of powerful Ukrainian tour operators who would like to bring groups of Chinese tourists to Ukraine, I went to Beijing and Shanghai to introduce the Ukrainian tourist product. It is noteworthy that so far such a work has not been done at a systematic level. In 2013, a memorandum on the admission of tourist groups was signed with China, but this is where the cooperation ended. We made an attempt to revive this memorandum and proposed an interesting tourist product.

But this is just the beginning. On June 12 we bring to Ukraine the largest tour operators from China, to whom we are going to demonstrate our country. It will be several cities – Odesa, Lviv, Rivne, Zhytomyr, Kyiv. We will pay visits to objects that are interesting to the Chinese tourists. We are talking about industrial tourism, Chornobyl, aviation museums, military museums, etc. After all, the Chinese people are interested in the USSR heritage, the medical industry, ecology, because they have no such a clean ecology.

How to attract tourists from China?

In addition, I sent my proposals regarding the attraction of Chinese tourists to Ukraine to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. We are talking, in particular, about development of a simplified mechanism for obtaining visas for organized groups of Chinese tourists. The Chinese are traveling in groups, and this is very convenient, since having twenty groups, for example, the tour operator has full flights and hotels.

By the way, fifty countries have already canceled visas for China. They understand it is more profitable to cancel visas even unilaterally, but at the same time to attract investments into the economy: today the Chinese tourist spends the most among all the others.

In Ukraine we still have visa regime with China. To obtain the Ukrainian visa a year ago it was necessary to collect a huge pile of documents and pay $125. A year was spent on facilitating this process, and in the end the Cabinet adopted a resolution according to which the terms of obtaining the visa decreased from 15 working days to 5, and the cost – to $65. In addition, now the airports “Borispol”, “Zhulyany” and “Odessa” have a consular department, where Chinese citizens can obtain the visa upon arrival. This has made the tourist flow slightly bigger, but it is still rather low.

In my opinion, it is necessary to cancel the need to obtain the Ukrainian visa for those citizens of the PRC who have the Schengen visa. Or as an option – to provide them with the opportunity to stay in Ukraine for up to six days without the Ukrainian visa (if they have the Schengen one).

When I returned to Ukraine, I saw that 70% of the passengers of the plane were Chinese flying via Kyiv to Europe. That is, they did not leave the airport in Kyiv and did not stop in Ukraine because of the absence of the Ukrainian visa. They had the Schengen visa and they took planes to Europe. When I talked to air carriers, it turned out that this is a typical situation, and 70%-80% of the Chinese fly through Ukraine never staying in the country, which is why we lose money.

If we already have such a flow of transit Chinese tourists, and they have the Schengen visa, that is, they have already made it past a filter and Europe lets them in, why then Ukraine, even in the context of European integration, cannot provide these people with the opportunity to stay in the territory of Ukraine for six days?

People will get acquainted with our attractive country, and this information will then spread through the word of mouth – they will be telling about Ukraine, which is “almost like Europe, but much more accessible”.

It is also necessary to translate into Chinese the online questionnaires for issuing the Ukrainian visa directly upon arrival at the international airport “Borispol”, “Kyiv”, “Odessa”.

Back in Ukraine after the trip to China I paid attention to how the process of issuing the Ukrainian visa to Chinese citizens upon arrival was taking place. A large queue of almost twenty people formed, and each visa was issued for about half an hour.

When I asked how this process could be speeded up, I was told that there are online questionnaires, and if the people had filled them in at once, everything could have been much faster. However, when clarified why they do not fill out the online documents, I heard the answer, “Because they are only provided in English.” It should be taken into account that 70% of Chinese citizens do not know English.

If we are going to discover this huge part of the planet, we need to train Ukrainian specialists

In addition, there is a necessary to start working with higher education institutions that train specialists in the Chinese language so that students choose their profession as guides and translators. Why? Even if we now increase the flow of tourists three times, we will only be able to find around ten good Chinese guides in the whole country if we are fortunate enough.

If we are going to discover this huge part of the planet, we need to train Ukrainian specialists who would stay here and earn here. In fact, the Chinese market already has enough money to strengthen the Ukrainian economy.

Anna Romanova


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