We’ve posted recently about the difficulty, hassles, and ridiculous expense of obtaining a Russian visa. The process hasn’t really changed much since the Cold War and, in my opinion, deters many potential tourists from visiting Russia. Until recently, visitors to Ukraine had to follow the same antiquated procedure to obtain a visa. But last August, the government dropped the ridiculous requirements and basically threw open their doors to Europeans and Americans.
I’ve been waiting to hear the impact this decision has made and whether, as predicted, it would increase the number of tourists, and more importantly, the amount of euros and dollars they are pumping into the country’s moribund economy during their visit. Well, it took a few months, but the New York Times just ran a short piece on how the newly opened border is indeed positively affecting the Ukrainian border town of Uzhgorod. New cafes and restaurants are opening, hotels are being renovated, and local tourist agencies are giddy with huge increases in business as tourists flow across the borders from Slovakia and Hungary.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the best thing an economically struggling country can ever do is to open its borders to tourism.
Now if only the Russians will take note and follow the lead of their Ukrainian neighbors.