Investment, Tourists Pour Into Ski Resorts

IVANO-FRANKIVSK, Ukraine -- An influx of tourists eager to ski in Ukraine’s Carpathian Mountains is fueling investment into the region like never before.

Carpathian Mountains Ski Resort

Standards for comfort and capacity remain low compared to ski resorts elsewhere in Europe, but tens of millions of dollars have been invested in the region in recent years, expanding in the wake of increasing numbers of tourists from across Ukraine, Russia and elsewhere.

Volodymyr Tsaruk, director of tourist information at the state-owned National Tourist Organization, said that investments into Ukrainian tourism have grown forty-fold since 2000, totaling Hr 2 billion ($400 million) in 2005.

Tsaruk said that 63 percent of investments in the resorts have come from private sources, the rest from direct foreign and Ukrainian investors and local state institutions. The bulk of the money has arrived in just the past three years, Tsaruk said, adding that much more money and tourists are expected in the years to come.

“This winter the number of foreign tourists coming to the Carpathians increased by more than 10 percent compared to last year,” Tsaruk said adding that most of the foreign tourists are coming from Russia.

Resorts in the Carpathians were booked during the Christmass and New Years period. Tsaruk said that official figures show that up to 150,000 tourists visited the region during this period, but the real number could be much higher as many opted to rent rooms from villagers and were not accounted for.

The largest investment has clearly been flowing into the Bukovel resort, in the Ivano-Frankivsk region. The founder of the resort, Skorzonera, registered in town of Yaremche in the same region, has already invested $52 million in Bukovel since 2001.

Now Skorzonera plans to invest even more in the complex. Like the earlier round of development, the investment will be made with the firm’s own funds and credit from Dnipropetrovsk-based Privatbank. Ukrainian News reported Feb. 2 that some $100 million will be invested, though the company representatives refused to give any exact figures.

In 2005 Skorzonera invested only half of a planned $80 million due to a problem the company had with local authorities on the leasing of additional land that the project required.

The development plan for Bukovel in the next five years is to transform the resort into a European-styled recreation and health center. The plan envisions the construction of additional hotels and cottages to accommodate up to 20,000 people, completing a full entertainment and sports infrastructure, constructing 26 chairlifts able to carry up to 25,000 people at the same time and developing 116 kilometers of fully-equipped ski runs.

The complex currently accommodates a mere 300 people, has seven chairlifts able to give service to 8,000 people simultaneously and has 20 km of ski runs.

Skorzonera has also invested in the reconstruction of roads leading to the site.

Officials said that the Yaremche region serviced two and a half times more tourists during this winter than in previous years. Last winter alone saw 190,000 tourists visiting Bukovel, while the combined Yaremche area hosted 300,000 people. This year Yaremche authorities expect half a million tourists to come, and Bukovel officials say that a large part of them will visit their resort.

According to Ivano-Frankivsk based Carpathian Tourist Board almost 332,000 tourists visited Ivano-Frankivsk region in 2004. The amount of tourists visiting the region has almost doubled during the past twelve months.

Bukovel differs when compared with other big resorts in the Carpathian Mountains as it is backed by strategic investors who have pumped tens of millions of dollars into financing construction of western-styled accommodations and basic infrastructure needs such as roads. Skorzonera representatives said their resort will in coming years attract an increasing amount of middle-sized business travelers, green tourists and others.

“This is the way many European skiing complexes developed,” said Skorzonera’s director, Oleksandr Shevchenko.

According to Ukrainian News, Skorzonera was registered in 2000, and founded by Maveks Ltd, based in Lutsk, and Halychyna Tsukor Ltd, based in Halych, a town also in the Ivano-Frankivsk region.

Local officials said investors are eyeing the possibility of building a brand new Bukovel-like ski resort at Dzembronia Mountain, also in the Ivano-Frankivsk region.

Other developing resorts

Other Carpathian skiing resorts are also flooded with larger waves of tourists, but backed with less investment leaving them trailing behind in terms of accommodations, yet smaller private investments are in the works across the mountain range.

Roman Nazarovets, director of the tourist association in Slavske, Lviv oblast, said the popular ski resort in his town is expecting a facelift and new investment. Nazarovets, who also serves as board director of Hotel Perlyna Karpat, a mini resort in the village, that a new Austrian-type lift capable of carrying 1,200 people per hour, was constructed on the highest of the five Slavske Mountains, Trostyan. It has helped to shorten lines, he added.

Meanwhile, a new ski mountain has been constructed just a few kilometers from Slavske called Vysoky Verkh, on the edge of Volosyanka village.

A 2,800-meter-long chairlift was built with the capacity to move 500 people per hour. The project cost Ukrainian investors about $3 million, though technical problems linked to the installation of the lifts has kept this resort largely closed this year, he added.

Three new hotels and fifty private-sector homes open to tourists were built last year in Slavske, he said adding that a small bowling alley, entertainment and sport facility was also built.

Currently, Slavske has about 28 medium-sized hotel complexes and 200 private country houses which can accommodate around 8,000 people in total. While the lion’s share of tourists visit the Carpathians during the winter season, investors and local tourist businesses are eager to find new niches which will bring more business during warmer periods.

Nazarovets said investment plans in Slavske for the near future include the development of four new lifts costing some $5 million, which will be provided by Ukrainian investors.

“For now, most of the investments projects are being backed by Ukrainian capital,” Nazarovets said adding that the lack of larger funds from private and state sources has left many problems, such as poor road conditions and water supply, unsolved.

Source: Kyiv Post