Everybody, go skiing! To compete with Slovak resorts, Transcarpathia need substantial investments

Late last year the neighboring to Transcarpathia country – Slovakia – significantly liberalized the procedure for issuance of Schengen visas for Ukrainians: now, those who wish to visit the country for tourism, business purpose or to visit relatives can receive long-term multi-visa to the eurozone. Therefore, many travel agencies have started offering lucrative trips to Slovakia.

Visa in addition to a tour

The director of a network travel agency Melita Rishko says that such positive changes caused a stir among tourists, because now, when buying a tour or confirming hotel booking for 3-4 nights, they can receive a Schengen visa for a period of up to five years.

The cost of the bus tour, for example, to Poprad is about 150 euros. This sum includes a three-day stay at the hotel with breakfast and transfers between the resorts – because, in this trip a person can also visit Tatranska Lomnica, Shtrebske Pleso, Zakopane with an opportunity to go skiing in the High and Low Tatras and relax after a busy day in thermal baths.

Another positive side is that you can take skis and snowboards: the buses are equipped with special boxes for their transportation. Tourists say that the service at Slovak resorts is the same as in Bukovel, and prices are much lower: one day of skiing costs 20 euros.

Many Transcarpathians began actively book family week-ends in one of the largest water parks in Europe – "Tatralandia" in Liptovsky Mikulas. They travel there by buses and by their own transport. Because of such a hype, Melita says, many Slovak hotel are "full" until the beginning of March.

Your can select a tour to Slovakia, as well as to any other country, according to your own taste and budget. However, when applying to the consulate, it should be remembered that when deciding on the visa term they pay special attention to the financial situation of the tourists, to the submitted documents and to visa history. If all that is OK, there is a chance to receive a multiple permit to cross the border, not only for the duration of the tour but for a longer period.

Matter of taste

And the Transcarpathian ski resorts are visited mostly by people who have little free time, or those who independently look for cheaper accommodation and catering options. And only for weekends.

Housewife Lyudmyla says that offers of skiing in Slovakia are very tempting, but because of the husband’s tight work schedule they can go to the mountains only on Sundays. To avoid wasting time crossing the borders they have to visit the local resorts, mostly in Kostryno. Here, prices are relatively low: on weekday the ride costs 190 UAH, on weekends – 230. But when you add all the costs of food and the travel, a day of rest costs almost $ 100 for two! 

Newlyweds Lyubov and Robert this year visited the Slovak Tatra Lomnica. They themselves were looking for place to stay, monitored the weather conditions on the slopes with webcams. Although a day of skiing here costs 33 euros, they return 14 euros if you ski only until noon. They say that this resort is very comfortable: on the lifts there are closed cabins in the form of a capsule, with soft heated seats. High security level is evident: under bad weather conditions the slopes are closed, every 100 meters there is a post with an SOS sign, a number and a telephone you can call to and report your location in case of receiving injury.

They do not go to Ukrainian resorts, particularly because of the fact that two years ago, on December 31, they had to spend four hours at 15 meters height waiting for rescuers because of a broken chair lift.

Catching up with the neighbors

It is noticeable, that nowadays Slovakia offers more favorable conditions for recreation at ski resorts than that at home. The "Zamok" asked the head of the Department for European Integration and Tourism and Resorts of the RSA Oleksandr Marchenko how this fact influenced the development of winter tourism in the region.

According to the expert, such popularity of Slovak resorts among Transcarpathians demonstrates that Slovaks are seriously working to attract tourists: they have developed the infrastructure, created comfortable conditions at ski resorts, conducted promotion campaign.

"In terms of infrastructure, we are trying to catch up with the best ski resorts in Europe – O. Marchenko says. – So far, it is not working very well.Although every year considerable funds are invested, but this has not been enough to compete on equal terms with overseas. Transcarpathia need substantial investments."

For example, at one of the most popular resorts in Slovakia there are lifts with cabins that can lift up to 20 people at once. They move on two ropes, providing a higher level of security, holding cabins even in strong winds. You can see the conditions at the resort with web cameras installed on slopes and in buildings. According to the head of the department, such technology should be implemented here. But it takes big money, which they do not have.

"Also, in Transcarpathia there is no proper transport routes from eastern and southern Ukraine.This negatively affects the development of tourism in the region – the official says. – During the preparation for the European Football Championship, all the major traffic flows were redistributed so that they went through the host cities.At the same time, in Transcarpathia they canceled the train route from Kharkiv and several trailer cars to other cities. A person, planning a vacation, decides how to get to their destination, and if it is difficult, with many transfers, they often refuse to go. Members of the regional council have already appealed to the Ministry of Infrastructure to review the transport system. We are waiting for the answer."

Thus, the expert concludes, having advanced ski infrastructure, we do not offer convinient transport system – a Ukrainian tourist from the East can comfortably travel only to Lviv, and to Uzhgorod they must get with transfers. 

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