The city of Yalta, oftentimes referred as a pearl of the Crimean Peninsula, is a famous touristic destination that attracts 2 million visitors on the average each year. Commonly associated with the major World War II conference of the three chief Allied leaders, Yalta and its suburbs is primarily a popular hub of international tourism and recreation, and the largest health resort on the peninsula. Has been growingly attracting large numbers of post-Soviet and international tourists since the second part of the 20th century, it get upon the positive and negative socio-cultural and ecological impacts that bring the tangible changes into the local society.
Yalta - a destination impacted upon by a large number of visitors
Crimean Peninsula is located in the south of Ukraine, endowed with a status of the Autonomous Republic annexed by the Russian Federation in 2014, and washed by the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov. Populated with the less than 100 thousand inhabitants, seaside city of Yalta has a perfect location taking its key cultural and touristic position over the rest of the Crimean cities. According to the rich natural resources the periphery of Yalta is principally famous by its key therapeutic and climatic factors of the nature reserves, exotic mosaic of various religious monuments, and distinguishing architectural heritage.
Jointly it makes Great Yalta the top touristic destination of the Crimean Peninsula being affected by the different impacts. Firstly, ambiguous social impact is seen as a strong dependence of the local people’s employment and profits on the seasonality of touristic flows that greatly increases during the period of early April and late October resulting in unemployment shock during the winter period. Thus, any economic or political fluctuations as the current political crisis make their economic status too vulnerable and dependant on the intensity of the tourist flow.
From the Soviet past Yalta was proclaimed the foremost health center of the USSR, keeping the status among the former Soviet republics until the very day. With the 90% of visitors coming from the former Soviet Republics (64% share only Ukrainians take), which cultural identities and mentalities are capable with the local citizens’. Nevertheless, it creates the other problem - cultural closeness as a facet of cultural affinity.
Ecological impacts nevertheless are strongly negative in terms of the touristic overflow which burdens the natural resources, pollutes the ground and water by the constant infrastructure works, destroys the rare Red Book registered flora and fauna and exceeds with the number of waste the underdeveloped and underfunded local communities has nowhere to accumulate.
Like any of the world touristic destinations Yalta falls under the influence of various socio-cultural factors up to the point when the development of the city, commonwealth of its citizens, and the traditional lifestyles are directly dependent on the interaction with the tourists. Among the most significant socio-cultural impacts are the following:
- Total economic dependence on the touristic flow. BBC writer, Lucy Ash (2014), comments relevantly over the present situation that ‘…tourism is the mainstay of the region's economy’. Positive side – all the city and suburbs infrastructure has a chance to develop, monuments can be reconstructed, modernization plans implemented when there is a stable flow of the tourists, investments, and international cooperation. Negative side - the evident decline in the number of tourists, for example after the annexation, brings the economic stagnation resulting in the overall living standards decline.
Strong employment dependence on tourism status and seasonality. The one of BBC writer’s local interviewees comments over the reunion with Russia: ‘What is there to be glad about if today we see that we have no work?’ (Ash, 2014). His simple notice might be supported by the evidence that Crimea’s employment market is tourism in a point of fact. During the season, Great Yalta residents earn their money for living in advance for the next half of a year as the tourists are the main source of their income. As majority of the tourists from Ex-USSR during the holidays prefer to stay in the private villas, apartments or sanatoriums rather than hotels, the lack of the visitors influences each and every citizen economically dependent on them. Thus, a negative impact is that with a drop in the number of tourists not only the local budget undergoes, but locals’ profits engaged by some means in the touristic sphere too. While tourism focused workers suffer, the other professions might take a chance to find its popularity among graduates who will probably try more to finish higher education and choose non-tourism related job. In the normal conditions, the positive impact is also that urban relocation is avoided as there is always a place to work, which makes people feel secure. Among positive trends the tourism fostering the proud of local Crimean cultural traditions may be named (Krayevska, 2012: 99-101).
- Cultural neutrality. The soft subtropical climate and striking scenery make it one of the main spots among the CIS countries. In 2013, National Geographic rated the peninsula as a one of the top trips of the year naming it in the previous publications ‘… a diamond suspended from the south coast of Ukraine’ (Newman, 2011). However, even known not only by its natural beauty but also as a historical intersection of many cultures starting with the ancient Greeks and Sarmatians and ending with the Muslim populaces of Ottomans and Tatars, Crimea is primarily visited by culturally compatible holidaymakers from the former Soviet Republics. This year Crimea lost its primarily part of Ukrainian visitors with the decline of the Western tourists number, which part was smaller but still had a significant influence considering the higher financial possibilities of the latest. Therefore, as a substitution more Russian tourists will come in the years to follow, making the culture include in oneself with the dominant Russian cultural tradition and religion. Negative: the stronger cultural affiliation is the more racist, xenophobic, and intolerant attitudes against other cultures might occur. It has a particular meaning for Crimea’s heterogeneous society of Russians, Ukrainians and Tatars living the same land for many years.
Negative Ecological Impact
The tourist business has been developing intensively over the last fifty years on the southern coast of the peninsula, making landscapes greatly overloaded with the rigorous transport and infrastructure development. Donbas Technical University Researchers (2013: 62) assured the more tourism flourishes on the southern part of the peninsula, the more ecosystem damages. On a relatively small plot of the land hundreds of sanatoriums, rest homes, water reservoirs, roads were built, sharply increasing the volumes of contaminated waste waters, that, in turn, led to the dreadful conditions of the coastal ecosystems. Forest landscapes had undergone the disastrous effects reducing the rare Red Book registered vegetation ((Bartholomew, 2009: 167). Thus, the main factors of negative impact on the quality of the environment in Yalta, as well as in the whole Crimean peninsula, are anthropogenic pollution of air (especially with the double number of entrant transport means in Yalta during season), surface and ground waters, spa resources, and the accumulation of toxic waste, as well as a poor state of the wastewater treatment plants. The accumulation of waste seems to be a particular environmental problem for Yalta region as for the whole peninsula. The National Energy Security Foundation (‘Crimea: Green territory of Economics’, 2015: 28-30) gives information that over the last 5-7 years some rural areas near Yalta have not been cleaned and the wastes was collected simply on the places, which worsens by the tourists poor education in ecology leaving the garbage on the beaches and putting it in the sea. The major waste problem is the absence of a trash recycling on the peninsula. All the waste is simply stored or burned. While the European countries recycle up to 95% of garbage, Crimea in general proceeds only with 10%. The problem cannot be solved for many years due to the lack of funding and shortage of available land.
Proposals to Control the Negative Impacts
As the negative socio-cultural and ecological impacts were previously discussed, there must be the ways to reduce its harmful effects. At this instant it is turn for Russia to look for ways to minimize the damage to the Crimea’s economy, support the development of the southern coastline of Yalta, and revive exhausted natural resources. First of all, as there is an obvious dependence of the region on the tourists, it is fundamental to stabilize the annual flow of the tourists. After ensuring Crimea the safe place to come some other control measures can be taken:
- Legislation: according the newly adopted resolutions (2015-2017 State Program Resorts and Tourism Development Resolution of the Council of Ministers of Crimean Autonomous Republic (2015)) and the budget planned for the next few years the modernization of the health resort complex is going to take place. It is essential since the condition of the complex is also characterized by the post-Soviet stagnation resulted by the shortage of the state funding. It probably will help to normalize the flow of the Russian visitors used to the better quality services of Turkey and Egypt. Those, in turn, will booster the employment activities of the Great Yalta region.
Legislative measures also predict the reduction of the seasonal dependence of the tourism industry - seasonal fluctuations in numbers of tourists (Information and Analytical Bulletin, 2013: 2-4). As it was mentioned, Yalta is not only the seaside attraction, but also has an impressive historical potential and can develop otherwise sea or health resort in winter period attracting visitors the same as other seaside cities worldwide, completing the local budget to full the year round.
- Self-regulation on a part of legislations: Tourism researchers of the Donbas Technical University (2013: 62) admit that Yalta’s private sector (apartment and cottage rent) in recent years took over 80 percent of the total tourist flow. The state previously had no power over such accommodation services, but Russia is going to regulate this sector starting with the state registration and taxation. Thus, the post-Soviet private sector services can be transformed into the profitable local attraction as it will be classified and relevantly developed following the example of pro-European hotel / hostel or holiday cottages branch style with the qualified and English speaking stuff.
Additionally, the clear and modern accommodation service will also attract more low and high cost international travellers into the region. The popularization and proper international marketing campaigns and practicing the international cultural and sport events in Yalta might be a good resolution for making the region more popular worldwide as a tourist destination but reducing the danger of cultural self-disclosure.
- Legislation, education and self-regulation - to avoid the ecological deterioration is impossible. However, the local people on the behalf of the state can make a significant change as well as the intensification of the ecological organizations to raise the issue in the public. The best way to start is to ecologically educate the population who will treat the natural resources carefully. The voluntary organizing sanitary measures may take place simultaneously with the efforts of tenants, landowners, and citizens to eliminate the hot spots of pollution at their own expense, says Lviv University Researcher of Crimea as tourism destination Natalia Antoniuk (2012: 4). Additionally, the strong state and local program need to be implemented to reduce the pollution in the area creating the recycling plants and modernize the water networks, restoration of the disturbed soil, fixed and effective punishment system for the ecological law-breakers sustained by the appropriate financial support.
Summarizing all the mentioned above, the Southern Coast of the Crimean Peninsula is a naturally and historically rich region with the cultural capital in Yalta has been a favourite touristic destination for CIS visitors for the century. There are many tourism connected problems Yalta faces, but these problems have so many ways for resolution on the legislative, educational and self-regulated levels. While to fight the political circumstances is not that easy, I believe Yalta as the whole peninsula initially requires the fixed tourism and environmental management strategy that would not fight with the consequences but the causes of the negative impact on the environment and socio-cultural sphere.