Thousands of visitors at this year’s New York Times Travel Show had the opportunity to learn about Ukraine as a thrilling tourist destination with the help of the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation’s (USUF) Travel to Ukraine initiative.  The Foundation organized a booth at the exhibition featuring the Vacanture Ukraine travel company, the Agency of Regional Development of Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast, which includes the magnificent and magical Carpathian Mountains, and Ukraine International Airlines.

The event was held January 25-27 at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City.  This was the third year in a row that USUF has organized a Ukraine booth at the show, considered the largest and most prestigious annual travel exhibition in the Unites States.

The U.S.-Ukraine Foundation has long seen travel and tourism as a relatively straightforward way to boost Ukraine’s economy as well as its image on the world stage.

An exhibition visitor at the Travel to Ukraine booth discusses travel options with Olga Sansone (L) and Iryna Dudynska, representatives of Vacanture Ukraine. (Credit: Adrian Karmazyn)

Regarding her company’s decision to join USUF’s Travel to Ukraine booth (#478) at the New York event, Iryna Dudynska of the Kyiv office of Vacanture said that “the goal of our participation in the show was to raise awareness about Ukraine and, naturally, to increase the number of visitors to our country” adding that “it was especially gratifying to see the enthusiastic interest in Ukraine.” Many of those who stopped by the stand have roots in Ukraine, she noted.

Another Ukrainian newcomer to the New York Times Travel Show this year was the Agency of Regional Development of Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast.  The region is famous for its beautiful mountain ranges and authentic hutsul folk art and culture. Representing the agency at the show was Mariana Zaklinska.  Speaking about her group’s mission, she said: “The main messages which we wanted to convey to exhibit visitors were that Frankivsk is not a little spot on a map of the world, not a place on the margins, but a land with well-preserved, colorful character, genuine traditions, pristine nature, where its safe and peaceful, like home.  The Frankivsk region is a place where you don’t need to rush, where you relax and take in the strength and energy of the Carpathian Mountains.”

Mariana Zaklinska tells a visitor about the Carpathian Mountain region of Ukraine at the Travel to Ukraine booth. (Credit: Adrian Karmazyn)

Ms. Zaklinska characterized her organization’s participation as a success: “Our goal was to create a positive image of the region, create a brand and recognizability—and for this we needed to be seen and heard.  I think we fulfilled the goals we set for ourselves.”  Viktor Vintonyak, a philanthropist from Ivano-Frankivsk, spearheaded efforts to have his region represented within USUF’s Travel to Ukraine booth.

What types of questions did visitors ask when they stopped by our booth?  Ms. Dudynska of Vacanture said they most often asked about the currency of Ukraine, the most interesting places to visit, the optimal length of a tour, the best time to visit, the languages spoken in Ukraine, travel safety and the availability of direct flights.

John Kun (Vice President, USUF) and Lida Beskrestnova (Ukraine International Airlines). Photo by Adrian Karmazyn.

At the Travel to Ukraine booth Ukraine International Airlines was promoting an airfare sale on its nonstop flights from New York to Kyiv.

Ukrainian participation in the NYT Travel Show garnered positive coverage by Holos Ukrayiny and Ukrinform, including  photos of exhibitors dressed in vyshyvanky – colorful traditional Ukrainian embroidered costumes. For a USUF photo album of the 2019 travel show see Travel to Ukraine’s Facebook page.

Besides Iryna Dudynska and Mariana Zaklinska the other participants of our booth were: Olga Sansone and Sophia Brongniart of Vacanture Ukraine and Gregory Truman, Teddy Ganzarski, Anna Shyrolapova and Lida Beskrestnova of Ukraine International Airlines. In previous years (January 2017 and January 2018) USUF partnered with the tourism offices of Kyiv and Lviv, Cobblestone Freeway Tours, JC Travel and Chornobyl Tours.  Most of them were also present at this year’s exhibition.

On the sidelines of the show, this writer attended a Global Ukrainians Forum hosted by Razom for Ukraine where USUF had the opportunity to share information about its Travel to Ukraine efforts, as well as its Biotechnology Initiative.

Razom for Ukraine and Global Ukrainians, two NGOs that were “born with the Maidan,” conducted a forum in NYC to discuss assistance for Ukraine and enhancing networking among supporters of Ukraine. (Credit: Razom).

USUF recently revamped its TraveltoUkraine.org website and we invite you to check it out.

See you in Ukraine!

Adrian Karmazyn is a Special Advisor for Strategic Communications and Development at the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation.  He also serves as Vice Chair of the Friends of Ukraine Network Democracy and Civil Society Task Force, a USUF initiative.

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