Crimea During the Great War. Part 2. Extreme Tourism or «New Types of Tourism» and Tourist Numbers (2)

The Monitoring Group of BlackSeaNews and the Black Sea Institute of Strategic Studies

This report is a logical continuation of the authors’ previous works published in 2021, 2020, 2019 and 2018 (see the Crimean Library section of the website). For Part 1 of the report, click here: Crimea During the Great War. The Situation in the Occupied Crimea in 2022-2023. Military Context (1).

Crimea During the Great War. Warfare and «New Types of Tourism» (2)

2.1. High Holiday Season or the Extreme «War Zone Tourism»

One doesn't need to be a tourist industry professional to comprehend its fundamental incompatibility with military operations.

So, to understand the realities of Crimea’s 2023 tourist season, it’s enough to read the list of unmanned air and sea drone attack on Crimean military targets between June 1-July 30, 2023, and look at the tourist instructions* on passing the Kerch Bridge inspections (below).

*In reality, the number of such cases may be much higher, as official Russian sources always downplay the consequences.

04.06.2023. Dzhankoy. An attack by 9 UAVs. Officially reported that 5 UAVs had been shot down, while the other 4 — suppressed by electronic warfare. 

07.06.2023. Crimea, east. Officially reported the jamming and grounding of 1 UAV.

Picture 1. How to prepare for crossing the Crimean Bridge?

10.06.2023. Simferopol. 2 explosions in the railway station area due to a missile attack. Officially reported that Russian air defense shot down two ballistic missiles launched by a Ukrainian Grom-2.

11.06.2023. Black Sea. A surface drone attack on the Russian Black Sea Fleet reconnaissance ship Priazovye 300 km from Sevastopol, about 200 km from the Bosphorus.  

11.06.2023. Kirovsky district north of Feodosia. An explosion blew up a railroad track in front of a freight train. Train traffic in the area was subsequently stopped. The Kerch-Dzhankoy railroad runs through the area and then on to Simferopol, Sevastopol, and the Kherson region.

15.06.2023. Krasnohvardiiske district. An attack by 9 UAVs. Officially reported that 6 UAVs had been shot down by Russian air defense, while 3 — suppressed by electronic warfare. One drone detonated in the Krasnohvardiiyske district, Dokuchayevo village.

Picture 2. Drivers carrying lots of luggage go through the stationary checking point. Cars without luggage go through the manual checkpoint.
! Try to bring with you no more than a couple of bags, as it will considerably speed up the checking process. Follow the directions of the controller who will direct you to the respective lane depending on the amount of luggage and personal things.
Stationary checkpoint; Manual checkpoint; Please, familiarize yourself with the Hot Weather Rules

18.06.2023. Krasnoperekopsk district. The sounds of explosions, machine gun or automatic rifle bursts. A helicopter circled over Krasnoperekopsk for 15 minutes in the area of the North Crimean Canal, probably hunting for a Ukrainian UAV.

19.06.2023. Crimea, north. An attack by 2 UAVs. Officially reported that they’d been downed by air defense.

20.06.2023. Dzhankoy. 3 explosions and missile sounds. Officially reported that 1 UAV had been downed.

21.06.2023. Sevastopol. 2 powerful explosions in the evening, after which a «large object» fell into the sea at a distance of about 1.5 km from the shore on the Victory Park traverse. 

21.06.2023. Feodosia. Damage to the railroad track «as a result of interference by unauthorized persons.» Two suburban trains running from Feodosia to Vladyslavivka were subsequently delayed for two hours.

Picture 3. Crossing the Kerch Bridge is open to passenger cars (per license) and buses. Crossing of the freight vehicles is forbidden

22.06.2023. Dzhankoy district of Crimea/Genichesk district of Kherson region. A missile attack — possible by Storm Shadow — on the Chongar bridge across the Sivash.

Vehicular traffic on the bridge was subsequently stopped and detour via Armyansk enforced. The nearby railroad bridge remained undamaged.

23.06.2023. Razdolnensky district. At night, an explosion, likely by Russian air defense, and the sound of a UAV was heard over the village of Kumovo.

24.06.2023. Feodosia. A local resident reported 3 explosions, no official comment.

24.06.2023. Crimea, Armyansk. 3:15 — 5 loud explosions heard, no official comment.

24.06.2023. Simferopol district, the Gvardeyskoye (military airfield) area. 2 explosions, no official comment.

Picture 4. How to prepare for the checkpoint inspection at the Kerch Bridge entrance?

25.06.2023. Sevastopol. 7:10 — a powerful explosion that shook the windows and set the car alarms, no official comment.

26.06.2023. Military fuel and lubricant depots caught fire near the villages of Tokarevo and Shubyne, Kirovsk district.

09.07.2023. Kerch Bridge. A cruise missile strike and several air defense explosions. Officially reported that at around 12.00 in the Kerch area, air defense allegedly had shot down a cruise missile and that there had been no damage to the bridge. Meanwhile, the Kerch Bridge was subsequently briefly closed to civilian traffic in both directions.

16.07.2023. Sevastopol. An attack by 8 UAVs and 2 surface drones that lasted from 4:20 to 11:00 a.m. in the area of Cape Khersones, the main bay and Balaklava.

Picture 5. What to do? Pack your belongings so that they could be promptly and easily placed on the conveyor belt. Do not leave loose items in your car. That will speed up the inspection! Vehicles with lots of luggage are directed to the slower line for the scanner!

According to Russian assessment, 1 UAV had been shot down over the sea and on the approach to the bays, while 5 others — jammed by electronic warfare. Another UAV was shot down near Cape Manganari separating Komysheva and Kozacha bays. Also, 2 surface drones were destroyed on an external raid. 

17.07.2023. Kerch Bridge. An attack, possibly by surface drones with explosives, at around 3:20 a.m. One of the spans of the bridge’s highway part near the 145th pillar was destroyed. Rail and road traffic on the bridge, as well as the ferry service, were subsequently suspended. Everyone traveling between Russia and Crimea was advised to do so via the occupied areas of Azov Sea region. The Russian Ministry of Transport stated that one of the bridge spans had sagged, but that the supports remained intact. The railroad track also survived the attack.

18.07.2023. Crimea, east. Massive attack by 28 UAVs. Officially reported in Crimea that air defense systems had shot down 9 UAVs, while 19 had been intercepted by electronic warfare. Meanwhile, the Russian Ministry of Defense reported that air defense had destroyed 17 Ukrainian drones, while another 11 had been intercepted.

Picture 6. Follow the rules! Cars must drive in the left lane. The right lane is designated for the buses, emergency services coordinating the line and volunteers. Drivers passing the traffic in the right lane will be stopped and placed in the end of the line. Car traffic is regulated by the Road Police staff.

18.07.2023. Razdolnoye. At about 02:30 am, 2 powerful explosions in a military unit, probably due to a missile or drone strike. The incident wasn’t included in the Russian Defense Ministry’s official report of 28 UAV attack.

A week later, Ukrainian sources reported that after the two attacks at the military unit in Rozdolne on 18.07 and 20.07, some equipment and personnel had been deployed behind the village of Botanichne, while other — behind the village of Kumove on the bay shore.

According to the reports, S300 or S400 missiles were being transported by tractor-trailers right through the village.

19.07.2023. Kirovsk district, the village of Krynychky. Around 4 a.m., a large-scale fire and ammunition detonation at the Starokrymsk training ground.

Picture 7. What should the driver do in case of the alarm signal on the Crimean Bridge?

As a result, the Tavrida highway was blocked with a detour enforced, and the evacuation of more than two thousand civilians from four settlements announced.

The warehouses had been used to store ammunition and train the 56th Air Assault Regiment that had been stationed in Feodosia since December 1, 2021. The fire lasted for more than a day.

20.07.2023. Razdolnensky district. A UAV strike. According to official reports, 4 administrative buildings in one of the settlements had been damaged as a result. The village of Razdolnoye declared a municipal emergency.

20.07.2023. According to official reports, Russian air defense had shot down a UAV in central Crimea.

22.07.2023. Krasnohvardiiyske district, Oktyabrske village. A UAV or Storm Shadow missile attack. Officially reported that the UAV attack had caused detonation at an ammunition depot. The population within a 5 km radius was subsequently evacuated.

Picture 8. If you are in line for the inspection: Do not panic. If you or your passengers have left the car, return to it. Follow the instructions of the transport security staff who will direct you to the safe place

As a result, traffic on the Crimean railroad was suspended for 5 hours. The Ukrainian side confirmed the strike on the warehouses and oil depot in Oktyabrske. The village is the site of a military airfield and also used for military equipment deployment.

24.07.2023. Crimea, north. A strike on military facilities of the Russian Armed Forces. While the Ukrainian sources reported that Crimea had been struck with 4 cruise missiles, probably Storm Shadow, the Crimean «authorities» — reported an attack by 11 drones, and the Russian Defense Ministry — 17 drones, 11 of which allegedly fell in the Black Sea.

Ukrainian sources reported a hit at an ammunition depot in the village of Vilne, Dzhankoy district — the storage site of the Oniks missiles used to shell Odesa — as well as three hits near a former military airfield.

The Russian side confirmed the fact that an ammunition depot in the Dzhankoy district had been hit. Railroad traffic in the area was subsequently suspended for two hours, while the Dzhankoy-Simferopol highway — for one hour. The population within 5 km of the warehouse was evacuated.

Picture 9. If you are going through the inspection. Do not panic. Pack all the things presented for the inspection back into the car. Make sure that all of your passengers get back into the car. Follow the instructions of the transport security staff who till direct you to the safe place

25.07.2023. Krasnohvardiiyske district. Attack by a UAV or 2 Storm Shadow missiles. Two missiles were recorded hitting an abandoned farm with Russian military equipment in the village of Krasna Polyana. As a result of the missile strike on the farm, the Russian repair battalion was significantly damaged.

25.07.2023. Nizhnohirsk district, Kostochkivka village. Russian sources reported finding a Mugin 5 Pro UAV with explosives in the field.

25.07.2023. The Russian Ministry of Defense reported a night attack by two unmanned boats (marine drones) on the BSF patrol ship Sergei Kotov that had been performing a «navigation control» mission in the southwestern part of the Black Sea, 370 kilometers from Sevastopol, 130 kilometers from the Bosphorus.

26.07.2023. Sevastopol. At 10.20 a.m., residents of Balaklava heard sounds of missile launches and air defense operations that lasted until 11.00 a.m. It was also reported that Russian air defense was operating in the area of Kazachya Bay.

Picture 10. If you are already driving across the bridge. Do not panic. When hearing the alarm, follow the instructions of the loudspeaker system. Do not stop, make dangerous maneuvers or leave the car. Observe the speed limit and follow the exit off the Crimea Bridge

27.07.2023. Krasnohvardiiyske district. An air defense system fired at an unknown air target.

27.07.2023. Saki district. A UAV — possibly Muglin-5 Pro — wreckage washed up on the beach near the village of Shtormove. The site was immediately surrounded by Russian security forces.

28.07.2023. Dzhankoy district. The UAV — possibly Muglin-5 Pro — wreckage was found near the railway track on the 9th km of the Dzhankoy-Bohemka stretch, one kilometer from the village of Kalynivka, Dzhankoy district. 

28.07.2023. Sevastopol. At about 22:00, a military ammunition depot in Kozacha Bay in Sevastopol blew up due to sabotage. 

29.07.2023. Dzhankoy district of Crimea/Genichesk district of Kherson region. A 05:15 a.m. missile attack on the Chongar bridge, probably with Storm Shadow. As a result, the railroad track was damaged, while vehicular traffic across the highway bridge — briefly blocked.

Picture 11. Important! If hear an alarm, do not photo or videotape and do not post it online. Traffic resumption will be given by the transport security staff, announced via a loudspeaker and published in the Telegram channel Crimean Bridge: Actual Info

According to Russian reports, the bridge had been attacked by 12 missiles, all of which had been allegedly shot down by Russian air defense, but «in one area, fragments of foreign weapons have slightly damaged the trackman's booth and the contact line.» The repair of the damage took almost 10 hours.

30.07.2023. Western Crimea. In the morning, the Russian Defense Ministry reported repelling a night attack by 25 Ukrainian UAVs with 16 of them destroyed by air defense fire and 9 — jammed by electronic warfare, causing them to drown near Cape Tarkhankut.

Later, the number of attacks on military facilities and logistics hubs in the occupied peninsula continued to increase.

The distribution of drone and missile attacks on military facilities and infrastructure in the occupied Crimea between June 1-July 30, 2023 is shown on the map below:

Map base –

Thus, in the first 2 months of the 2023 summer holiday season, Crimea experienced at least 39 drone and missiles attacks on military facilities and infrastructure, with 10 of them directly impacting automobile and rail transportation.

One may note that Crimea’s main resort and tourist region, the Southern Coast, i.e., Greater Yalta and Greater Alushta, are not on the air attack map. That, however, does not mean that Russian tourists feel safe there either...

The height of the tourist season. The central square and promenade of Yalta 31.07.2023, 12:00
The height of the tourist season. The central square and promenade of Yalta 31.07.2023, 23:00

Hence, the professional conclusion of our team’s Crimean tourism experts:

Trying to analyze Crimea's and Russia’s resort and tourism statistics since the occupation, and especially comparing them to the Ukrainian pre-2014 statistics, has long become a matter of non-science fiction and propaganda. And since 2022, it has lost all meaning entirely.

The authors, who besides their professional expertise, are Crimean natives, and thus, have decades of first-hand experience with what embankments and thoroughfares of Crimea’s main resort towns look like during the high season, confidently conclude that in 2023, there is simply no mass tourist flow to Crimea as such.

Moreover, there is every reason to assume that in the coming days, there may be a significant outflow of those tourists who dared to plan a vacation in the occupied Crimea during the war or send their children to the peninsula, automatically turning them into a «human shield».

Reading any Russian media estimates of the tourist flow in Crimea, one should keep in mind that those are part of the state propaganda machine and deliberately inflate the numbers by 2-3 or even 4 times.

The tourist numbers published by the occupation authorities in the years before the start of the Great War on 24.02.2022 — 6-8 and even 9.5 million tourists/year in 2021 — in reality, were the numbers of total passenger traffic.

I.e., they simply count all those entering the peninsula, including the surplus population of about 1.0 million people, including the military and their families, who moved to Crimea from Russia after the occupation in 2014 and travel to and return from Russia several times a year. The number of overnight stays in tourist facilities is not published.

Due to the occupation and the Great War, tourist logistics in Crimea have radically changed and continue doing so:

Before the occupation, in the 2000s, Crimea’s stable long-term ratio of tourist transport flows were as follows: 67% by rail, 20% by car, and 13% by air;

According to the occupation «government of Crimea,» in 2015-2017, 45% of the total number of visitors to Crimea arrived by air, 41% by ferry, and 14% by car;

After the Kerch Strait bridge opened its highway part on May 15, 2018, railway part for passenger transport — on December 25, 2019, and for freight transport — on June 30, 2020, the logistics indicators have changed even more. Specifically, in 2020, 70% of people came to the occupied Crimea by road, 25% by air, and 5% by rail;

Since the outbreak of the Great War, with the only Crimean airport in Simferopol having stopped operation and the Kerch bridge having been repeatedly attacked and damaged, the air inflow of tourists ceased to exist, while the use of the Kerch bridge became very risky...

It should be noted here, that the system of reporting the number of tourists is a Soviet statistical legacy. In those days, the indicator was based on the amount of all bread sold in the peninsula — an approach made possible due to all bread being produced by state-owned enterprises, typically, 1-2 factories in each city. So, at the time, the estimate made sense.

But since in the post-Soviet times, bread is produced by a huge number of private bakeries, such statistics has stopped making any sense.

In 2010-2013, the Crimean tourism industry began to transition to calculating the volume of tourist flow through the internationally accepted indicator of the number of overnight stays. But it hadn’t been completed before the occupation.

Under the circumstances, it’s possible to estimate the real number of tourists mainly through the average length of stay in the peninsula:

• in the 1980s, with tourism peaking at 8.3 million people in 1988, the average length of stay of one tourist in Crimea was 20-24 days, which in the USSR corresponded to the standard annual vacation length

• in the 2000s, the average length of a tourist stay in Crimea dropped to 10-14 days, which corresponded to the new labor market trends

• during the years of occupation of Crimea, according to local statistics, the figure dropped to 7 days. 

• for example, the occupation authorities of Crimea reported that in 2019, Crimea received 7.43 million people. Considering the 7 day average length of stay, the real number of tourists compared to the statistics of the 1980s — 8 million with a 20-24 day average length of stay — can be estimated at about 2-2.5 million people.

• The real Crimean tourist flow volume before the Great War was up to 2.5 million people a year, which is 2-2.5 times less than the estimated number of tourists before the occupation — 5-6 million people/10-14 days — and 3.2 times less than in Soviet times — 8 million/20-24 days.

The real tourist flow volume to the occupied peninsula in 2022 can be estimated at up to 1.5 million people, and in the current 2023, according to available data on the drop in bookings — at up to 1 million people per year, provided that the 2023 season will continue to be an extreme «war zone tourism» it is now.

To be continued.... In the next part: The Peculiarities of the 2023 Crimean Holiday Season — the «Tourism» in Camouflage.

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This article has been prepared with the support of the «Europe and the World» of the International Renaissance Foundation. The content of the article is the sole responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily reflect the position of the International Renaissance Foundation.