Sunday 9th of August 2020, 19:53 CET
Tourism experts explore Crimea
August 31, 2003

Written by Noi Mahoney
Posted by HW on August 8, 2020

On a mission for the United States government, two Annapolis tourism professionals traveled last week to an Eastern European nation hoping to ignite an economic resurgence.

Melanie Suggs, former president of the Annapolis and Anne Arundel County Conference and Visitors Bureau, Clare Vanderbeek, marketing director for the CVB, spent a week tutoring locals in the Crimean Tatar region of Ukraine along the Black Sea.

Tourist opportunities
Crimea, crowded with a rich cultural history, as well as cobblestone streets, dusty dirt roads and centuries-old buildings, is a region ripe for tourist opportunities, according to Ms. Suggs.

"The trip was part of a (U.S. State Department) program on how to create a sustainable tourism industry as a method of economic recovery," she said. "(The Crimean Tatars) are building a country, everything from scratch - jobs, schools and democracy."

Tourism and community building
The weeklong consulting trip was part of a program called "Tourism and Community Building in the Ukraine" created by the Institute for Democracy in Eastern Europe in Washington. The institute is sponsored by the Education and Cultural Exchanges Bureau of the State Department.

"Melanie and Clare met with community leaders in Crimea interested in building tourism as their community center," said Eric Chenowith, co-director of the Institute for Democracy in Eastern Europe. "With all of the (Muslim) mosques and the natural beauty of the land, there is a lot of tourism potential."

After a 20-hour plane trip that took them through four airports, Ms. Suggs and Ms. Vanderbeek eventually traveled through Sudak and Yevpatoriya on the Black Sea and the inland town of Bakhchisarai to conduct their tourist and marketing workshops.

Crimean Tatars
The Crimean Tatars they tutored are Turkic people who inhabit the peninsula, a part of Ukraine.

In 1783 Crimea was annexed by Russia. During World War II, the region's inhabitants were accused of being Nazi collaborators by Joseph Stalin and deported en masse to Central Asia and other lands of the Soviet Union.

Today, more than 250,000 Crimean Tatars are back in their homeland, struggling to re-establish themselves culturally and economically, Mr. Chenowith said.

Tourism industry
In contrast to Anne Arundel County's $2.4 billion-a-year tourism industry, parts of Crimea still resemble medieval times.

"There's no big industry," Mr. Chenowith said. "Tourism is the main hope."

"Beautiful but undeveloped"
Ms. Vanderbeek said the country was spectacularly beautiful but almost completely undeveloped in terms of infrastructure, roads, telephone lines and modern plumbing.

"Their strengths are their castles, the Black Sea, their history and culture," she said."Their weaknesses right now are the infrastructure and the language barrier."

Marketing tools
Attended by locals in each of the towns, she and Ms. Suggs shared the marketing tools and organizational methods they've used in promoting Annapolis and the county.

"We taught them how to build a brochure, how to be colleagues in an association, how to put checks and balances in place for that organization," Ms. Suggs said.

Like Annapolis residents, Ms. Suggs said, the Crimean Tatars are also proud of their history and heritage, which includes descendants of Genghis Khan, the famous Mongol warlord of the 13th century.

"They really want to educate people about Crimean culture and explain to us who they are," she said.

Although their schedule was packed with seminars and meetings, Ms. Suggs and Ms. Vanderbeek also found time to travel around Crimea and compare it to Annapolis.

"We always think Annapolis is old, and it is, for an American city," Ms. Suggs said. "But while we were in Yevpatoriya, they were having a celebration to commemorate their 2,500th anniversary as a city."
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