Det indkapslede atomanlæg. Foto af Mick De Paola hos Unsplash

Around 32,000 tourists have visited Chernobyl this year, which is about the same amount as last year. 

Only a few thousand tourists visited the Chernobyl site, which is the largest tourist attraction in Ukraine, last year due to the pandemic, which prevented many from visiting Ukraine for several months. This year, the number of visitors has climbed to 32,000, which is about the same amount as in 2018, but much less than the 124,000 visitors in 2019. 

“We have already managed to get better results than in 2018 when we received 36,000 tourists for the whole year, but we are unlikely to achieve the results of 2019, with 124,000 tourists,” said Kyrylo Harnyk, assistant director of the state enterprise Center for Organizational, Technical and Information Support of the Exclusion Zone Management (COTIS), during a roundtable talk on the preservation of the zone. 

The goal, Harnyk said, is still to reach about a million tourists a year in the future, when the pandemic is over and things return more to normal. Harnyk also said that more needs to be done to preserve the zone and expand its possibilities to attract tourists.

35 years after Chernobyl, Ukraine wants site on UNESCO list

What needs to be done

Authorities have also worked on making it possible for tourists to visit the closed 30-kilometer zone around Chernobyl in ATV, Kayaks, or in the so-called SHERP vehicles. 35 years ago, the largest nuclear accident on planet earth happened, as Reactor 4 of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Pripyat exploded during a test. Today, most of the zone is safe for tourists and the hope is that more tourists can be drawn to visit in the future. 

At the recent roundtable talk on the preservation of the zone, Yaroslav Emelianenko, leader of the Chernobyl Tours company, made it clear that more also has to be done to secure the zone from vanishing. Many buildings are in bad shape and will disappear over time if nothing is done to preserve the area, he said at the meeting and wrote on Facebook.

“We still have many things to save. Not only that (the equipment and buildings there), – even the Chernobyl nuclear power plant needs to be saved and preserved… Now all state structures in the governance of exclusion zone and other state enterprises need to review the facilities they own. No need to dispose of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, Chernobyl-2 or anything else. They need to be memorialized. While it will cost billions of hryvnias to simply remove things – (preservation and) evolving tourism will earn money instead,” said Emelianenko.

Ukraine is also fighting to get the site on the UNESCO world heritage list – a list of sites that should be protected as they have an interest for not only a single people, but all of mankind.

“We believe that putting Chernobyl on the UNESCO heritage list is a first and important step towards having this great place as a unique destination of interest for the whole of mankind,” said Ukrainian Culture Minister Oleksandr Tkachenko previously, according to Reuters.