April 3 - Crimea's coastline has been the Russian empire's answer to the Mediterranean Riviera since the 19th century. But as Ciara Sutton reports, locals are worried about the impact the political crisis in the region will have on their livelihoods.
Crimea's jagged coast, mild climate and 800 spas and hotels have been attracting holidaymakers for around 200 years. Half the population makes money from tourism and 70,000 people depend on it entirely. But at least 50% of the 6 to 8 million tourists who came last year were from Ukraine. Only a quarter were from Russia - which Crimea voted to join last month. Deputy Tourism Minister, Igor Kotlyar. (SOUNDBITE) (Russian) CRIMEA'S DEPUTY TOURISM MINISTER, IGOR KOTLYAR, SAYING: "This season will see some sort of reshaping of the market. It is clear that it is connected to political events happening here." Tourism doesn't make enough money to finance Crimea's needs. It relied on subsides from Ukraine. Transport to the resorts is also an issue. Most of Crimea's tourists travel by rail - the trains are still running, but they now cross a disputed border. (SOUNDBITE) (Russian) CRIMEA'S DEPUTY TOURISM MINISTER, IGOR KOTLYAR, SAYING: "Traveling by railway, which concerns 64 percent of all trips to the Republic of Crimea, is less accessible and more problematic now so of course this will affect the number of tourists which traditionally use this way of traveling." Moscow has promised to build a bridge to connect Crimea with southern Russia - but that could take years. The crisis has also halted flights between Kiev and Turkey. Turkish Airlines has had to refund many tickets and holidays and says the impact on its business is "huge." So too is the impact on hotels - the Porto Mare one of many in Crimea which has had to cancel reservations. (SOUNDBITE) (Russian) DIRECTOR OF PORTO MARE HOTEL, MIKHAIL BYCHENKOV, SAYING: "We feel it particularly now, during school spring holidays, because we were supposed to receive lots of children and guests, but unfortunately at the moment we have five times less people than expected." The hotel's manager is hopeful bookings will pick up, but Crimea's key source of income is under threat. Attracting significant numbers of visitors from both neighbouring countries may require a big strategy re-think.