Interview with Anna Romanova, Member of the Parliament of Ukraine

What role does image play for modern states?

We live in the era of the Information Society. It means that information about goods and territories is much more important than some material things. Look: Nowadays information wars are more widespread and more effective than classic ones. Therefore, image, being a part of informational perception of the state by target consumers (tourists, investors), is more important than the availability of raw resources. A positive image makes an excess value of the territory, while a negative one – on the contrary – is a threat to the investment and tourism attractiveness.

When we are talking about branding of a country, do we mean just tourism?

Of course, no. Branding of a country encompasses and then influences the investment attractiveness of the country, the willingness to live, study, work, get medical treatment, and do business there. If a positive brand of the country is not created in time, the reputation will be formed spontaneously anyway. Moreover, generally, it is not always positive. Consider, for example, Colombia: What association comes up at the mention of this country? For the majority of people it’s “the state of drug trafficking and drug barons”. For decades, nobody cared about the branding of Colombia systematically. Thus, negative reputation was formed spontaneously. Unfortunately, we have a similar situation concerning Ukraine. It is necessary to understand that branding of a country is difficult, systematic, and expensive. But the result is worth it. Branding should begin with the political will of the state leadership. Corruption scandals of top officials are most harmful for the image of the whole state.

What can be the main components of the Ukrainian brand?

A big European country; a safe place with big opportunities for traveling, business, education, medical treatment, living… Open-minded, hospitable people, who, at the same time, respect their traditions (in the era of globalization and erasure of borders, a national identity and preservation of traditions are valuable).
Of course, it is necessary to stop the war to achieve the image of a safe country. Today it is important to disseminate the information that the war covers no more than 6% of the territory. And the risk of a terrorist attack in the capital of Ukraine is lower than in other European capitals. We do not have such a number of migrants from the East and adherents to radical religious movements. The impeccable level of security and organization of the Eurovision Song Contest-2017 in Kyiv proves that.

The soft power of Ukraine: Myth or reality?

I think it is the best way of promotion. However, now we do not have a comprehensive vision of victory by means of soft power. What is “soft power”? Is it the struggle on the diplomatic front or success in technology? Unfortunately, we have failed to do both these things. Some steps are taken, but they are not systematic. This fact should be recognized in order to start improving rapidly, before it is too late.

What are the priority steps to promote the positive image of Ukraine?

First, it is necessary to create messages with the image of Ukraine we want to see in the minds of potential tourists or investors. Then, it is important to target the markets, i.e. not to promote Ukraine for everybody. There is not enough budget for it. We have to choose priority countries.
I propose to focus on targeted international tourist markets, such as:

  • Neighboring countries (Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Belarus);
  • Countries with which we have a stable tourist flow and good logistic connections (Turkey, Israel, Germany);
  • Countries with hyper-big tourist markets and tourists potentially interested in the Ukrainian tourist product (China, Canada);
  • Countries of potential consumers of the Ukrainian medical tourist product and services (Azerbaijan, UAE, Qatar)

These countries should be informed about Ukrainian investment and tourist products by means of holding “Ukrainian days” there, inviting journalists to press-tours, organizing fam-trips for specialists, tour operators, developers, etc.

What are the associations with Ukraine in the world?

I believe unless we make a strong brand of Ukraine which is grounded in our history, spirituality, and traditions, we will be a raw materials appendage, where raw materials are not just woods, amber, and soil, but women as well.
I even suggested obliging advertisers of strip clubs, “men’s clubs”, and erotic services to place billboards on the highway from Boryspil international airport promoting historical and architectural, natural-recreational, and/or gastronomic tourist attractions of Ukraine, which would be equivalent to their advertising in terms of size and price.
This practice, provisionally called “if you advertise a brothel, pay for the advertising of Ukrainian architecture and nature”, should be fixed at the level of local authorities’ instructions.
Certainly, I do not agitate for the prohibition of communication with foreigners for Ukrainian girls. I am for creation and promotion of a strong brand of Ukraine based on historic-architectural, gastronomic, cultural, nature-recreational tourist attractions. Nevertheless, usually there is not enough money for such a correct promotion.

Anna Romanova is a member of the Parliament of Ukraine, head of the subcommittee on tourism development, resorts and recreational activity. Representing “Samopomich Party”. In 2010-2014 was a deputy mayor of Chernihiv city. Romanova has a PhD in Economics.

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