The President of Ukraine has revealed he intends to turn the area surrounding the Chernobyl nuclear site into a tourist hub.
The move comes after Travel Weekly reported Dark Tourism hot spot Chernobyl was booming, thanks in part to the success of HBO’s mini-series Chernobyl, which examined the nuclear disaster of 1986.
With Ukraine’s recently inaugurated president Volodymyr Zelensky, an entertainer turned politician, signing a decree for walking trails in Chernobyl, the country has announced its intention to open Chernobyl to the world.
“Chernobyl has been a negative part of Ukraine’s brand,” Zelensky said. “The time has come to change this.”
Tour leaders in the region have seen a 40 per cent increase in bookings since Chernobyl aired in May, with tourists from Kiev travelling more than 100 kilometres to visit the site of the worst nuclear disaster in history.
There has also been a wave of interest from Instagrammers visiting Chernobyl and the abandoned town of Pripyat, drawing criticism from Chernobyl creator Craig Mason for questionable ‘glamour shots’ in the area.
Zelensky said on Wednesday that the government will create green corridors for tourists, in addition to waterways and checkpoints in the area, as outlined in the signed decree.
“Chernobyl is a unique place on the planet where nature [has been] reborn after a huge man-made disaster,” Zelensky said.
“We have to show this place to the world: to scientists, ecologists, historians [and] tourists.”
It has also been revealed that past restrictions on filming in Chernobyl will be lifted. The government will also reportedly crack down on corruption by introducing an e-ticket system for visitors to Chernobyl.
“The exclusion zone is … a symbol of corruption,” Zelensky said. “This includes bribes that law enforcers collect from tourists. We will stop all of this very soon.”
President Zelensky’s announcement came during an official inauguration ceremony for the Chernobyl New Safe Confinement (NSC), a dome structure that encases the destroyed reactor.
The NSC, which cost around $2.4 billion to build, was moved into place in 2016 and is designed to prevent further radioactive material leaking from the number 4 reactor at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant over the next century.
It measures 900-feet wide and 354-feet tall and is high enough to cover the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris.