International Travel

Joanita Wibowo

Why tourists are flocking to Chernobyl

Why tourists are flocking to Chernobyl

Tourists have flocked to the scene of the world’s worst nuclear disaster in droves after the release of a new hit TV show.

The new HBO miniseries Chernobyl has attracted travellers to Pripyat, the Ukrainian ghost city that was evacuated after one of the Chernobyl power plant’s reactors exploded, releasing radiation across a large part of Europe.

Since the show went on air in May, travel interest in the infamous Ukrainian site has surged, according to local travel operators. Reports say demand for tours in the area have increased by up to 40 per cent.

“Most of the people say they decided to book after seeing this show,” Victor Korol, director of tour company SoloEast told CNN. “It’s almost as though they watch it and then jump on a plane over.”

The five-part HBO show focuses on the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear incident, along with the cleanup efforts and the inquiry that followed.

Last April marked the 33rd anniversary of the blast, whose radiation fallout was estimated to affect thousands of people.

However, Korol said Chernobyl is now safe to visit. “It’s the most popular question visitors ask,” said Korol, who has been taking up to 200 visitors to the area on the weekends since the series hit screens.

“But it’s absolutely safe. The government would never allow tourists to come otherwise. The radiation [visitors] are exposed to on a tour is less than on an intercontinental flight.”

According to tour guide Victoria Brozhko, the amount of radiation visitors can expect to get from their excursion to the Chernobyl exclusion zone is similar to the level they would get from “staying at home for 24 hours”.

Craig Mazin, the creator of the Chernobyl series has described his visit to the place as a “religious” experience.

“I’m not a religious man, but that’s as religious as I’ll ever feel,” Mazin told an HBO podcast.

“To walk where they walked felt so strange, and also being under that same piece of sky you start to feel a little closer, in a sense, to who they were.”

However, the behaviour of some other visitors has been met with criticism following the surge of photographs on social media showing tourists posing inappropriately among the ruins. In one picture, a woman could be seen posing on top of an abandoned building in her underwear.

Mazin has urged travellers to behave “with respect” in a Twitter post. “It’s wonderful that #ChernobylHBO has inspired a wave of tourism to the Zone of Exclusion. But yes, I’ve seen the photos going around,” he wrote.

“If you visit, please remember that a terrible tragedy occurred there. Comport yourselves with respect for all who suffered and sacrificed.”