The last few years haven't been kind to the Ukrainian tourism industry. But finally an unlikely tourist attraction is seeing a huge increase in visitors, thanks to HBO.
That's right: As CNN reports, tourism to the Chernobyl power plant - including visits to the ruined control room for the doomed Reactor 4 - is booming. Thanks to the success of HBO's five-part "Chernobyl" dramatization, people have been lining up to see the aftermath of the worst nuclear accident in human history at rates that are much higher than they have been historically.
However, for adventurous tourists, there is a catch: those who venture inside the highly radioactive area at the infamous Reactor 4 will be provided with white protective suits, helmets and masks during their visit. After leaving, visitors will be subjected to two radiology tests to measure their exposure.
In an effort to seize on the enthusiasm for all things "Chernobyl", Ukrainian President Volydymyr Zelensky (you might remember him from his recent spate of appearances in the American press) signed a decree back in July to designate Chernobyl an official tourist attraction (to be sure, tourists have had access to the area since 2011).
Which is one way to turn a liability into an asset.
"We must give this territory of Ukraine a new life," Zelensky said when he signed the decree. "Until now, Chernobyl was a negative part of Ukraine's brand. It's time to change it."
Though tourists are already flocking to the site, the makeover isn't yet finished. New infrastructure to support an increase in the stream of tourists must still be built.
Of course, safety is still a top concern. To that end, Zelensky recently announced a new metal dome that will be placed over the ruined Reactor 4 to prevent any more radioactive material from leaking out. That structure will be paid for by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. The dome is being built to last a century, the EBRD said.
Chernobyl was once the epicenter of a 1,000-square-mile exclusion zone that was imposed after the 1986 meltdown. Soon, it will be crawling with tourists who, it must be said, will inevitably expose themselves to higher doses of radiation than is considered healthy.