Nearly 1,000 Ukrainian tourists have been stranded in the Zanzibar archipelago since Ukraine closed its airspace due to the Russian invasion, the Tanzanian semi-autonomous archipelago's tourism minister, Lela Mohammed Mussa, said on Monday.
"The first thing we did was to ensure that they stay where they are, even if it was time for them to leave," Lela Mohammed Mussa said. "We allow them to stay in the hotels and be served as human beings," she added, assuring that they "will receive all the services, comfort and remain free".
The hundreds of tourists are unable to return to their country, which closed its airspace to civilian flights on Thursday, citing a "high-security risk" after Russian forces invaded its territory. Plans are underway to evacuate the tourists to countries such as Poland, Lela Mohammed Mussa added.
"What is happening in Ukraine makes them extremely unhappy," said Yulia Baystrukova, a Russian who runs the Zanzi Resort, one of the hotels where Ukrainians are trapped. Famous for its turquoise waters, white sandy beaches and spice plantations, Zanzibar relies heavily on tourism and used to welcome about half a million visitors a year before the Covid-19 pandemic.