Hotel and tour operators are anxiously awaiting the results of Sunday's referendum on whether Crimea should split from Ukraine and join Russia. Tensions and uncertainty following Russia's invasion of the peninsula has led to a massive drop in the the number of tourists. Package tours are reported to be down 90% on last year.

The Black Sea's Mediterranean climate has made it a popular holiday destination for Russians since Catherine the Great annexed Crimea in 1783. By the early 20th century Black Sea resorts such as Yalta were seen as a playground for the elite, who built lavish summer palaces there.

The Soviet regimes designated Crimea as national health resort, where workers could take advantage of the bracing sea air. The state built vast, factory-sized sanatoria for the working classes.

yalta kiev
A 1983 postcard of the Kiev Sanatorium in YaltaVladimir Tkalčić
alushta
A Soviet-era postcard of the Northern Dvina holiday camp in Alushtaflickr/Socialism Expo.
druzhba soviet
A Soviet-era postcard of the Druzhba Hotel near Yalta, built in 1984, as a holiday camp. Its edgy futuristic design led the American Department of Defence to mistake it for a rocket launcher
1978
Tourists relax at a hotel in Yalta, USSR, in 1978flickr/Socialism Expo.
alushta soviet hotel
A Soviet-era postcard of the Seashore holiday hotel in Alushtaflickr/Socialism Expo.
1975 Artek
Children pose for a group photo on the beach at the Artek Young Pioneers Camp near Hurzuf on the Crimean Peninsula, USSR, in 1975Flickr/maxim off
artek 2005
August 18, 2005: Presidents Adamkus of Lithuania, Yushchenko of Ukraine, Saakashvili of Georgia and Kwasniewski of Poland celebrate the 80th anniversary of the Artek children's camp near Alushta in the CrimeaReuters
hotel yalta
The lobby and reception at the Hotel Yalta, circa 1978flickr/Socialism Expo.

The number of annual visitors to the Black Sea peninsula is about six million. Around a quarter of these are Russian, but the majority are Ukrainian. Western tourists had recently discovered Crimea – it topped National Geographic's list of "20 must-see places" last year. (Fun fact: Yalta is twinned with Margate.)

Crimea is expected to lose tourists from Ukraine if the referendum goes Moscow's way but there could be an influx of wealthier Russians. Tour operators hope for a return to normality, whatever the outcome of the vote. 

kazantip
Revellers party at the 2008 Kazantip electronic dance musical festival in the Crimean town of Popovka. Acts who have performed at the annual festival include Carl Cox, Armin Van Buuren, Tiësto, Skrillex, Benny Benassi and many moreflickr/Dima Bushkov
alushta ukraine
A young man wearing a "Ukraine" sports jacket cools off in the Black Sea in the resort town of AlushtaReuters
sevastopol family
A family sits on a beach at the Crimean Black Sea port of SevastopolReuters
alushta water slide
Children play under water slides on the embankment in the Black Sea resort of AlushtaReuters
yalta sanatorium
The former Druzhba holiday camp near Yalta, now renamed the Kurpaty SanatoriumReuters
yalta livadia
Livadia Palace in Yalta, where US president Franklin D Roosevelt, British prime minister Winston Churchill and Soviet leader Joseph Stalin met to discuss the future of Europe after the Second World WarReuters
Khersones
Tourists pose at Khersones, an ancient Greek colony founded about 2,500 years ago in the Crimean peninsulaGleb Kachaev
yalta castle
The neo-gothic Swallow's Nest castle, built in 1912 on Aurora Cliff, between Yalta and Alupka on the Crimean peninsula, is now home to a popular Italian restaurantReuters