Magazine article Russian Life

If You Bill It, They Will Come

Magazine article Russian Life

If You Bill It, They Will Come

Article excerpt

JUST 1% OF ALL TOURISTS traveling worldwide are traveling to Russia, reported Deputy Minister of Economic Development Vladimir Strzhalkovsky. This sorry fact calls for new approaches to promoting Russia as a tourist destination.

One-third of tourists visiting Russia in 1999 came from countries beyond the former USSR, and they spent just $374 mn. By comparison, tourism brought Hungary some $2.4 bn, the Czech Republic $3.6 bn and Poland $6.1 bn in 1999.

"The country suffers from a catastrophic shortage of 2- and 3-star hotels to be able to host tourists on a large scale," Strzhalkovsky said. The Ministry plans to push for the opening of 2- and 3-star hotels in top-visited Golden Ring cities like Suzdal, Vladimir, Yaroslavl and Rostov.

Meanwhile, efforts to advertise Russia will be stepped up. Last year, the Czech Republic allocated $2.5 mn to promote their country as a tourist destination, while Spain and Israel spent $25 mn and $72 mn, respectively. Yet Russia spent just $140,000 on these ends. The plan forsees the launch of radio and TV promotional programs, plus the opening of an as-yet-unspecified internet website to offer tourist information. In addition, brochures, maps and posters will be sent to travel agencies and exhibitions around the world. Such information will also be sent to tourist information centers in Russian cities which host large numbers of tourists.

Minister of Economic Development German Gref said that tourism is very important for Russia's economy, which has become too dependent on raw-material. The draft plan was presented on May 29, will be reviewed until July 15, and will then be sent for the government's consideration in the third quarter of this year.

IN ANOTHER MOVE TO BOOST inbound tourism, the Russian Foreign Ministry has begun a new experiment with short-term (72 hour) visas to be issued at the border. Apparently the lobbying for the new class of visa was begun by authorities in St. Petersburg, who see huge potential for quick business and tourist trips by residents of nearby European cities. The fee for the new visa is expected to be set at $25 and be available in St. …

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