Baikal needs better tourism services

18 november 2016

"The Analytical Center and the Executive Office of the Government of the Russian Federation are working together on the program entitled "Baikal: Great Lake of Great Country". The key objective of the project is to create opportunities for economic development in the area with minimization of negative impact on the environment in the framework of the coordinated state policy," said Head of the Department for International Cooperation of the Analytical Center Denis Ershov, starting an expert panel discussion on "Development of Inbound Tourism in the Baikal Natural Territory: Evaluating the Potential."

Representatives of the tourism industry and experts discussed the current state of inbound and domestic tourism around Baikal, development of touristic clusters and infrastructure, environmental aspects, and factors that prevent an upsurge of touristic flows.

"The first thing to be done is to improve the quality of services, starting with the construction of observational grounds, walking paths, and park zones," believes Oleg Afanasyev, Professor of the Department of Business Technologies in Tourism and Hospitality of the FSBEI HE Russian State University of Tourism and Services. "We have such cites, but they are not well-developed yet." The expert argues that it is not necessary to combat "irregular" tourists, because it is they, not the customers of tour operators, who spend money directly in the area. "When a tourist knows there are good reception, high-quality accommodation, and a package of exciting tours out there for him/her, he will surely come," Mr. Afanasyev believes.

"We hardly do anything to attract tourists. We need to focus on advertising, to promote Baikal as a natural UNESCO World Heritage site. This is a worldwide attraction, an outstanding brand of Russia," Mr. Afanasyev stressed.

Experts believe that it is necessary to develop a variety of tourism aspects around the Lake – promotion of the culture of peoples living there, preserving their holidays and traditions. According to experts, a comprehensive analysis of the development of similar territories abroad, in Norway, Finland and China, could be useful.

The experts see a significant problem in the fact that Baikal is located on the territories of Buryatia and Irkutsk Oblast that will always compete with each other. Participants in the discussion are sure that we lack a consolidating government agency at the federal level, which would regulate all Baikal related issues.

The event was held to develop the “Baikal. Great Lake for Great Country" Project with regard to improving the environmental situation around Lake Baikal and further sustainable economic development of the Baikal natural territory.

In November, the Analytical Center interviewed experts on what key problems of the sustainable development of the Baikal natural territory they saw and what solutions they could propose. The decision to do the interviews was taken at a meeting of the Presidium of the Presidential Council of the Russian Federation for Strategic Development and Priority Projects. Answers to 12 questions of the interview questionnaire should help identify what hampers the development of the Baikal natural territory, evaluate the quality of state governance in development matters, and understand the investment climate.