Russia gets the largest numbers of inbound tourists from Asia and the Middle East

1 september 2017

"The tourism industry is facing a lot of problems, and today we've got to discuss them and try and come up with some mechanisms for tackling them," Deputy Head of the Analytical Center Tatiana Radchenko said as she opened an expert discussion on the problems of inbound tourism in Russia and recommendations for how to improve the support of exports of tourism services.

Yelena Kovaleva, Head of the Department for Competition Policy of the Analytical Center, talked about the problems of inbound tourism in Russia and possible ways to develop this market. According to the expert, the main problem this sector is facing is lack of awareness among foreign tourists about tours and destinations available in Russia. "This happens because there is no system in place for positioning Russia as a tourist destination on the international tourism market," Ms. Kovaleva said. "So what we need to do is develop a systematic approach to positioning specific Russian destinations abroad, conducting promotional campaigns, and creating recognizable brands for specific tourist destinations in Russia." Another important factor for developing tourism in Russia is the availability of modern infrastructure. "We're actually seeing a decline in and an increasing shortage of hotel rooms, we don't have enough navigational signs or information terminals in foreign languages," the analyst said. Among other problems the industry is facing, Ms. Kovaleva noted a shortage of tour buses, inadequacy of the systems for keeping track of tourist data and a multitude of administrative barriers, one of which is the excessive red tape involved in getting a Russian visa.

What we need to do is develop a systematic approach to positioning specific Russian destinations abroad, conducting promotional campaigns, and creating recognizable brands for specific tourist destinations in Russia

Yelena Kovaleva

Head of the Department for Competition Policy of the Analytical Center

Russia gets most of its international tourists from Asia and the Middle East, noted Leonid Marmer, the CEO of Intourist Thomas Cook. "China is in the first place: in 2016, 1.2 million Chinese tourists visited Russia, while only 500,000 people came from Germany, which is in the second place," the expert said. He believes that the visa process needs to be liberalized to promote the development of tourism. "It's important to offer visa free travel to foreigners coming to Russia to take part in major sporting, cultural and scientific events as well as offer 72-hour visa free travel for tourists arriving by sea, the way it's currently done in Saint Petersburg," Mr. Marmer said. The expert noted that there are other ways to simplify the visa process.

Ildar Musin, CEO of Sputnik Sport and Business Travel, LLC, noted that Russia does not have a system of statistical data on tourism. "We simply don't have a system for transmitting data from hotels to the Federal Migration Service so we've got no information on foreigners’ movements between cities," the expert said. It's important to set this process up as soon as possible, the expert believes. Work is already underway to create a data transmission system in Moscow and the Moscow Oblast.

The participants in the discussion also talked about various administrative barriers in the industry. One of them is a lack of trained staff. The optimization of the education system has resulted in a situation where some 40 regions no longer have higher education schools that offer training in hospitality services, the specialists noted.

Participants in the expert discussion included representatives of the Federal Tourism Service.