Russia is making a determined pitch to become a major tourist destination by 2016.
Despite being home to some great attractions – from Red Square and the Kremlin in Moscow to the famed Hermitage museum in Saint Petersburg – Russia has struggled to attract visitors.
It suffers from having some of the most expensive hotels in the world, an inadequate tourism infrastructure, and a reputation for surly service and bureaucracy.
“We are going to do everything possible to make foreign visitors feel comfortable in Russia,” the Deputy Minister for Tourism and Sport, Nadezhda Nazina, told Agence France Presse.
She said the Russian government would soon be considering a 352 billion ruble (£7.2 billion/$11.5 billion) plan to improve infrastructure and launch a major advertising campaign.
Russia attracted only 2.3 million foreign visitors last year, according to the federal tourism agency, placing it far below the top destinations for international tourists. The top two, France and the United States, attracted 74 million and 55 million visitors respectively in 2009, according to the World Tourism Organisation.
The Russians are looking to attract up to 40 million tourists annually within five years, but Maya Lomidze, the Executive Director of the Association of Tour Operators of Russia, said she didn’t think this was feasible.
“Too many conditions would have to be met for this plan to be realised. The main necessity is that we have hotels at affordable prices. Russia is a very expensive country,” she said.
by Andy Moreton
Moscow is notoriously expensive, but Luxique will get you the best rates possible at the Baltschug Kempinski or the Golden Apple Boutique.