Tourism in Tatarstan: Tatar two rivers, first Arab guests and fall of VIM Airlines

Online conference of Realnoe Vremya with chairman of the State Committee for Tourism Sergey Ivanov

Tourism in Tatarstan: Tatar two rivers, first Arab guests and fall of VIM Airlines Photo: Maksim Platonov

Despite the collapse of VIM Airlines, Tatarstan doesn't refuse the route Kazan-Beijing and is looking for a new carrier now. In addition, the republic managed to surprise the first Arab tourists, and they already promised to return to Kazan together with their friends. At the online conference of Realnoe Vremya, Chairman of the State Committee for Tourism Sergey Ivanov told what new projects the state tourism committee prepared for guests of the republic and why the entrance to Sviyazhsk would be fee-based.

Difference between tourists and fans

This summer the Confederations Cup and Red Bull Air Race became the 'major suppliers' of tourists. Realnoe Vremya told that the state committee prepared extreme tourist programmes deliberately for football fans.

''Life showed that, in general, the football fans preferred to stay in the city. There was interest in Sviyazhsk and Bolgar, of course. But the majority remained in Kazan. In this respect, they differ from classic tourists who come to see the region,'' Ivanov noted.

The State Committee is not going to close the project with special offers. Fans will be able to use them during the world cup in 2018.

In general, the football fans preferred to stay in the city. There was interest in Sviyazhsk and Bolgar, of course. But the majority remained in Kazan. In this respect, they differ from classic tourists who come to see the region

During the Confederations Cup, entrepreneurs complained that they had to ban alcohol in establishments. Commenting on it, Ivanov said that the restrictions did not affect all the establishments. If tourists wanted to drink, they could do it in a restaurant in their hotel. The main goal of this 'moratorium' that was to avoid outrage of drunk fans was achieved.

As for Red Bull Air Race, the competition brought tourists from the Volga Federal District, Ural and Moscow to Kazan.

''These people were different from football fans. They had more interest, they saw more and went outside Kazan,'' Ivanov said.

The air race will take place in the capital of the Republic of Tatarstan for the second time in 2018. The event's date is to be defined.

They could not help but have a fly in the ointment:

''We need to say that there also were negative factors. First of all, it is weather, as strange as it might sound. This year summer was difficult. It partially affected to the number of tourists for worse.

There was a very big decline in school group tours. Unfortunately, certain tragic events took place last year. Procedures of trips of organised school groups became complicated as a result of these events,'' Ivanov noted.

It will be an excursion route that will take several days and allow tourists to look at Tatarstan's not very standard points to get more emotions, more impressions, try something new

'1001 Delights' in a new format

The state committee is creating a new tourist programme that will fit the general concept of '1001 Delights'.

''It will be an excursion route that will take several days and allow tourists to look at Tatarstan's not very standard points to get more emotions, more impressions, try something new. So, having come to Tatarstan, a person had some adventures,'' Ivanov told about the project.

For instance, tourists will be taken to the place where the Volga River merges with The Kama. People usually pass this part by. In the new project, tourists will be shown this special place where they can see this place where the two rivers merge with tea and national food.

Fee-based park-and-ride Sviyazhsk

This year the Assumption Cathedral on Sviyazhsk island has been included in the UNESCO World Heritage Site List. According to Ivanov, this fact, in itself, is important for both Tatarstan and Russia, in general. But it also should attract new tourists to the island. We should not wait for an instantaneous reaction. The effect will be 'cumulative': Tatarstan will feel it in both 50 and 100 years. This status puts the onus on the republic. But Tatarstan won't stop developing Sviyazhsk as tourist destination. Ivanov says the most important thing is to reach a compromise with UNESCO, discuss the place's development and prove that the job is only for the good.

I can say judging the world practice that admission to any tourist site, especially a UNESCO site, is fee-based. I have not seen free world heritage sites anywhere in the world

Speaking about new projects, we recalled a park-and-ride service on the driveway to the island. The construction will end in early October. It is to start to work by November.

Park-and-ride service is created, first of all, for personal cars. Tourists will leave their cars there and get the island by shuttle. Organised tourist groups by bus will reach the island directly.

''If you buy an admission ticket to the island, the shuttle is free. If you don't buy an admission ticket, the shuttle will be fee-based,'' Ivanov specified.

''Tourism is a profitable sector of the economy. Undoubtedly, it must earn income for Zelenodolsk District, the Republic of Tatarstan and residents. We need to consider all the aspects and make a decision. I can say judging the world practice that admission to any tourist site, especially a UNESCO site, is fee-based. I have not seen free world heritage sites anywhere in the world,'' the state committee chairman added.

Car camping site to be created in Kazan

Bolgar and Sviyazhsk lose to same Tetyushi, Chistopol and Yelabuga in terms of the number of hotels and cafes and restaurants. The problem is that small cities have this infrastructure, it services local residents' interests. We have to create everything in Sviyazhsk and Bolgar from scratch.

For instance, public catering. It is difficult for solo travellers in same Sviyazhsk: they have to fight for a seat in a café against tourist groups. This is why there have appeared places where one can buy tea, water and some pastry. A new establishment has recently appeared in the Museum of Bolgarian Civilisation in Bolgar. A crepe bakery is to work on a constant basis soon. The new season will show whether they will reduce the load.

It is planned to find and equip a territory inside in Kazan, so travellers by car will have an opportunity to stay overnight calmly, Ivanov said

The problem of the lack of overnight places in Bolgar will be solved with the help of Kul Gali hotel complex and car camping. The project of the parcel for camping is going through the last preparation stages. The construction is to start in 2018.

It is curious that talks about the site for camping in Kazan continue. Now a site has been equipped on the driveway to the city. It is planned to find and equip a territory inside in Kazan, so travellers by car will have an opportunity to stay overnight calmly.

Arabs in Kazan lacked service

The first tourists from the UAE came to Tatarstan this year. They were just 80 people. But ''these first tourists who spent here 7-10 days came only to Tatarstan and were very satisfied and ready to come next year and bring their friends and acquaintances,'' Ivanov noted.

Tatarstan turned out to be a good place for tourists from Muslim countries. Nobody in the region is afraid of girls in hijabs or men with beard. ''It is like a red rag in Europe,'' Ivanov said.

In addition, Kazan has two certified halal hotels (two) and restaurants.

''There aren't problems with the halal sector. We had problems with the servicing level, in general, because Arabs are sophisticated tourists. They are people who certainly visited the majority of European countries, the USA, Asia. The service quality in the very Emirates is high,'' Ivanov noted and added that they had to rectify errors while working with these tourists. On the other hand, growth points became clear.''

There aren't problems with the halal sector. We had problems with the servicing level, in general, because Arabs are sophisticated tourists

Blitz: short but important answers

  • VIM Airlines did not make its commitments on the project of Kazan-Beijing charter flights. Tatarstan authorities don't refuse the destination. They are looking for a new carrier. Now they are discussing the project with two airlines. Ivanov did not name them.
  • Angela Merkel has not answered the video invitation to Kazan that Sergey Ivanov sent yet.
  • Tatarstan can pass 3 million tourists in 2017.
  • Construction of Kul Gali hotel complex in Bolgar is to end in 2018.
  • Tourist brands are not created simply. And yes, they help to position territories. The most important thing is to promote it.
  • Kazan-Ufa tourist train is unprofitable: it is more expensive and longer than going by bus.
  • They are going to repeat Kazan-Saint Petersburg New Year charter flights this year. And they also plan to increase the capacity of charter flights and expand the geography: include Ekaterinburg, Perm, Ufa, Samara. The tour provider who launched the project is also ready to make a Kazan-Saint Petersburg New Year train.
  • The state committee works on The Great Volga Road with tour companies. In theory, it must become the analogue of The Golden Ring in terms of quality, popularity and importance.
  • Kazan has been included to The Imperial Route. While its concept is created, Kazan will do its best to show itself to tourists.
By Yulia Krasnikova. Photo: Maksim Platonov