Oleg Safonov: ''Problems of tour operators are linked with an incorrect estimate of the market situation''

Head of the Russian Agency for Tourism denied the statement Natal Tours's problems have been caused by the FIFA WC

Oleg Safonov: ''Problems of tour operators are linked with an incorrect estimate of the market situation'' Photo: duma.gov.ru

The agency admits some companies have problems. But this doesn't mean the sector, in general, has difficulties. For instance, Natali Tours turns out to be not so big as it is considered, it has just fractions of a per cent of the total volume of tourists in the outbound tourism market. Realnoe Vremya tells the details.

WC can't have caused the crisis

Favourable conditions for tourists appeared in Russia thanks to the WC, but not for all. Many people in social networks started to blame the FIFA WC for suspending the work of Natali Tours and DSBW-TOURS.

''The cup can't have caused the crisis. Outbound tourism showed positive dynamics last year – 20% of growth. Moreover, trips to some countries reduce, the list of countries that are in demand changed. Today's problems of tour operators are linked with an incorrect estimate of the market situation. This is why they have difficulties. At the same time, other operators don't have problems. The operators who have problems today really were the leaders of the market in the past. But now the situation is the same. For instance, same Natali Tours. Last year, it sent 22,000 people abroad, while outbound tourism volumes exceeded 30 million. It's obvious their part was very small, and this doesn't mean others have problems,'' Director of the Federal Agency for Tourism Oleg Safonov said at a press conference.

He's sure there aren't any problems in the market where 630 outbound tourism operators work. The whole market can't be judged because two companies aren't successful. The country has 4,485 tour operators who deal with both outbound and domestic tourism.

Many people in social networks started to blame the FIFA WC for suspending the work of Natali Tours and DSBW-TOURS. Photo: hotline.travel

''The choice is wide, the market doesn't have problems, I will emphasise once again. The companies that have faced problems now have fractions of a per cent in the market, not a per cent. And considering the volume of tourists whom they took abroad, their importance is falling to zero,'' thinks Oleg Safonov.

He didn't name the tour operators whom he considers reliable but specified one should pay attention to a company's history and its financial guarantees.

Saransk records

At the press conference, people tried to talk about successes the tourism industry managed to achieve thanks to the WC more. Saransk could stand out in a crowd of the WC host cities more. The capital of Mordovia appeared in Safonov's speech very often.

''A first-category hotel appeared in Saransk for the first time (Editor's Note: five stars). Tourist traffic has risen by from 19% in Moscow and 1,678% in Saransk. As for foreign tourist traffic, the rise is from 20% in Saint Petersburg and 235 times in Saransk. I will stress it's not 235%, it's a rise in foreign tourist flow 235 times,'' the head of the Federal Agency for Tourism proudly made the numbers public.

For comparison, inbound tourism during the WC in Kaliningrad has increased 10 times, in Volgograd – 15 times. An average rise in all the cities is 1,5-2 times. The load of Saransk hotels was 100% on match days. Even an airport appeared in the Mordovian capital, previously, one could get to the city by train. Moreover, even if one five-star and three four-star hotels were built for non-budgetary money deliberately by the WC, there weren't enough rooms anyway.

''We will use these tourist routes in the future too,'' Aleksey Konyushkov promised. Photo: ethnomir.ru

''The city's possibilities increased also by involving Ulyanovsk and Penza in the WC. As for tourism possibilities of Saransk, the handicraft museum was very popular – about 2,000 foreign tourists visited it a day – and the cathedral in the central square. We will use these tourist routes in the future too,'' Deputy Director of Federal Agency for Tourism Aleksey Konyushkov promised.

WC numbers

A totality of 11 hotels with 2,556 rooms has been built in the WC host cities. More than five million tourists have visited all the cities. The leaders are Moscow – 2 million 700,000, Saint Petersburg – over 600,000, Sochi – over 500,000. An average rise in tourist traffic in the cities has reached 74%.

As for foreigners, 2,9 million people visited the cities during the WC. An average rise in the quantity of foreign tourists in the cities has grown 1,5-2 times. An average load of hotels has also augmented 2-3 times in comparison with usual months.

''The occupancy in Kazan has been 81%, which is 12% than in June 2017. Quality infrastructure, favourable conditions for fans have been created in the city,'' Safonov admitted.

But the country expects a delayed effect of the championship. Only the growth of tourist traffic can reach 14-18% by preliminary estimates. As for the financial income of tourists, the profit is estimated at $15bn. ''It's a serious number that exceeds other countries' indicators,'' thinks the director of the federal agency. Turnover at the WC in Brazil was $14 billion, in Germany – $12, in SAR – only $7.

As for foreigners, 2,9 million people visited the cities during the WC. Photo: Maksim Platonov

WC paradoxes

Similar names of Russian cities confuse even Russians at times, not to mention foreigners. For instance, one of the foreign fans confused Nizhny Novgorod with Veliky Novgorod.

''As soon as he came, he was treated to food and drinks, entertained. But he had to watch the match on TV, not at the stadium. Then he was sent to his destination. Or Chinese tourists confused two MSUs – Moscow State University and Mordovian State University. The tickets were to Saransk, while they were in Moscow. There were difficulties with both Roston-on-Don and Veliky Rostov – we understand it all, we helped everywhere,'' Oleg Safonov told.

It's planned to simplify the visa regime. But a project of e-visas is already applied in the Far East (simplified visa application procedure), which is to spread across the country and make the visa regime easier.

For our tourists' convenience, the agency promotes an idea of an e-tour at the government level as confirmation of paid accommodation in a hotel. According to Safonov, it could help to control the circulation of money and serve as a guarantee directly upon arrival in the homeland.

By Yulia Kosolapkina