Sergey Ivanov: ''Now even London taxi drivers know where Kazan is''
Tatarstan earned a record 28,3bn rubles from tourists but didn’t manage to find an investor for Five Winds project on the Kama River
At the final session of the State Committee for Tourism on 21 January it was told how the sector earned the unseen 28,3bn rubles during the year and set a record in receiving guests – 3,4m tourists. At the same time, volumes of attendance in Great Bolgar fell amid the popularity of many tourist routes. Sergey Ivanov also stated that they hadn't so far managed to find an investor for Five Winds project in Kamskoye Ustye District. Realnoe Vremya tells about successes and problems of tourism in Tatarstan.
With new museums and tourist routes
The final session on tourism was held on 21 January with a federal guest – Vice Chairman of the Russian Agency for Tourism Aleksey Konyushkov was on the panel together with Tatarstan Vice Prime Minister Leyla Fazleyeva, Chairman of the republic's State Council Farid Mukhametshin and Chairman of the Tatarstan State Committee for Tourism Sergey Ivanov.
The last year for Tatarstan was one of the most important ones in tourism from a perspective of infrastructure. First of all, of course, the preparation for the FIFA WC had an impact. But apart from it, Kazan also hosted Red Bull Air Race and Silk Way Rally. As a consequence, costs on tourism in the republic rose from 160,8m rubles in 2017 to 173,5m rubles in 2018. Sergey Ivanov thanked the Tatarstan president, the government and the State Council for this on behalf of the tourism sector.
The state tourism committee chairman called two completed project large-scale – the improvement of the rural tourism site in Yamashurma village in Vysokaya Gora District and the creation of the route Ethnic Traditions of Peoples of Laishevo District. In addition, modern tourist navigation was created in Yelabuga, navigation in Kazan was updated.
The last year was rich in new tourist sites in Tatarstan as well. Kul Gali hotel complex opened in Great Bolgar, the Archaeologic Wood Museum did in in Sviyazhsk, a museum with interactive expositions appeared on a street in Bolgar, there is now the Museum of History of Fishing in Tetyushi, an office of the Tourist Information Centre on Baumana Street, the Museum of Tea Culture in the Old Tatar Settlement, the weapon museum Warrior Spirit in the Kremlin, Kama Trophy hotel complex, Tinki fishing club, Volga House residency and others.
With new flights but without Five Winds
Almost all tourism centres of Tatarstan had more visitors in 2018. Only Great Bolgar became an exception where there were 541,000 tourists in 2017 and 521,000 last year. For comparison, the Kazan Kremlin had 150,000 guests more (2,93m in total), the island city of Sviyazhsk received 20,000 more (511,000 in total), Yelabuga – almost by 40,000 (506,000 in total), Tetyushi – by 10,000 people (55,000 people).
2018 was also remembered for new destinations. Planes started to fly from Kazan to Tehran, Tbilisi, Minsk, Barnaul, Yaroslavl. Together with Russian Railways and the Tourism Department of Samara Oblast, the Tatarstan State Committee for Tourism also launched a project for schoolchildren called Wagon of Knowledge in late 2018, which plies between Kazan and Samara. The first train brought 270 children to the capital of the republic.
''At least six analogous trains are planned to arrive in the first half of 2019,'' Sergey Ivanov noted.
However, with the general positive big picture in tourism in Tatarstan, it didn't become possible to achieve investment goals that had been set.
''In 2018, we didn't achieve the results we had planned in Five Winds investment project. Talks with potential investors are held, but we haven't started to implement certain offers within this project at the moment. In the new year, we need to analyse our work in this direction and rebuild our approaches in performing this task,'' the chairman of the State Committee for Tourism set a goal and noted they couldn't help but need the help of the TIDA.
''Now even London taxi drivers know where Kazan is''
Drawing conclusions of the year, Sergey Ivanov didn't lessen the importance of the FIFA WC and even called the event a world tourism cup with a proviso.
''The Cup had a huge economic effect for tourism and hospitality having increased incomes of businesses. The marketing effect for the Republic of Tatarstan as a tourist destination is invaluable. Now even London taxi drivers know where Kazan is,'' the speaker announced.
The efforts and money and the help of the FIFA WC gave results: Tatarstan ended 2018 with 3,4m tourists and 24,3% growth of the number of foreign guests – almost 346,000 foreigners in total visited the republic. Considering related sectors, by preliminary estimates, the volume of services provided in tourism grew by 37%, to 28,3bn rubles.
But the hotel business in Kazan didn't achieve big results in the FIFA WC year. After Sergey Ivanov's report, Director General of the Tatarstan Centre for Tourism Development Dilbar Sadykova named numbers in the market. 73% of accommodation capacities took part in the organisation's research or, more precisely, two-five-star hotels. They were 60% full on average – like in both 2012 and 2013.
''The percentage of occupancy of hotels didn't go down lower than 82% throughout the FIFA WC in Kazan, it wasn't less than 90% on match days. The average indicator of hotel occupancy in 2018 is equal to the average percentage of occupancy during the World Summer Universiade year. However, in comparison with 2017, we see a decline in November-December,'' Dilbar Sadykova stated.
Hotel rooms didn't become very expensive during the year. A room without breakfast cost 3,696 rubles to tourists on average, it's 607 rubles more than in 2016. The highest rise in price was during the fruitful FIFA WC. Head of the Association of Hotels of Kazan and the Republic of Tatarstan Gulnara Safina has recently explained to Realnoe Vremya that the hotel sector simply has to restrain price tags despite still growing costs on the business.
Not only the population's low purchasing power but also a still growing number of flats rented per night complicated the hoteliers' work. It seems this problem became a pain in the neck for Sergey Ivanov a long time ago. He asked tax officers to pay attention to the apartment market as early as 2016. The chairman of the Tatarstan State Committee for Tourism complained about flats this time too.
''Short-term rent has a greater impact on the accommodation market of not only our republic and the whole country. Big tourism centres around the world – Amsterdam, Berlin, Paris, Barcelona and other cities – faced this problem a long time ago. Many of these cities made a decision to seriously regulate short-time flat rent. It's a new problem for us, and we need to find a solution to it,'' Ivanov defined the problem again.
The state committee chairman finished his report unexpectedly in the Tatar language. Carefully pronouncing every word, he told about the importance of human capital in tourism and the necessity to improve the prestige of the sector so that people would want to work there. The people appreciated Sergey Ivanov's Tatar speech and accompanied it by applause.
''Good years have ended''
After all the reports, Vice Chairman of the Russian Agency for Tourism Aleksey Konyushkov was glad about the creation of a systemic approach to develop tourism in Tatarstan, praised for the good indicators and insisted they couldn't lose the experience they got when holding the FIFA WC. But Chairman of the Tatarstan State Council Farid Mukhametshin jokingly reproved Sergey Ivanov for ''attributing almost everything to himself'', though President of the republic Rustam Minnikhanov who ''flies from one point to another and propagates Tatarstan'' also worked hard to develop tourism.
Then, telling that tourism is an interdepartmental sector and different structures worked on it, he compared it with the oil sector and switched to instructions. According to him, there is big competition in the sector together with a higher responsibility considering the complicated economic situation not only in Russia but also abroad.
''Mrs Minullina knows, I was at their session, a representative of the United Nations gave a speech. Good years have ended,'' Mukhametshin addressed the head of the TIDA sitting in the first row who willingly started to nod confirmed the state council chairman's words. ''Consumer possibilities and the population's income, unfortunately, don't grow as we'd like – to have a tourist in a five-star hotel, so he would live there with his family for some three days and leave us money,'' the speaker complained.
In conclusion, he inspired the tourism sector with hope anyway: ''Work together, and it will be all right!''