“We've had 220 downloads so far”: alternative to Petersburg’s CityPass developed in Tatarstan

Tatarstan Tourist Pass mobile service has been presented in Kazan, which offers travellers discounts on excursions and orders in café

Tatarstan Tourist Pass mobile application for tourists with a virtual banking card has been presented in Kazan. The widget has been launched in test mode, but it is already available for iOS and Android — it can be downloaded on Play Market and App Store. Having installed the free application and signing up in it, the user automatically orders an issue of an e-banking card that can be actualised in Google Pay or Apple Pay within a minute to pay for services through terminals with the help of the widget. The service will allow tourists to get up to 15% of discount when ordering excursions, buying tickets to museums and festivals, paying bills in café and bars of Tatarstan. At the same time, the cards operate like prepaid — it won’t be so easy to take money transferred to an electronic account back, the developers warn. More about the pros and cons of Dilbar Sadykova’s experiment in Realnoe Vremya’s report.

We get used to virtual cards and accustom tourists to it

Indeed, it takes no more than 5 minutes to download the application and sign up in it. Apart from the name, phone number, address and e-mail, the service doesn’t ask for any personal data. After signing up in the application, you will automatically get access to a free e-banking card — its details can be seen on the phone’s screen in Profile.

After that, one can easily top it up from the card or any bank’s card without interest and then attach it to contactless payment services (Google Pay and Apple Pay) and start paying “touristy pleasures” by getting discounts and bonuses. As Realnoe Vremya’s correspondent made sure first-hand, there is no problem when paying for services with Tatarstan Tourist Pass in establishments that have already connected to the programme (the full list is available on the main page of the application), terms of bonuses and the mechanism of payments are willingly and clearly explained at the till.

Tatarstan Tourist Pass is simultaneously a tourist guide, banking application and loyalty programme — besides payment discounts, the service is integrated with Visit Tatarstan tourist information portal where information about hotels and hostels, shops and supermarkets, detailed tourist routes to the republic’s highlights is published: from Kazan to Yelabuga, from Bolgar to the island city of Sviyazhsk. What’s more, this virtual card can be used to pay for a ride in public transport of Kazan. However, since last week, this has been possible with any contactless banking card.

Over 20 Kazan entertaining sites and bars have already connected to the application now, tourists can enjoy discounts in the National Museum of the Republic of Tatarstan, the tea and moonshine museums, the Bolgarian museum-reserve. Another 30 establishments and several cities of the republic, including Chistopol, are to connect to the system in the short run. The application has been downloaded about 220 times so far. In the future, the developers plan to add a separate calendar of events with push notifications, while the topic of issue of plastic is still under discussion.

“We have refused any physical carriers, plastic as much as possible, but we will still have plastic, we are discussing the issue. Now we think and look where we will use it. But the mobile app is the basic tool for clients to use this service, and it is a very natural way nowadays. The virtual card is issued instantaneously, money is deposited from one’s card without interest, the tourist doesn’t have any additional costs,” representative of the developer of the integrated platform, Deputy Board Chairman of Ak Bars Bank Mikhail Marin reasoned.

“Our tourist isn’t ready to pay money for a prepaid story”

So-called CityPass cards are popular among guests of a city in most developed tourist centres of Europe — some tourist cards that one can buy for €40-60 and count on a free visit to a list of urban sightseeing points, which is established beforehand. Such systems in Russia were launched in Saint Petersburg and Moscow for 3-4,000 rubles per card. However, the developers of the Tatarstan service considered such a prepaid option unsuitable and unattractive for Kazan tourists, stressed head of the Tatarstan State Committee for Tourism Sergey Ivanov.

“When you buy a prepaid card, you don’t know the city yet, you don’t understand the value of this card. It is hard for you to evaluate if you save money or overpay. We have chosen a different behavioural model. When a person decided to spend a certain sum on entertainments and purchases today, he transfers it and calmly spends it by saving money. There is no lash behind that makes his stay less comfortable. Tatarstan is the land of 1001 pleasures. The main value of such cards in Europe is in the entrance to some very popular places for tourists without waiting in the queue. Here in Tatarstan and in Russia in general we don’t have so many places with queues. Our value for the tourist is different,” he concluded.

“Our tourist pays about 24,000 rubles on average during a stay, he is 24-44 years old and stays in Tatarstan from 2 to 7 days. He mainly spends money on accommodation, entertainments, purchases. And understanding that our tourist isn’t ready to pay money for a prepaid story but spend more when receiving services, we’ve chosen right this option,” Director General of the Tatarstan Tourism Development Centre, ideologist and instigator of the project Dilbar Sadykova.

“If you deposited money, spend it, if you didn’t spend it, come back”

The participants of the presentation of Tatarstan Tourist Pass paid attention to service terms of the virtual cards that say that it is impossible to withdraw cash from it and transfer money to other cards and accounts. Mikhail Marin confirmed it and specified that the terms of use of this card are defined by the Central Bank’s requirements, as, in fact, it is a virtually prepaid card.

“When you install it, you indicate only your phone number, which imposes limits on both turnover and maximum balance, it’s 15 and 40,000 rubles respectively. Now, this can be done (to withdraw money from the virtual card) by going to the bank’s office and filing a claim, you will get the money transferred. It is a complicated way, but, unfortunately, the problem is that we will have to identify you as a client to give the money back. Otherwise, there are questions linked with legalisation. Yes, it isn’t easy, I recognise it completely, but it’s what we have at the moment,” the specialist explained.

The developer also stressed that in general there is no sense in withdrawing money from the virtual card, as it can be used to pay for any purchases via Google Pay or Apple Pay across Russia in every city with contactless payment terminals.

The participants of the discussion had questions about the expiration date of the virtual card — only a year. If there is money left on the card after the card becomes invalid, they will simply remain on the banking account, while the money can be withdrawn also by filing a claim going to the bank in person, Marin assured.

“Well, colleagues, what a tourist it is who hasn’t spent all the money? What we usually do on a trip: you go to the railway station with no money in the wallet or the airport with no money on the card. This is why everything must be spent. If you deposited money, spend it, if you didn’t spend it, come back to spend,” the chairman of the State Committee for Tourism closed the discussion of the issue with a smile.

Realnoe Vremya online newspaper

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