Halal summit in Samara: about how ministry of culture takes the rap for tourism and the governor offers to raise a glass

Volga Investment Summit & World Halal Day: parallels with Tatarstan, Azarov's “toasts” and the show in hijabs

Halal summit in Samara: about how ministry of culture takes the rap for tourism and the governor offers to raise a glass Photo: Timur Rakhmatullin

Samara hosted Volga Investment Summit forum and World Halal Day from 3 to 5 October. In addition to general words about the development of the halal industry and Islamic finance, on the sidelines the congress participants discussed the problems that were not raised at the session. The correspondent of Realnoe Vremya, who attended the forum, listened to the aspirations of the delegates and asked hard-hitting questions to the top officials of the government of Samara Oblast. Read more about the first day of the summit in our report.

Falling short of Tatarstan

Samara has hosted Volga Investment Summit forum and World Halal Day. More than 500 delegates from 20 countries gathered in the halls of Lotte hotel. It should be noted that Russia has hosted such summit for the first time. Previously, the event was held in the UK, India, South Korea, Singapore and Croatia.

The main speakers were Governor of Samara Oblast Dmitry Azarov, President of the International Association of Islamic Business (IAIB) Marat Kabayev and the founder of World Halal Day Muhammad Jinnah. The participants of the meeting discussed the halal industry, shared their experience in the implementation of investment projects, signed agreements.

The international exhibition and fair of the manufacturers and suppliers of halal products and services was held on Kuibyshev Square. In fact, it consisted of two parts. The first was the Oriental bazaar, where shashliks, pilaf and flatbread were cooked. In a separate tent, there was an exposition, which presented meat products, confectionery, hygiene products, clothing, financial and tourist services. By the way, it was quite noticeable the presence of stands of the companies and organizations providing medical services of both local (Samara Medical University) and foreign (especially distinguished guests from South Korea) doctors. In other respects, the exhibition resembled a light version of the one that is arranged in the framework of Russia-Islamic World: KazanSummit Forum, held in the capital of Tatarstan.

The Kuibyshev Square hosted the international exhibition and fair of the manufacturers and suppliers of halal products and services

It should be noted that there were many Tatarstan citizens among the delegates. For example, Chairman of the Halal Committee of the Muslim Spiritual Boards of the Republic of Tatarstan Irek Ziganshin in every way communicated with colleagues and took pictures with other participants. The manufacturers of dairy products and sausages from Tatarstan presented their products and offered to taste their products. Many recognized that in Samara, the scale fell short of Kazan. But the fact that they were concerned about the theme of Halal suggests some thoughts.

Why Samara, not Kazan?

Some guests even wondered why it is Samara which hosted the forum that discusses halal production, Islamic banking. Although these topics have long been a wheelhouse of Kazan, where relevant events are held (for example, the above-mentioned KazanSummit). Mufti of the Samara Oblast Talip Yarullin said that the regional authorities have high hopes for this summit. Actually, his words were confirmed by the head of the regional government.

First Vice-Governor — Chairman of the government of Samara Oblast Viktor Kudryashov, responding to the correspondent of Realnoe Vremya, noted that Tatarstan has always been a good neighbour to his region. And this year both the republic and the region have together held a Rural Sabantuy. And he is quite often asked the question “why Samara, not Kazan?”.

“It is wrong to associate halal exclusively with the faith,” said Kudryashov. “After all, halal is something associated with purity, quality of products, compliance with the highest standards. Despite the fact that in Samara Oblast 8% of the population are Muslims (mainly Tatars), the number of consumers of halal products is much wider.”

Viktor Kudryashov, answering the correspondent of Realnoe Vremya, noted that Tatarstan has always been a good neighbour to his region. And this year both the republic and the region have together held a Rural Sabantuy

He added that the geographical position of Samara Oblast obliges the region to develop relations with the countries of the East. There are already quite a lot of halal producers in the region.

“We are holding this forum in pursuit of our own goal — to develop the regional economy,” he said.

The vice-governor during conversation also noted that Samara is chosen for hosting the summit for a reason. According to him, the region is economically developed and here, where the population has a sufficiently high purchasing power, foreigners can find a good market for halal products.

In turn, Governor Dmitry Azarov during the welcoming speech said that the region has 135 countries-trading partners, is one of the ten largest economies of Russia, has a huge scientific and industrial potential. More than 200 enterprises with foreign participation operate in the region, the largest Samara-Togliatti agglomeration and the Scientific and Educational Centre are developing. All participants of the summit are united by common goals: economic development, creation of conditions for attracting investments, business cooperation between states and different peoples of the world.

The governor also stressed that Samara Oblast is ready to compete with the leading producers.

“Competition exists in all sectors of the economy — not only in Russia but also in the world. Therefore, it is very important to increase the level of competitiveness. If the products are exported, it testifies to its quality, and the company has advantages, which gives impetus to innovation, investment. Federal support measures offset logistics costs. At the regional level, we compensate for the costs of business acceleration.”

Dmitry Azarov said during his welcoming speech that the region has 135 trading partners, is one of the ten largest economies in Russia, and has a huge scientific and industrial potential

Who is going to be responsible for tourism?

Representatives of the tourism industry of the region, talking on the sidelines with our correspondent, admitted that in the last year the work of the government to support this area has become almost unnoticed, unlike in previous years. According to them, for many years they had felt the work of the Department of tourism — and the industry was developing significantly. Thanks to the fruitful cooperation with officials, the local tour operators met the World Cup fully prepared. According to many indicators, it was evident that tourism in the region was actively developing and increasing its turnover. And the regional authorities repeatedly stated (including Azarov) that they would continue to work to expand the tourist attractiveness of the region.

It should be noted that for 10 years until the beginning of 2019, the Department of Tourism of Samara Oblast had been headed by Mikhail Maltsev, whom the industry representatives call “the most competent official” who understood all the basics of this direction. Subsequently, the department was deprived of independence and included in the ministry of culture. Maltsev himself after leaving his post headed the five-star hotel 7 Avenue. Such changes in the structure of the government caused some confusion among local tour operators.

“Now we do not even know who oversees tourism, responsibility has blurred,” one of the interlocutors of Realnoe Vremya from Samara commented on the situation.

The regions that intend to develop the tourism industry, as a rule, create separate departments. For example, the State Committee for Tourism is successfully functioning in Tatarstan. The creation of a similar body, according to some reports, is being under consideration in Bashkiria. The relevant committees work in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and in Krasnodar Krai there is a whole ministry (of resorts, tourism and Olympic heritage).

Irina Kalyagina, answering the question of our journalist, said that the main directions of tourism in the region are cultural, educational and event ones

The correspondent of Realnoe Vremya, attending a closed plenary session with the top officials of the government of Samara Oblast, asked the speakers why the region went contrary to the practice existing in other regions with high tourist potential. Instead, here tourism turned out to be under the supervision of the ministry of culture.

Acting Minister of Culture Irina Kalyagina, answering the question of our journalist, said that the main directions of tourism in the region are cultural, educational and event ones. In addition, many festivals are held in Samara Oblast.

“A lot of things here bring culture and tourism together — so far it does not hinder the work, but we are ready to listen to our colleagues and learn from the experience of other regions,” Kalyagina cautiously looked back at Kudryashov. “Perhaps, one day tourism will become a system of the ministry — it is quite justified. This will be facilitated by forums such as today's, the World Cup and some new projects. Thank you for the tip!”

However, her boss clearly didn’t like the minister's answer.

“Officials always have certain restrictions, first of all, quantitative ones,” Kudryashov said. “We united these issues not only because Irina Evgenyevna told. We just try to work more efficiently: to achieve excellent results with a smaller quantity. Therefore, the structure issue is not discussed yet.”

How this merger of different departments is going to affect the tourism industry will be known at the beginning of next year when the government of Samara oblast sums up all the results of the year 2019.

At the end of the first day, the ceremonial key hand-over of World Halal Day to the next host of the summit — the city of Durban (South Africa) — took place

“Raising a glass” to the Muslims

At the end of the first day, the ceremonial key handover of World Halal Day to the next host of the summit — the city of Durban (South Africa) — took place. The ceremony was attended by Dmitry Azarov, Marat Kabayev, Muhammad Jinnah and South African officials. South Africa has been chosen for a reason. At the forum, they repeatedly noted that the proportion of the Muslims in this country is relatively low. However, the sphere of Halal services and production of goods compliant with the Shariah is highly developed.

The governor never tired of thanking Kabaev and Jinnah for choosing Samara as the venue for the summit and organizing it.

“In the spirit of our traditions, Halal traditions, I suggest raising a glass,” after these words of Azarov many people in the audience became tense, as there was a considerable part of Muslims there. “...a glass of water so that all our agreements have been met,” he corrected himself, drawing appreciative laughter from the audience. Though many didn't understand, whether it was a casual slip of the head of the Samara Oblast or a deliberate joke.

For afters, the guests were “treated” to musical performances, some of them performed in Tatar duet of Guzel and Salavat Minnikhanov, as well as the show of Muslim women's clothing. The fashion show of girls in hijabs was prepared by the Samara design centre Rich Islam.

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By Timur Rakhmatullin, author’s photo