Kazan-Hainan: a tour operator’s collapse not prevent growth of tourist flow

Despite the problems at the start of the project, the change of Zhemchuzhnaya Reka tour operator has helped the Chinese island not to lose customers and even become a fast-growing destination

Kazan-Hainan: a tour operator’s collapse not prevent growth of tourist flow
Photo: Maksim Platonov

Exactly a year ago, there was one of the most noticeable tourist crises in the history of Tatarstan: as a result of the bankruptcy of the tour operator Zhemzhuzhnaya Reka, about four hundred Tatarstan citizens could not fly from the Chinese island of Hainan in time. The delay was about four days, Tatarstan authorities joined the solution of the situation. As Realnoe Vremya found out from representatives of the tourism industry, the unsuccessful opening of the new direction did not prevent the growing interest of Tatarstan residents to the resorts of China, even the possible opening of direct flights from Kazan to Harbin is being discussed.

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Last year's problems with tourists from Tatarstan stucking on the Hainan island, according to representatives of the tourism industry, have practically not affected the popularity of the destination this year. In 2019, the flights to the island have been resumed. However, it has not been without this year — in early December, for example, the departure from the island flight of the airline I Fly was delayed almost two days — but this was due to the closure of the Nanjing airport. In General, however, Hainan has become one of the fastest growing destinations for tourists in the Tatarstan this year.

Yulia Kaurova, the director of the travel agency Drugoe Izmerenie, told Realnoe Vremya that in a year everyone have forgotten about last year's problems, none of the buyers do not even ask about them.

“Since spring, when the flights started, China has been booked very well. This direction is inexpensive, plus there are different options for departures — they are quite frequent. The tour operator is now different — Zhemchuzhnaya Reka went bankrupt, flashed in the sky and went out quickly. TEZ-tour has operated since the string, and people trust it. The problems that have arisen a few days ago — they are not associated with any difficulties at the tour operator,” said Kaurova.

Olga Baykeeva, the director general of OLIS travel company, agrees with her. According to her, last year's events are unlikely to repeat:

“There was a delay of departure a week ago, but this is a one-time event, plus a lot depends on weather conditions, on force majeure — it does not depend on the tour operator. After last year's events with Zhemchuzhnaya Reka, of course, initially there was a fright: many sued, but the money still could not be returned. However, now another tour operator has come. At first, the demand was cautious, but gradually the direction has become popular, and now the flow is good. So far, tours to Hainan have been successful wherever the flight programme has begun.”

Ramil Miftakhov, the director general of the agency of individual tourism Persona Grata and president of the Association of Travel Agencies of the Republic of Tatarstan, gives specific figures on popularity. Last year's situation, according to him, has not greatly affected the popularity of the direction this year: initially, direct flights from Tatarstan were not in such a volume that it was possible to talk about a collapse of the tourist flow in principle.

“Now one tour operator offers tours there, the average load of the boards is 70-80 per cent. I think that will remain so,” suggests Miftakhov.

The data of the tour operator itself corresponds to the assessments. As the press service of the tour operator Tez Tour reported Realnoe Vremya, the dynamics of sales of tours corresponds to the planned indicators, the depth of sales in the direction already reaches the May holiday dates. Next year, the tour operator has planned a year-round flight programme from Kazan to the resorts of the island.

Priced like Thailand, but with medicine and “sophisticated” cuisine

The Chinese island of Hainan is considered by most travel agents to be an alternative to other inexpensive “winter” destinations — such as the Indian state of Goa and Thailand, in particular, Pattaya. However, Ramil Miftakhov notes that tours to China are quite specific, including-because of the cuisine.

“Many people are disappointed in the food, despite the sea and the quality of hotels. Chinese cuisine is necessary to know — sometimes incongruous products are used in our understanding, for example, fried in caramel carp. There is, of course, pork, and chicken, just need to know ‘where and how’. Hainan is called ‘Eastern Hawaii’, there are wide beaches, many good hotels — both network and non-network, tourist infrastructure is quite developed — there is something to see and where to go,” says Miftakhov.

Hainan also has important advantages. Olga Baykeeva from the company OLIS, for example, notes that people also go to Hainan for medical purposes — for treatment and prevention. In China, there is a fairly high level of medicine, while quite popular and traditional Chinese medicine. “Some hotels even give free examinations in clinics, which also attracts tourists,” said Baykeeva.

Yet one of the important factors in the popularity of Hainan is that it is the only place in China where you can fly from Kazan direct flight. For most of the rest of China, in addition, you need a visa — the exceptions are, in fact, Hainan and Hong Kong — as part of a tourist group. In combination with the lack of direct flights, the need for a visa does not contribute to the popularity of a country unfamiliar to a resident of European Russia.

The consulate very much wants either a Chinese or a Russian company to operate flights between Kazan and China. Photo: Oleg Tikhonov

The attache of the Consul General of China in Kazan in an interview with Realnoe Vremya noted that the Consulate is very eager for either a Chinese or Russian company to operate flights between Kazan and China.

“This will give impetus to the development of tourist flow from Kazan to China, and vice versa. Most tourists from Tatarstan now fly to the southern part of China. But China is a big country, with a lot of diversity. As far as I know, work is underway on flights from Harbin to Kazan via Novosibirsk or Yekaterinburg, and a flight to Beijing is also being discussed. One of the largest airports in the world has been opened there this year, this is a good opportunity for us to open a direct flight, we are discussing this possibility with our colleagues from the republic,” the attache said.

Four hundred angry Tatarstan citizens

Let us remind that in the early autumn of last year — or rather, in the second half of September — the residents of Kazan had the opportunity of easy and relatively affordable rest in the rather exotic place. Direct charter flights have been launched to Haikou city district on the southern Chinese island of Hainan. This offer first appeared on the Kazan market in 2018 against the background of the May cancellation of visas to visit the island.

However, in early December last year, for almost four hundred residents of the region, the long-awaited vacation was overshadowed by another “tourist collapse”. That time, 550 residents of Tatarstan went to Hainan to rest. However, on 7 December, Iraero airline, which operated by order of the tour operator Zhemzhuzhnaya Reka, announced that it was suspending the programme of flights to the cities of China because of the debts of the travel company in 2,3 million dollars. As a result, 369 residents of the region were “stuck” on the tropical island, and along with residents of other regions, about one and a half thousand people were affected. As it turned out a little later, another 5,000 Russians could not fly to the purchased tours because of the bankruptcy of Zhemzhuzhnaya Reka.

369 inhabitants of the region “stuck” on the tropical island, and together with the inhabitants of other regions, there suffered about one and a half thousand people. Photo: hainan-kitaj.ru

The tourists who were on the island at the time of the termination of flights settled in hotels and were fed, but the attitude to the delay, of course, was not positive in everyone. As a result, Head of the State Committee for Tourism Sergey Ivanov joined the problem. Some tourists returned to Kazan on December 11 — with a delay of 4 days, at that time there were still 200 people from Tatarstan on the island.

By Maksim Matveev