From Kazan to Lake Baikal for 25k rubles?
Tour operators are ready to develop charter flights within the country, if the Federal Tourism Agency supports budget subsidies
As it became known to Realnoe Vremya, Kazan can enter the summer charter programme of flights to Lake Baikal, which is being re-launched by the federal operator TUI Rossiya with the support of the Federal Tourism Agency. It has already been determined that the first subsidised flights to Ulan-Ude will again start flying from Moscow, but with the allocation of additional federal subsidies, the programme will also cover Kazan. TUI Rossiya indirectly confirmed the plans to capture Kazan but refrained from official comments until federal decisions.
Charters at the request of Minnikhanov
Buryatia, which launched an unprecedented charter programme of flights to Lake Baikal, responded to the president's desire to open a route from Tatarstan. Let us remind that during the official visit to Ulan-Ude in March this year, Rustam Minnikhanov asked the head of the region, Aleksey Tsydenov, to strengthen cooperation by mutual tourist exchange between the republics. If we take into account the distance of almost 5,000 kilometres, then the request at the top looked original. Suffice it to say that the flight to this region takes several hours and a lot of money. Vacation on Lake Baikal for a resident of Kazan, as a rule, is much more expensive than a week or even two in Europe.
But by that time, Buryatia had managed to run in the winter charter programme: with state subsidies for flights, a tour for a few days cost the traveller only 25,000 rubles. Apparently, Rustam Minnikhanov proposed to expand the geography of this programme to Tatarstan.
“Many people want to visit Lake Baikal," the president of Tatarstan told a colleague. “Especially from the side of Buryatia, the lake is very beautiful, with beautiful beaches and crystal clear water. There are no such places like Lake Baikal in the world. We only need to think through the issues related to logistics. We, in turn, are actively developing ecotourism. We can cooperate in this direction," Minnikhanov suggested.
Buryatia invites to Baikal
Buryatia was not long in coming. On 9 April, Minister of Tourism of Tatarstan Maria Badmatsyrenova held the first presentation of the tourism potential of her region in Kazan, telling about the conditions of domestic charter transportation of tourists to Lake Baikal. The operator of the programme was the federal tour operator TUI Rossiya, which, with the support of the Federal Tourism Agency, implemented two programmes — a summer one in 2020 and a winter one in 2021. Moreover, not only Moscow, but also Yekaterinburg participated in the winter programme. According to the operator, during the summer, 10 flights of Ural Airlines were carried out with a frequency of once every 9 days, on which more than one and a half thousand tourists went to Buryatia. In the winter of 2021, 2,500 tourists were transported. According to the minister of tourism of Buryatia, in winter, the region could earn 200 million rubles on the tourist flow.
“We have excellent charters, so without tourist cashback, everything was sold well," said Maria Badmatsyrenova in a conversation with Realnoe Vremya. “The cashback of about 200 million rubles for the second stage brought this programme to the region, it continues so far.
According to the minister, the budget of the trip within the framework of the charter tour is 25,000 rubles. It includes a round-trip flight on the route Moscow-Ulan-Ude-Moscow, accommodation in a three-star hotel, 8 days and 7 nights, breakfast and two basic excursions.
“This is a charter programme, it is implemented thanks to the support of the federal budget," said the minister of tourism of Buryatia. “We receive about 400,000 a year. But these are the ones who lived in a hotel. About 1 million tourists, among whom there are many who come independently. Some of them live in tents.
The 2021 summer charter programme will be broader, she predicts.
“We hope that a decision will now be made on the allocation of an additional subsidy. In June, Moscow will definitely fly. Now we plan to launch such on the flight Kazan-Barnaul-Ulan-Ude," said Maria Badmatsyrenova.
TUI Rossiya confirmed the plans to capture Kazan but refrained from official comments until federal decisions. “When the necessary federal acts are adopted, then we will issue a press release on this topic," the company explained.
Borders are locked so far
However, the Association of Tour Operators of Russia believes that domestic charter programmes will not lead to a fundamental shift in the preferences of tourists, as the guest infrastructure of the regions is far behind. According to the members of the Association, the room capacity is not ready to accept everyone, so as a result of the influx of tourists, housing prices will inevitably rise. “If the demand is artificially heated, the supply will not be long in coming," ATOR believes. According to them, as soon as the borders open, tourists will rush back to the Turkish and Arab beaches.
Anton Bunakov, the head of the Department of Service and Tourism of the KFU, full member of the National Academy of Tourism, agrees that a weak infrastructure can become an obstacle to tourism growth. However, he is concerned about the economic aspect.
“Before the pandemic, Baikal was interesting for Chinese tourists," he recalled. “Tour operators of the People's Republic of China quickly created a tourist product and began to intensively import travellers from China. Baikal experienced the strongest load, and only during the pandemic, the ecosystem of the unique lake 'rested'," he says. So, in his opinion, tourism is tourism, but the authorities should take care of careful care of Lake Baikal.