First Ürümqi-Kazan flight: almost a 100% load, Muslim brotherhood and irrepressible love for photo

Interstate Aviation Committee opened ‘tourist’ flights for Chinese people from Ürümqi

First Ürümqi-Kazan flight: almost a 100% load, Muslim brotherhood and irrepressible love for photo Photo: Maksim Platonov

The first delegation of Chinese tourists from Ürümqi was welcomed at the Kazan Airport on 4 August morning. It turned out the plane took off with a full load, and the load of the next flight accounted for 70%, according to the data given a week ago. The Committee for Tourism says Tatarstan is very interested in well off Chinese tourists. The fact that mainly Uyghurs who are Muslims may be interested in the culture of the republic and live in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region whose administrative and economic centre is Ürümqi plays into the republic's hands.

A group of Chinese tourists landed in Kazan

The first charter flight from China was welcomed with traditional Tatar hospitality at the Kazan Airport on 4 August. The cooperation had being actively discussed for a long time. The Committee for Tourism of the Republic of Tatarstan has been working on it for the last two years. The well thought out Ürümqi-Kazan-Ürümqi flight became the result of this work. The chairman of the Committee Sergey Ivanov told Realnoe Vremya the first flight had almost a full load. 171 people arrived in Kazan, while the maximum capacity of the plane is 174.

Chinese travellers descended in small groups. They were welcomed downstairs by official representatives of Tatarstan and girls in national costumes with chak-chak, bread and salt. Tourists definitely liked such a reception. They immediately started to take photos using their phones. Almost every person was holding a gadget. Even the pilot opened a window, and we saw his content face and a phone he had in his hands. Flight attendants who had a bright red uniform were looking out of the cabin. Naturally, they also had their gadgets.

Chinese travellers were welcomed downstairs by official representatives of Tatarstan

The very tourists were very easy-going and hurdled language barriers due to smiles and gestures, while somebody even replied in Russian. In case of the failure of the above-mentioned means of communication, Tatarstan interpreters who spoke Chinese helped the tourists.

'The beauty that is around us, and not only nature but also beautiful people who welcome us, has been my first impression. Probably I would stay and live here. I like this place very much,' Shen Li, one of the tourists, told when she descended the gangway.

She said she has never been in Kazan and knows little about Russia. But the tourist hopes to correct this mistake in the short run.

'Our goal is to maintain it at a level of 90, 95,100%'

Tianjin Airlines is the company that operates flights from Ürümqi to Kazan. The Xinjiang China International Travel Service is the operator of the flight. The flight will be operated twice a week – on Mondays and Thursdays till 24 October 2016. If there is a positive economic result, flights will be renewed from April next year. The Chinese carrier chose the Interstate Aviation Committee for a reason. Kazan is closer to Ürümqi than Moscow or St. Petersburg. The flight from one point to the other takes just 4,5 hours.

Answering a question asked by Realnoe Vremya, Ivanov told the load of the next plane that will fly on Monday was 70% on Friday last week. 'I also hope the load will reach 100% during the week. Undoubtedly, it is difficult to forecast. But we hope the terms we have with the Chinese operator and the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region will allow to maintain the load at quite a high level. If not, the economic effect will reduce. Our goal is to maintain it at a level of 90, 95, 100%'.

The Chinese tourists are supposed to spend their first day in Kazan

A ticket to this plane cannot be bought separately because it is a part of the tourist package. It includes excursions, accommodation, meals, transport and other services. The price for a one-week tour is from 8 to 10 yuans, which is about 80-100,000 rubles ($1,250-1,540).

The Chinese tourists are supposed to spend their first day in Kazan where they will acquaint with the main points of interests: the Kazan Kremlin, Baumana Street, they will have a sightseeing tour and visit Ulyanov-Lenin's museum. At night they will go to Moscow by train. They will spend there several days and go to St. Petersburg. Then the tourists will return from St. Petersburg to Kazan. If they wish, they can visit the insular city of Sviyazhsk. Then a plane to Ürümqi will be waiting for them. Ivanov told additionally 8 guides who speak Chinese were prepared within the scope of the programme. He stressed it was important the guides be people from Tatarstan. In general, nowadays 13-15 guides have been prepared in Kazan. It is planned a new group of guides who speak Chinese will be taught at the Kazan Federal University by autumn.

'Chinese tourists are very good for any region and any country'

Tatarstan is interested the Chinese tourists spend as much as possible time in the republic and were able to see as much as possible places. As the launched programme allows the tourists to stay only a night in Tatarstan, the republic expressed its interest in launching other longer programmes, so that Chinese will be able to visit other local points of interests and Great Bolgar, Chistopol, Yelabuga and others.

'Naturally, we will work on the creation of direct groups who will be Tatarstan. In general, we came to an agreement with the Chinese operator on it,' the chairman of the Committee for Tourism. Taking into account a half of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region are Uyghurs who are Muslims. This destination can be especially interesting for them. According to Ivanov, he doesn't exclude the first charter flights, which won't be a lot, will be launched this year.

The results the work of the Committee for Tourism of Tatarstan can be seen only next year

It should be noted Ürümqi is the largest economic centre of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Chinese tourists are well off, it explains the interest in them. 'It is no secret the Chinese tourists are very good for any region and any country because they spend much money on excursions and shopping. Their accommodation is within middle price brackets – a four-star hotel. Sergey Ivanov confirms it. 'Generally speaking, for the whole world and for us, their profitability is equal to the level of Russian tourists who, as you know, also spend much money when abroad. This is why the world is actively fighting to attract the Chinese tourist flow. Indeed, economically, they are very interesting for us,' the speaker concluded.

However, if, in general, the tourist flow from China increased by 87% and made up 600,000 people from 2014 to 2015, last year Tatarstan hosted just 6,800 people out of the total amount. The results the work of the Committee for Tourism of Tatarstan can be seen only next year.

In turn, the Chinese side is also interested in Russian tourists. A working group on the development of mutual tourist flows has already been created. The next session of the group will be in Kazan in March 2017. The attraction of Russian tourists by the Chinese side will be a topic for a discussion.

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By Maria Gorozhaninova. Photo: Maksim Platonov