The third issue of Tourism & Leisure in Russia magazine comes out as we approach the 23rd General Assembly of the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), which will be held September 9–13 in St. Petersburg. About 1,500 participants from 158 UNWTO member nations, including ministers of tourism, will participate in this large, much-anticipated event. For Russia, the assembly is a unique opportunity to tell the world about our country’s tourist potential and our plans for development of the tourism industry in accordance with global best practices. It is also a chance to show off the “centre of gravity” of Russian tourism — St. Petersburg. During the event, the General Assembly delegates will also have a unique opportunity to visit Moscow, where part of the business and cultural program will take place.
Russia pays special attention to tourism; we look at tourism as a strategic industry. Major sporting events of the last several years, such as the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, the FIFA World Cup, and the Universiades in Kazan and Krasnoyarsk, provided a powerful incentive to develop the infrastructure of the host cities and opened the country to the world as an attractive tourist destination. We want to accelerate this positive momentum in the development of the Russian hospitality industry, and we intend to act in accordance with the latest global trends, including the growing interest in individual and authentic tourism, and the development of digital platforms for tourist products and services.
We are witnessing increased tourist interest in Russia, and the influx of tourists has led to improvements in the quality of services. Hotel room occupancy has grown several times over in the last few years, and the hospitality industry has seen increases in revenue for hotels, restaurants, travel and tour agencies, and transportation providers. It is also becoming easier for foreign nationals to obtain visas. Nowadays, tourists heading to the Far East and to Kaliningrad can obtain free e-visas, and in October 2019, this system will expand to include St. Petersburg as well. By order of President Vladimir Putin, starting January 1, 2021, the free electronic visa regime will be valid for travel throughout Russia. This is an important achievement for the development of tourism in Russia.
On a separate note, I would like to emphasize the humanitarian and social role of tourism, which must unite nations, strengthen historic and cultural connections, give people of different cultures an opportunity to understand and appreciate each other, and fight such negative phenomena as poverty, xenophobia, climate change and many other global problems. It is the humanitarian agenda of tourism that must become the foundation of our interaction with the UNWTO. When we meet with our UNWTO colleagues and representatives from around the world at the forthcoming General Assembly, we hope to discuss new projects in global tourism and the implementation of joint programs and initiatives that will help us to better understand tourism’s positive influence on the development of countries and their people.
As far as Russia is concerned, we would like more people — foreigners and fellow Russians alike — to discover our country’s natural and cultural diversity. I hope this issue will awaken your desire to travel and will help you in choosing interesting new destinations in our vast and amazing country!
Zarina Doguzova, the Head of the Federal Agency for Tourism