Rustam Minnikhanov: “Tourism must provide 10% of gross product”
“High-margin segments” need to be expanded for this purpose
A meeting of the council under the plenipotentiary representative of the Russian president in the Volga Federal District took place in Kazan on 4 October. The development of domestic and inbound tourism was discussed there. Tatarstan President Rustam Minnikhanov delivered the main report during the event. In his report, he talked about the state of the tourism sector of the district having outlined its key problems and voiced measures to develop tourism at the federal and regional levels. As it turned out, a cruise with its obsolete ships and troubled rivers remains the sore point here, there is almost a number of difficulties with state regulation in the sector. More is in Realnoe Vremya’s report.
Leaders in tourism development
The Russian president’s Plenipotentiary Envoy to the Volga Federal District Igor Komarov arrived in Tatarstan with a business trip on Thursday — he headed to Great Bolgar where he looked over local sightseeing points and tourist attractions accompanied by Tatarstan State Adviser Mintimer Shaimiyev. This trip was a kind of groundwork for this meeting.
Tatarstan President Rustam Minnikhanov, head of the Russian Tourism Agency Zarina Doguzova as well as representatives of the State Duma, Federation Council, federal ministries and leaders of Volga regions participated in the meeting of the council under the plenipotentiary representative of the Russian president in the Volga Federal District.
“I see the Volga regions as leaders of tourism development. The president of the Russian Federation gives us a task to increase the social and economic feedback of tourism manifold and stresses that this sphere is of multi-faceted importance for both broadening horizons and creating new jobs. I hope that our discussions will give a serious impetus to the development of tourism in the Volga regions and solve a lot of problems,” Igor Komarov gave a speech in front of the audience.
The Tatarstan president delivered the main report during the meeting. According to him, tourism is “one of the most dynamically developing sectors in our district’s economy”. As evidence to his words, Rustam Minnikhanov provided the latest statistics.
“Tourism in the VFD has demonstrated a high growth pace in the last years. So last year, about 9 million tourists visited the district’s regions, and more than 14 million considering one-day excursions. The total volume of taxes paid to all budget levels of the district exceeds 27 billion rubles. Apart from it, tourism creates new jobs: a thousand tourists create 13 jobs. Over 170,000 specialists work in this sphere in our district,” the head of the republic said.
Problems of cruise
The report reads that cruise remains a simultaneously promising and troubled tourism segment for the VFD. The Volga region could significantly reinforce this area, however, as the republic’s head reported, there is a number of obstacles.
“Firstly, the obsolete fleet of cruise ships and unsatisfied paces of its upgrade. New cruise ships are built today in the district: suburban ships in Seagull project in Zelenodolsk, steamboat The Golden Ring and ships in the project Valdai in Nizhny Novgorod Oblast. At the same time, we should note that the construction of new cruise and suburban ships in Russia costs from 100 million to 2,5 billion rubles. The too high price is economically unattractive for private investors as a consequence of a long payback period and short navigation in the market. Due to this, it is very important to consider the possibility to increase the amount of the ship disposal grant and concessionary leasing. A periodical low water level in Volga water bodies is another problem for this segment,” Rustam Minnikhanov claimed.
Head of the Russian Tourism Agency Zarina Doguzova couldn’t help but pay attention to this part of the report and commented on the Tatarstan head’s words.
“Cruise tourism is one of our undoubted priorities, and it is of special importance to the VFD regions for obvious reasons. It is going to be separately explained in the plan of the tourism development strategy in the Russian Federation, which we are working on now. All the problems are clear — it is issues linked with the state of rivers, engineering of new ships, development of infrastructure on the banks, creation of points of attraction in places where ships stop. We will work on these issues in close coordination with regions and the industry ministry,” the functionary assured.
Tourism Ministry and visa-free entrance for “not dangerous” countries
What is more, the Tatarstan president reminded the participants of the meeting that once the functions of state policy in tourism were handed over from the Ministry of Culture to the Ministry of Economic Development of the Russian Federation in accordance with the Russian president’s decree, which “emphasised the understanding of tourism as a sector of the economy”. Also, Minnikhanov claimed: “I think that there is a need to create a separate authority following the example of many developed countries, a ministry or another form”.
“In addition, tourism requires federal legislative norms to constantly improve. The absence of legal regulation of the activity of guides, transport companies and instructors brought to the appearance of incompetent specialists in the market. The service quality notably worsened, and in some cases there is a decrease in tourists’ safety level. It is necessary to introduce a compulsory certification of guides, transport companies and instructors at the legislative level and tighten the control of law enforcement agencies. Besides, it is necessary to considerably increase tour operators’ financial guarantee in domestic and inbound tourism,” the Tatarstan leader said.
Also, Rustam Minnikhanov shared Tatarstan’s experience in tourism development and attraction of guests from other regions and countries to the republic with the audience. He particularly talked about the effect of the appearance of the state committee for tourism in Tatarstan, which was created after the Universiade: tourist traffic to the republic has almost doubled since its foundation, and this year this number will amount to 3,7 million tourists. The president also gave an example of the republican programme on the revival of cultural heritage sites, development of public spaces and halal tourism.
“We need to expand high-margin segments. Firstly, it is inbound tourism, which is just 15% at the moment. But solutions at the federal level are needed here: e-visas or visa-free entrance for those countries that pose no threat to our country’s security. Secondly, we have a lot of religions in the republic anyway, including Islam. Tourists from Muslim countries would love to come here in summer, as it is very hot there. So we should develop halal tourism including special infrastructure, food and so on. Our district also has huge potential for domestic tourism development. 10% of the gross product must be provided by tourism — this is the task we should give,” Rustam Minnikhanov summed up.