Ilya Varlamov: “Impressions from Chechnya will be like from a foreign country”

Where to travel inside Russia after restrictions are lifted: expert advice

Ilya Varlamov: “Impressions from Chechnya will be like from a foreign country”
Photo: Maksim Platonov

Sales in the tourism sector have fallen to almost zero because of the coronavirus pandemic, but the summer, albeit with some reservations, can bring some revival to the life of travel lovers. In the material of Realnoe Vremya, experts speculate about which areas of domestic tourism will be in demand in the summer season, what measures will help to attract tourists to Tatarstan and why Kazan did not get into the Forbes article about undervalued Russian cities.

Russian tourism will come alive with the coming of summer?

On May 7, Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed to develop measures to support domestic tourism, as well as “create new attractive travel routes in Russia”. Later, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Chernyshenko said that the summer tourist season in Russia can take place if the incidence of COVID-19 in the regions decreases. He also noted that due to the restrictions imposed in connection with the pandemic, the country will form “its own affordable tourist product”.

As head of Russiatourism Zarina Doguzova stated on Doc-Talk programme on Channel One, the Russian tourism sector will begin a phased exit from quarantine in a number of regions of the Russian Federation from June 1. At the first stage, sanatoriums with medical licenses, cottages and apartment hotels will be opened. “As for the gradual exit from the restrictions in our country, we look at the summer season with great optimism. On June 1, most regions will begin the first stage of the exit from quarantine measures. We are now in close cooperation with governors, with Rospotrebnadzor, we are finishing up details and nuances," Doguzova said.

As stated by Zarina Doguzova, the Russian tourism sector will begin a phased exit from quarantine in a number of regions of the Russian Federation from June 1. Photo: tourdom.ru

“Not everywhere you can get service and comfort, but there will be a lot of impressions”

Video blogger Ilya Varlamov, who has travelled all over Russia, in the conversation with Realnoe Vremya advised interesting routes for traveling in the conditions of closed borders, noting that “everything is very individual here”:

“You just need to understand what goals a person pursues and what they expect from the trip. If you just want to relax, there are not so many alternatives to the sea and resorts — this is Krasnodar Krai and further depending on the budget. But I am not a great supporter of such beach holiday. So it is difficult for me to evaluate resorts, I am not in this area," he admitted.

As for impressions tourism, there is a much greater variety, Varlamov is convinced:

“If a person doesn't pursue comfort but just wants to see something interesting and amazing, then there are many more options. For example, a huge number of emotions our Caucasus will give. This is a concentration of cultures of different peoples, and if you travel around the Caucasian republics, it will probably be as if you are moving from one country to another. The situation there is very different depending on the region. Of course, there are republics, such as Chechnya, that are less like ordinary Russia. And impressions in this regard from Chechnya will be like from a foreign country. It's not that it's good or bad, it's just that everything is different: different rules, architecture, people, police. If someone just wants to get impressions, so that they can remember and tell other people something for a long time, I highly recommend going to Chechnya, to Dagestan and other republics. Not everywhere you can get service and comfort, but there will be a lot of impressions," the expert believes.

Photo: Ilya Varlamov (varlamov.ru)
Ilya Varlamov: “If someone just wants to get impressions, so that they can remember and tell other people something for a long time, I highly recommend going to Chechnya, to Dagestan and other republics. Not everywhere you can get service and comfort, but there will be a lot of impressions”

According to Varlamov, it will be interesting to look at the “dying Russia”. “In this regard, Tver Oblast is very interesting to me," he admitted. “There are many amazing cities that are being destroyed and that are not built up with high-rise buildings and shopping centeres. These are Vyshny Volochyok, Torzhok and other small towns. In principle, you can find something like this in every region just by driving outside of a big city and seeing how it all happens. Besides, there are a huge number of interesting places like Altai, Karelia, and the Caucasus with stunning natural beauty. Everyone can find something for themselves.”

“Closed borders remain the main support for domestic tourism”

Ilya Varlamov is convinced that with the decline of the pandemic, more and more regions of Russia will be opened for visiting. “There is still an opportunity to travel. There are flights operating. But there are different rules depending on the region. In some regions, after entry, a two-week quarantine is required (as in Tatarstan — editor's note), somewhere it is not. But the movement around the country is allowed. You can take a train, a plane, and some oblasts have been fully opened. Anyone can fly to Petersburg, for example. Leningrad Oblast, Tver Oblast, and Yaroslavl Oblast are open. Further, there will be more and more such regions," he believes.

“Tourism is not a primary task for the state”

President of the Association of Travel Agencies of the Republic of Tatarstan Ramil Miftakhov hopes that the demand for tourist products will revive in the second half of summer.

“The main obstacle at the moment is the self-isolation regime, which requires a two-week quarantine for arrivals from one region of Russia to another. If people went to the sea for 10 days, it turns out that they have to stay in the room all this time? Of course not. But violations can lead to a secondary wave of infections at these resorts. Therefore, the main task is to wait for the moment when the state removes the restrictions, which will be the starting point. Then it will be possible to travel all over Russia.” he notes.

Photo: Roman Khasaev
Ramil Miftakhov: “The main task is to wait for the moment when the state removes the restrictions, which will be the starting point. Then it will be possible to travel all over Russia”

But here comes the second question — the already mentioned solvency of travellers. “Small businesses are at an all-time low. I assume that entrepreneurs themselves and their family members are unlikely to afford to go to the sea for a vacation. There will be chances for people who have booked tours, paid for a trip, but the deadlines were moved forward. I think that for many people the story of going to the sea for 2 weeks will become simply unaffordable. But there will still be people who will get in a car and go to Sochi. Maybe hotels will become cheaper to increase demand and stimulate sales," Miftakhov suggests.

According to the source, the state is unlikely to subsidise any expenses for travellers. “He probably has other strategic goals. The main task is for people to survive. The state will allocate money to try to revive the industries most affected by COVI-19. The main task is people and their health. You can go to the sea in a year, but you want to eat now," he is convinced.

Where can I go for a change of air?

So, the first option is go to the sea in Crimea or on the Black Sea coast of the Caucasus. By plane, train or car (the latter is the cheapest option), Ramil Miftakhov offers.

Another option is to fly to places rich in thermal springs for recreation. In particular, by a subsidized flight to Tyumen. Certainly, there are different accommodation conditions in Tyumen, but the pricing policy of local thermal pools is attractive. There is also an option with Caucasian Mineral Waters — you can go to Kislovodsk, Pyatigorsk, Zheleznovodsk. There, travellers can drink mineral water, take a walk in the mountains, improve their health after a sedentary lifestyle in self-isolation, as well as clean the gastrointestinal tract and lose weight.

Certainly, there are different accommodation conditions in Tyumen, but the pricing policy of local thermal pools is attractive. Photo: arkaim-travel.ru

The third offer is nature reserves where you can admire the beauty and go fishing. In this case, it is worth considering Krasnoyarsk, Altai Krai, and Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk. But it is clear that a trip to these places is already more expensive.

Anti-crisis tour for guests of Tatarstan

Ramil Miftakhov notes that after the widespread removal of the self-isolation regime, it is quite possible to affordably travel for a weekend.

“The main task of travellers is to get new emotions, visualisation, and get away from it all. So first I would consider cities within a radius of 500 km to go there for three or four days, get new emotions, eat delicious food and just relax. For Tatarstan citizens, this is, of course, Samara, Nizhny Novgorod, Yoshkar-Ola, Cheboksary. And let's not forget about our native Tatarstan. You can plan trips to other cities of the republic for a weekend once a week. Don't stay at home," urges the head of the Association of Travel Agencies of the Republic of Tatarstan.

“If we are talking about high-quality service and a high level, this is Kazan. We have a modern European city with good infrastructure, cuisine, display facilities, and a hotel base. All this together gives a beautiful and interesting mosaic that allows us to call Kazan the third capital of Russia.

Nevertheless, the capital of Tatarstan, according to Miftakhov, may lose up to 40-50% of tourists by the results of last summer. Currently, he said, together with the State Committee for Tourism of the Republic of Tatarstan, an anti-crisis programme is being developed for guests of the republic. “Unique hotel offers” are planned (for three-night stays, payment for two), large discounts on food items, and excursions. The average tourist savings, according to the expert, will be about 20%.

Photo: Maksim Platonov
“If we are talking about high-quality service and a high level, this is Kazan. We have a modern European city with good infrastructure, cuisine, display facilities, and a hotel base”

The State Tourism Committee of the Republic of Tatarstan has not disclosed the details of the anti-crisis programme to Realnoe Vremya, confirming only that it is actually being developed.

“I would like to see prices that will interest our customers”

According to the director of Drogoe Izmerenie travel agency, Anvar Mingazov, there are many undervalued places in Russia against the background of popular foreign resorts. “In summer, of course, there is something to see and where to rest. You should start with the nearest attractions, explore the banks of the Volga River and Kama River. For example, the Zhiguli Mountains and their surroundings, Udmurtia, its virgin forests and recreation centкуs. Or Bashkortostan with its lakes and rivers. There have been decent hotels and activities there for a long time," he advises.

Mingazov also suggests taking a closer look at the European part of Russia, “covering with your hand on the map” super-popular locations like Moscow, St. Petersburg and the Golden Ring. In particular, these are other cities with a history: Murom, Tver, Smolensk, Tula, etc.

He himself recalls that in his youth he spent almost every summer hiking in Altai. “This is a very beautiful, interesting and diverse region. Now it is quite ready to accept not only extreme athletes, lovers of mountain hikes and river rafting, but also mass tourists. It also has its own “seas” and landscaped lakes with beaches and ready-made infrastructure. And yes, there are places in Altai where it is warm, like on the Black Sea," Mingazov intrigues. “And also Baikal, Sayans, Kamchatka. It is especially interesting there in the summer. It is clear that it is not so easy and cheap to get there. The big question is how to change the offer in these places after the coronavirus. We would like to see prices that will interest our customers.”

Photo: Maksim Platonov
You should start with the nearest attractions, explore the banks of the Volga River and Kama River. For example, the Zhiguli Mountains and their surroundings, Udmurtia, its virgin forests and recreation centкуs. Or Bashkortostan with its lakes and rivers. There have been decent hotels and activities there for a long time," he advises

“Now it is quite budget-friendly to travel around Tatarstan”

Sergey Ivanov, the chairman of the State Committee for Tourism of the Republic of Tatarstan, believes that with the revival of domestic tourist demand, Tatarstan, which has a good infrastructure and convenient location, “will be in great demand”.

According to Ivanov, the first step for Tatarstan citizens after the opening of the tourist season may be to travel around the republic. “I advise Kazan residents to go to our tourist centres — Bolgar, Sviyazhsk, Kamskoye Ustye, Tetyushi, Almetyevsk, and residents of other municipal districts of Tatarstan can go to Kazan, stay in a hotel and visit museum objects, among others.

Photo: Maksim Platonov
Sergey Ivanov: “Now it is quite budget-friendly to travel around Tatarstan, and we encourage you to do so. We need to start slowly restoring the tourism industry”

“The years of PR and millions to promote Kazan should have made it noticeable for a foreign publication”

Recently, Forbes has published an article about Russian cities that are in the tourist shadow of Moscow and St. Petersburg. In the list of the most underrated cities, the author put Yekaterinburg in first place. The list also includes Murmansk, Elista, Pskov and Khabarovsk.

“Why isn't Kazan on the list? No idea, I haven't seen this material. But for whom what is of interest. For me, as a resident of Moscow, Kazan from the point of view of architecture, restaurants and as a city, of course, does not represent any great interest. Because I see it all more and better when I live in Moscow. I am much more interested in seeing small towns, villages, and nature. In this regard, even in Russia, I try to find unique places," Ilya Varlamov told Realnoe Vremya.

Ramil Miftakhov suggested that the author used ready-made information and wrote an article, probably not having visited the same Kazan personally. Anvar Mingazov admitted that the author of the article simply considered Kazan to be the same promoted location as Moscow and Saint Petersburg. “After all, years of regular PR and millions spent on promoting Kazan as a tourist center and the third capital of Russia should have made it noticeable for a foreign publication. Or perhaps the journalist was just looking for overlooked but interesting places in Russia. And Kazan can not be considered a city that has been ignored by the Russians," he believes.

Photo: Maksim Platonov

By Kristina Ivanova
Tatarstan