How Russian tourism industry and tourist cashback programme work in year of pandemic
“We set high hopes on autumn and winter seasons”
This year, the tourism industry around the world has fallen victim to the coronavirus pandemic. Losses from closing borders and reducing internal and external tourist flows continue to be counted. The Federal Tourism Agency expects that by the end of 2020 the losses will amount to about 40%.
“We think that by the end of the year we will be able to restore the tourist flows of the previous year by 60-70%. We hope that a drop will be 40%, perhaps a little more. So far, there are no final figures, because we are pinning our hopes on the autumn and winter seasons," Zarina Doguzova, the head of the Federal Tourism Agency, told reporters on 28 October.
The head of the department drew attention to the fact that this year the holiday season started on July 1 in manual mode, taking into account all the requirements of Rospotrebnadzor. “The launch of the holiday season has become the most important and significant measure of state support for the tourism industry," Doguzova added.
According to her data, in the summer, during the holiday season, Russia managed to restore tourist flows by 70%. By July-August indicators — by 90%. In general, the results of the summer holiday season in Rosturizm were rated as “very positive, given the crisis situation that has developed in Russia and in the world”.
Doguzova noted that a drop in tourist flows was registered in many regions. In particular, the situation is difficult in the field of business tourism, where travel has not recovered. In some regions, despite all the difficulties, there is an increase of 1,5-2 times, for example, in Altai and Buryatia (Lake Baikal).
According to the results of the first week of the second stage, the tour sales in Russia with cashback amounted to 900 million rubles. During the opening hours of the campaign, at the first stage, Russians bought tours around the country for 150 million rubles. Let us remind that the cashback programme in early October was extended until 10 January 2021 and slightly changed its terms in favour of tourists. The second stage started on October 15. The funding of up to 15 billion rubles was allocated for the programme, even now the programme has not come close to the stated target.
Rosturizm noted that at the second stage of the programme, sales growth increased by 1,5-2 times compared to the period before its start. In relation to the pilot stage, buying tours became three or four times more frequent. In total, more than 1,5 million travel options are offered to Russians for autumn and winter.
“The results could have been more impressive if we had launched it at a different time”
Rosturizm noted that the key task of the programme for selling cashback tours in Russia is, on the one hand, to make travel affordable in this difficult year, and on the other hand, to support businesses and the hospitality industry.
The agency noted that many people do not believe that the state will compensate 20% of the purchase of tours, considering it “an incredible, overly progressive measure of support”. Doguzova herself stressed that the programme is associated with launching a business.
According to her, the results of the programme would be more impressive if it was launched at a different time: “But on the other hand, its value is precisely in the fact that we are launching it in this difficult, crisis year, when it is especially important for people to save money and travel more affordable.”
With cashback — to Tatar tea party
In Tatarstan, the results of the first stage of the programme for selling cashback tours in Russia were evaluated very positively. Chairman of the State Committee for Tourism of the Republic of Tatarstan Sergey Ivanov said that the pilot stage was very active in the republic.
The head of the State Committee for Tourism of the Republic of Tatarstan called three UNESCO World Heritage sites — Kazan Kremlin, Great Bolgar and the island-city of Sviyazhsk — attractive for tourists in Tatarstan.
Ivanov invited the Russians to a traditional Tatar tea party, offering to taste the masterpieces of Tatarstan cuisine: chak-chak, echpochmaki, gubadia and other gastronomic pleasures.
Among the tourism trends, Ivanov cited glamping, suburban base and other places of recreation. In particular, he noted that about 60% of tourists booked health resorts in the republic, about 40% — hotels and sightseeing tours in Tatarstan.
There are currently 10 routes to the districts in the republic. In particular, one can visit the residence of the Tatar Santa Claus — Kysh Babay.
Ivanov also mentioned that the spa industry and ecotourism are actively developing in Tatarstan. He reminded that Tatarstan's Blue Lakes and Kamskoye Ustye became the leaders of the all-Russian competition for the creation of tourist and recreational clusters and the development of ecotourism.