Tatarstan hoteliers give forecasts for this year: ‘If it is better than last year, then great’

Hostels and hotels of the capital of the Republic of Tatarstan were booked solid during the May holidays

The Association of Hotels of Kazan and Tatarstan has summed up the results of the last May weekend. The hopes of the representatives of this business have been justified: the loading of hostels and hotels in the capital of the republic turned out to be close to one hundred percent. This was facilitated by companies and couples with and without children from Moscow and Moscow Oblast, St. Petersburg, Ufa, Yekaterinburg, Novosibirsk and other cities of Russia, as well as participants of children's creative festivals and championships scheduled for these dates. However, hoteliers are rather surprised by the choice of the latter: why, with a limited budget, does one need to stay in hotels when the cost of living there traditionally creeps up? Hoteliers' plans for the high summer season are to catch up and overtake the figures of the previous year, but so far the level of bookings for July-August is lagging behind them. Read the details in the material of Realnoe Vremya.

“All tourists have reached Kazan”

Alexandra Yushutina, the executive director of the Association of Hotels of Kazan and Tatarstan, stated that all tourists who booked hotels visited our city. And this is despite that the occupancy rate was not as brisk and not as early as last year, and, unfortunately, there were fewer quota bookings. The president of the association, Inga Gadzaova, believes that most of the loading of hotels for the May holidays happened thanks to a promotion.

According to the vice-president of the association, Timur Khaybullin, the manager of Ibis Kazan hotel, “in two or three days, there was a very large demand for the first days of May”: “The hotel's business was only to 'take' it. And this demand did not subside until the beginning of the holidays. It really feels like we are among the leaders in hotel occupancy in the country.”

Olesya Korshunova, the director general of Raymond Hotel, which is four-star, reported that the load on the May Day dates (April 30 — May 3) was 98%. Then, from May 4 to May 10, this indicator decreased slightly, to 80 percent. Although, as she stressed, “this rate is actually quite high”.

In Nogay Hotel, according to its sales manager Yana Aristarkhova, the occupancy rate was at the level of 91%. Last year, she recalls, it was 89%, “but then they rested for 10 days, and this time there were three working days in a series of weekends: “Nevertheless, the load turned out to be high”. General manager of Double Tree by Hilton hotel, Eliza Sagitova, said that for the May holidays, “almost from April 30 and probably up to May 10 inclusive, the occupancy rate was under 100%".

At the same time, judging by the statistics provided by the association, tourists are noticeably saving. The fewer stars a hotel has, the higher its load, as a rule. For example, for establishments awarded with three “stars”, it showed a maximum of 92%. They, as well as hostels, admit the participants of the hotel market themselves, were filled in the first place: “They had a completely packed May Day holidays”.

“We understood that there was nowhere to go, they had to be accommodated”

Azalia Hotel on Moskovskaya Street, according to Alexander Ibatullin, the deputy director general of this chain, was loaded the most thanks to a children's creativity festival.

“Probably, 50 percent of the rooms were taken away from us for the accommodation of the participants of this festival," he explained.

Ibatullin even expressed some bewilderment in this regard, noting that “there is already a large influx of guests for the May holidays, and many festival organisers 'put' their events on these same peak days. Although it is clear that at this time there is a high cost of accommodation. It turns out that they lose money. He said that there were a lot of similar requests in the chats. And they were simply refused. According to him, they have reservations for festivals even for November of this year and April of next year.

Sagitova also reported that in their Hilton Hotel these May days there was a very difficult period for the staff, because the weekend partially coincided with the men's Super League volleyball tournament.­­­

“We took over the two teams that came to Kazan. These are our regular guests. We understood that there was nowhere to go, they had to be accommodated. They still have nowhere to live, because many hotels had high occupancy rates. We accommodated them, but raised [the cost] taking into account the open price," she explained. “One hundred percent indicator is even better than last year. We supported the teams in this way, but the hotel staff also had to work hard.

And Olesya Korshunova paid tribute to the Tourism Committee, which made the necessary adjustments in this regard:

“The marathon is usually held in Kazan on May 1-2 every year. We already have a very large load. Poor people came at night, and they had nowhere to spend the night: there were no empty beds. This time the marathon has been postponed to May 14-15. We've been talking about this for two years — and they heard us. Thank you very much.

Alexandra Yushutina noted that, “unfortunately, the business tourism segment has begun to sink a little” — it is associated with the cancellation of major events. Besides, many companies have switched to online formats since the beginning of the pandemic, and some of them are going to adhere to such a policy to optimise costs.

She also expressed some regret due to that anti-Covid-19 restrictions are still in effect in our region: for example, wearing masks in public places. But she expressed hope that sooner or later Tatarstan will come to their cancellation. Yushutina is convinced that the loading of hotels can and should be managed.

“Not really a monster. It is possible to work with them.”

Besides, the executive director stressed that all hoteliers have started working with Russian online booking systems. According to Yushutina, work is also underway on their own websites, “so that it is as easy as possible for tourists to find and book a hotel”. It is clear that everyone is used to large international aggregators, but now we inevitably have to adapt to the current realities. Vice-President of the Association Timur Khaybullin admitted that the shutdown of which tourists got used to turn to in search of accommodation on the territory of the country, “was noticeable in the early days”. But, he claims, it didn't last long: “Many hotels quickly got their bearings, debugged their websites”.

According to him, the website of Ibis Kazan hotel was also “in a kind of oblivion”. But they “prettied it up, and it started to work”. As a result , they “did not lose guests” with leaving of from the country. According to Aristarkhova, last year this sales channel took 43% of their room stock.

According to Korshunova, the most popular aggregators, which were most often used by their future guests for booking this time, are Ostrovok and Akadem-online. She admitted that they also had problems with the first one, which tourists often complain about in private conversations.

“It is impossible to reach them. In various issues of downloading programmes [there are difficulties]," the hotelier explained.

Gadzaova added that during the May holidays, maximum load is important for all hotels:

“This is our earnings: the salary of people, the purchase of everything necessary.

She also has complaints about Ostrovok: “It is very difficult to contact them. They don't answer the phone.” And, according to her, when a guest calls directly to the hotel with the words “I'm not coming”, preferring not to go to the personal account to cancel the reservation, and the hotel itself is deprived of this opportunity, the room eventually “is frozen there”. That is, it is not reflected in the database as free, and the hotel cannot put it up for sale.

Ibatullin, moreover, to the laughter of those present, said that they were so scared of Ostrovok that they decided not to work with it. And they found a way out: “The work with the aggregator 101 hotel is very well organised. To this, his colleagues noticed that the aggregator mentioned in an unflattering way “is not really a monster: “It is possible to work with it.”

Foreigners are mostly Chinese

Korshunova said that this time it is married couples or families with children who stayed most often at the hotel. The visitors were mainly from Moscow and Moscow Oblast, St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg, Samara, Ufa and Chelyabinsk. But residents of the southern regions cancelled their trips for obvious reasons. She believes that this time their hotel was lucky with the guests: “They admired the cleanliness of Kazan, excellent cuisine and high service.” Many of them, says the hotelier, intend to repeat their journey for a longer period. In the meantime, the average stay of guests was three days.

Most of her colleagues also say that tourists came for an average of 2,5-3 days during these May holidays. But someone (for example, in Nogay) stayed up to 6 days. In addition to families, these were companies of vacationers. Our compatriots preferred classic excursions: to the Kazan Kremlin, to Chasha (aka the wedding palace), a sightseeing tour of the city, including the night city, and to Sviyazhsk.

When asked if there were foreign guests, Gadzaova said that they still took place, but “in very small numbers”: “These are mainly Chinese who have been migrating across Russia for the last 6 months. Most likely, with business trips.”

Sagitova from Hilton stressed that, despite media reports, the hotel of this foreign brand in Kazan remains, the network is also working, but some of the employees have been transferred to remote work. She complained that their impressions of the guests, who are “more demanding every year”, turned out to be different. They expect a “service of at least five 'stars” here (in fact, the hotel has four “stars” — editor's note). In particular, this time they demanded a buffet and absolute filling of the rooms, including all luxury cosmetics, in a rather tough manner.

Like in 2021 or better

Director General of Raymond hotel Korshunova says that 2021 “pushed their indicators forward” and gave a great result”. The start of sales then began at the end of March and lasted almost until December: “And Kazan was in high demand.”

According to the hotelier, they really hope that this year they will be able to repeat last year's success, “and maybe even surpass it somewhere”. At least, the past May holidays gave such hope: their indicators were higher than last year's.

“Of course, I would like to change the pricing a little," she said.

According to the speaker, the hotel business is strongly influenced not only by internal, but also by external factors: political, climatic ones. Including the same pandemic.

“Prices for all resources are rising. My colleagues will confirm this, we try to restrain them as soon as we can," she described the situation.

Hotel managers are reluctant to talk about increasing the cost of accommodation. Korshunova called an increase of 5-10%, noting that “dynamic pricing is most often used in three and four-star hotels: “We are adjusting to the environment in which we are at the moment”.

What first of all contributed to the rise in price? The prices of food, cleaning chemicals, shampoos, shower gels have increased very much. And the level of staff salaries, according to her, has changed a lot. They had to index the salaries by 30 percent, because “it is very difficult to compete with food delivery companies, whose salary level is very high”. Besides, experienced personnel often migrate to the Crimea and Krasnodar Krai. Last year, Tatarstan hotels experienced a severe personnel shortage for this reason, which they could restore only by September.

For the summer, hotels try to attract university students as well: for them, this is both practice and involvement in the profession. But, according to Gadzaova, who teaches at the International Academy of Tourism, graduates of such educational institutions for some reason do not then go to work in hotels. And if they do, then, as Khaybullin noted, they demand a salary “the higher the better” from the series “I don't know how to do anything yet, but I want to get 30-50 thousand”.

Of course, hoteliers have a forecast for the upcoming season. “If it's better than last year, it's great. But no one knows how it will happen in fact," they soberly look to the future.

As Khaybullin stressed, June has every chance to pass at Ibis with the same number of guests as in 2021. But in general, the increase in bookings is lower compared to last year: “Especially for the second half of it. And the booking window is decreasing. Last year, at this time, there was already a download for July-August.”

In a word, uncertainty remains for the hotel business.

Lyubov Shebalova. Photo: Rinat Nazmetdinov