The World Tourism Day celebrated all over the world on September 27 aroused rather mixed feelings and various emotions in the Russia’s tourism industry. EcoTourism Expert spoke with Sergey Pozdnyakov, Head of the Press Expert Alliance, one of the leading Russian experts in tourism, about the problems and prospects of this sector of the economy, about the today’s problems and future prospects of the industry that brings about 3.5 percent of the Russa’s gross domestic product.
- On September 27, the World Tourism Day was celebrated all over the world. Is there a reason for celebrating it in Russia?
- To some extent, of course, there is a reason to celebrate the World Tourism Day, albeit not a very great. I believe, that to a certain degree, it has to do with some of the strategic statements of the industry leaders. The point was, that the time has come to make tourism non-politicized.
- And what is non-politicized tourism?
- This is when politics doesn’t run “ahead of tourism” to dictate everything connected with unreasonable things preventing the tourism development. Such unreasonable things, for example, include a ban on issuing tourist visas to Russian citizens, a ban on travelling, a refusal to check-in at the hotels abroad, as well as discrimination and removing the Russians from hotels. Finally, blatant and open financial ‘robbery’ at checkpoints, and so on and so forth. It’s all politics!
- That is, it turns out that “non-politicized tourism” is when people - in relation to the tourism industry - act reasonably, and do not resort to discrimination on certain political grounds?
- Right. Now, it is very noticeable that people do not act reasonably as if their common sense ‘has gone to nowhere’. I understand that, for example, the Baltic States receive substantial subsidies today from the European Union and will be set against Russia and Russian tourists until these subsidies cease or are seriously reduced. I have several acquaintances in Riga, whose hotels were closed due to the lack of a tourist flow from Russia, and now they open ‘points for temporary stay’ for foreign military servicemen. We all understand perfectly well that this is pure politics.
- Well, that’s about the outbound tourism. And what about the domestic tourism? Many people believe that it is developing and this segment has a great potential.
- As for the domestic tourism, I think, there is both a great potential and a great illusion. Many tour operators working in the regional tourism see that with all the huge financial investments in the tourist industry aimed at the development of the domestic tourism, the progress and results still leave much to be desired. It often turns out that people who could and should be engaged now in developing the domestic tourism at the regional level are often only ‘making money’, and not doing their best to make progress in the region’s tourism sector.
- It turns out that there is still no reason for celebrating the holiday ...
- Well, why so? People who work in the tourism sector, are real enthusiasts and continue to do something good for tourism, they celebrate the World Tourism Day, at least, because this is a professional holiday. On this day, after all, some people are awarded, and this is one of the reasons to remember that we belong to the tourism industry and we survived and keep on working in spite of all the challenges.
- But are the prospects good?
- Yes, but it is very difficult to focus efforts in the right direction. I often visit the regions and I see the points, fields, directions in which it was possible to develop the tourism sector of the region - with a little support. And what do I see?
I see where, from the point of view of increasing the tourism potential, a cafe should be built, where a hotel should be located. However, often such buildings are built not according to this principle, but according to the principle of possible ‘allocation of sites’. And this is only one, and a small part of the problem.
Some steps are certainly being taken. For example, the tourist cashback program that was a success and really saved the industry in difficult times and is saving it now; or the charter programs provided to the regions. But in our country, compared to what has been announced and what is expected, only about 10 percent of all good and correct initiatives are being implemented at the moment.
- And what do you think he is, an ideal employee of the tourism industry?
- First of all, unfortunately people working in tourism industry ruin their health very much, experiencing a huge amount of stress, practically, every day. I wish them be strong, because when they get up at two or three in the morning and need to help their tourists in the hotel, this also requires be strong. Another important quality for a tourism industry worker is patience. There are so many very demanding clients who can ask a lot of questions, spend a lot of time talking, and then leave a travel agent without buying a ticket or even saying “thank you for explaining everything, but I will go to another tour operator.” Of course, it would be great if there will be more positive emotions. Tourism is connected with emotions and experiences, as well as communication. And the God told people to smile - rain or shine; one should hope for the best.
And then everything will be fine.