Watching the metal smelting
Olga Shandurenko
The Agency for Strategic Initiatives Programme’s Manager for the Development of Industrial Tourism

Watching the metal smelting

More than 50 Russian regions and over 400 enterprises take part in the “Open Industry” initiative for the development of industrial tourism. EcoTourism Expert spoke with Olga Shandurenko, the Agency for Strategic Initiatives Programme’s Manager for the Development of Industrial Tourism, about the prospects for this type of travelling in Russia, how to properly organize it, and about the challenges hampering the development of this segment on the tourism market today.

- Let’s start with the basics: what is ‘industrial tourism’ and why can it be as interesting as the traditional types of travelling?

- I believe that to be interested in the process of creating something is a feature inherent in humans. Curious and intellectually inquisitive people are fond of industrial tourism. By ‘industrial tourism’, we mean, in general, getting familiar with the processes of creating certain products.

It can be the process of winemaking, manufacturing of microchips, electronics, as well as coal mining or metal casting. In the industrial tourism category, we also include getting acquainted, for example, with the situation centre ‘112’ and having an opportunity to look at large screens, watch the work of operators and their response to the calls.

That is, industrial tourism embraces all the processes of creating, inventing, making, organizing something.

- Which of the existing industrial tourism objects do you consider the most interesting from the point of view of industrial tourism?

- I would definitely recommend visiting the Vostochny Cosmodrome, where the visitors can see the launch of a rocket and how a rocket is delivered to the cosmodrome, how it is handled, and how a launch shaft is installed. By the way, the people working at the Vostochny Cosmodrome can tell why that place was chosen for the Cosmodrome.

Of course, another object is power plants, it is incredibly spectacular and beautiful. After visiting such objects, even humanitarians say that they finally understood why after the water falls down there, they can insert the plug into the socket and their laptop can be charged (laughs). So, you started with the question “Whom is industrial tourism intended for?”, so I will answer: it is intended for those people who may have missed the lessons of physics and chemistry, mathematics, geometry, and natural science in childhood.

- And what hydro power stations are open to the visitors?

- The Sayano-Shushenskaya Hydro Power Station, Cherchesskaya Hydro Power Station in Dagestan, where even a person with a technical education at first finds it difficult to understand how such a technically complex structure could be built in high mountains and narrow gorges.

- Are metallurgical facilities open?

- Yes, of course, these enterprises are also included in the list. All the metallurgical processes are very interesting, for example, the tapping of metal, the overburden stripping (removing the rocks covering minerals - Ed.), the operation of blast-furnaces and the rolling of hot metal bars into thin sheets. The Magnitogorsk Iron and Steel Works, by the way, is the leader as for the number of tourists; last year, 12,000 people visited the Works. Another metallurgical plant that works with tourists is the Vyksa Works in the Nizhny Novgorod Region. There are enterprises in Yekaterinburg, for example, Evraz, or TNK, where a legacy blast-furnace has been preserved and they can show the history of metal smelting.

Definitely, it is worth seeing the mining industry enterprises. Because the feeling the tourists have during their first visit, for example, at the situational centre of a coal mine, and then they see small ‘dots’ in a huge quarry, which are actually BelAZ trucks, and when approaching these trucks, they realize how huge they are - there is no feeling like it.

- Is there anything else worth seeing?

- Certainly! In Perm, for example, this is the Promobot Factory exporting robots to 52 countries of the world and now creating not only service robots that can replace, say, receptionists in clinics, but also humanoid robots. There is a Mikron Factory in the Moscow Region making, for example, the chips used in Troika cards (a card for paying for travel in public transport- Ed.).

- Who might be interested in industrial tourism, please draw a ‘portrait’ of such a tourist?

- A lot depends on the goal the tourists set. If they are going to visit a factory just out of curiosity and love of learning, an industrial tourist can be a tourist of absolutely any age and gender. It is clear that an excursion to a factory making Christmas trees, for example, is a ‘family’ excursion.

Industrial tourism is very important for older tourists, for retired people, for whom it is a real balm for their souls, it is very important for them to understand that the results of their life-work have not collapsed, have not been curtailed, enterprises keep on working and developing. This gives them a great sense of pride.

It is very useful to involve retired people in conducting excursions as they do this, for example, at the Cherkessskaya Hydro Power Station.

It is very important to arrange such tours and excursions for young people who are making their occupational choice. Now, by the way, as part of our training programme, we are developing a completely new product - internships for students, so they can talk to managers, young employees, and ask a lot of questions.

Now, I am very glad that the industrialists have come to this, everything is gradually moving towards enabling young people not just to stay within their own region, but to work in any place in their country. If a person studies in Samara, for example, to be an explosives expert, but he understands that he does not have a chance to realize his potential in Samara but can fulfil his potential in Yakutia, such a young person should be given the opportunity to go to Yakutia and see how he can fulfil his true potential there.

- What is preventing the development of industrial tourism today?

- Each story of industrial tourism depends on the decision of a specific person, manager, director or owner. A willingness to be open is required because it’s like letting an ‘attentive’ guest into the house. To do this, you need at least to put things in order and think how to entertain your guest. The same is true about the enterprise.

The enterprise should be ready to show the production process and its employees’ work. These visits should not interfere with the employees’ work but should be their motivation, it is nice to hear the tourists saying that the employees’ work is close to heroism - and such cases also happen.

You need to understand why the enterprise open its doors? Does it invite visitors to promote their brand or solve the issues of attracting personnel or show how the enterprise works in terms of ecology and organization of processes, what does it do for the city or region.

In general, nothing prevents the development of industrial tourism very much. There are some enterprises that cannot show any of their production processes, but this problem can also be solved.

Of course, we need an informational support and assistance in promotion. Last year, for example, when we launched industrial tourism trivia games and an advertising campaign to promote our guide-book together with the Ministry of Industry and Trade, it reached about 30 million people. And 800,000 tourists visited the enterprises last year.

- Please tell us about the prospects for industrial tourism - what income for the region should it bring, what sightseeing attractions should be arranged? During what period?

- The number of enterprises opening their doors for industrial tourists will increase, of course. To speed up this process, we conducted a training programme in 30 regions last year, and we plan to conduct the same programmes in another 20 regions this year. But at the same time, we had a rather limited framework - from 5 to 10 enterprises in every region, in fact, this is hundredths of a percent of the region’s potential in industrial tourism. For example, about 30 enterprises are open to tourists in Kemerovo, and there are 36,000 of them in the Kemerovo Region.

Of course, this does not mean that every enterprise should open its doors. But it shows a great potential. Now, we have about 400 enterprises in Russia that have created a tourism product, and we are proud of this tourism product. And we understand that in two years, this number can increase 10 times, and in a very smooth and correct way.

The path breakers have always difficulties. But it will be much easier for the next who follow them. And it is very good that large industrial corporations have begun to develop industrial tourism.