The Russian travellers can still visit Belarus by air and railway only. And I would not say that the prices are reasonable, for example, in mid-April, an air ticket costs several tens of thousands of roubles. Of course, it is cheaper by train, but it costs about 5,000 roubles for a seat in the third-class sleeper, and the seats are sold out very quickly. But still, the Russians and Belarusians are eagerly awaiting the opening of a free road connection between their countries.
It is worth saying that the tourism industry in Belarus was hit very hard by the coronavirus pandemic. Thus, on the average, 613 Belarusian hotels were only 18.8 percent full. The situation with holiday and health centres is slightly better. Although, according to the conservative estimates made by Gennady Bolbatovsky, Director of the Belarusian Republican Centre for Health Improvement and Health Resort Treatment, “already in the first quarter, at least 10,000 Russians will visit the health centres, and over 20,000 in the second quarter. The vouchers are sold for several months in advance. The prices for vouchers have hardly changed compared to last year.” At the same time, in 2021, the health centres will offer special programmes that are in demand now and related to the rehabilitation and health resumption for those who suffered from the coronavirus.
In addition to the health centres, there are a lot of attractions to visit in Belarus. There are over 15,000 historical and cultural sites in the country. A large number of the country’s intangible cultural heritage objects are included in the UNESCO list (honey farms, for example, as well as the ceremonies “Kolyadny Kings” (Carolers) and “Yuryevsky Round Dance”). In addition to wellness tourism, the visitors can also enjoy the industrial, sports, ethno- or ecological tourism and many other types of recreation in Belarus. New services are also offered in agro-tourism, which has shown a qualitative leap forward in the Republic when the borders were closed. This was told at the Embassy of Belarus in Russia at the presentation “The Tourism Potential of Belarus-2021”, which took place within the framework of the international tourism exhibition MITT 2021. The event was organized by the Embassy in co-operation with the National Tourism Agency.
According to Valery Klitsunov, Chairman of the Board of the Public Association “Rest in the Village”, “people who had never considered Belarus as a place for recreation began to come to Belarus. The owners of hotels and other tourist properties have also made many changes. For example, art-villas moved their performances to the gardens, and farm owners began to offer kayaking, cycling routes, and hiking trails. Many new custom tours are offered now. If, say, you want to practice bread baking, you can go to the farm where bread baking master classes are held.”
According to analysts, if the road connection is open by the summer, Belarus will face the influx of the Russians into its vastness, and the country will overcome the tourism crisis. In Russia, in 2021, a partial refund of up to 20,000 roubles will be available not only for travelling by plane or train, but also for travelling by car. Zarina Doguzova, Head of Rostourism, spoke about this some days ago. A sum of almost one billion roubles was returned to the MIR cards thanks to the tourist cashback programme launched in August 2020. During the tourist cashback programme, the tours were purchased for 6.5 bn roubles. In 2021, Russia will allocate another 2 bn roubles for the resumption of the tourist cashback programme, and the third stage began in March.