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TOKYO, September 21 (Itar-Tass) — The unique natural beauties of Russia’s Republic of Altai, with its intact flora and fauna, attract Japanese tourists, Vladimir Ilyushenko, an official from the republic’s government, told Itar-Tass on Friday.
Ilyushenko is a member of the Russian delegation to the international JATA Tourism Forum & Travel Showcase 2012 that opened here on Friday.
“The Republic of Altai attracts tourists from Japan thanks to the possibilities of ecotourism,” Ilyushenko said. “Our republic is an intact region which has absolutely no industrial facilities. The air is not polluted, homes are heated by gas.”
“Yesterday, we had a meeting at the Russian embassy in Tokyo where we spoke about what might interest Japanese tourists in our region,” he noted. “It might be intact flora and fauna.”
“Our region is home to five UNESCO-protected natural heritage properties,” the official said. “Bearing in mind the fact that there are only 20 such properties across entire Russia, you can imagine the interest the Republic of Altai sparks in nature lovers.”
Ilyushenko admitted that after the devastating earthquakes and tsunami that rocked Japan in March 2011 the number of Japanese tourists decreased dramatically. Now, in his words, the situation has improved.
“Of major importance is logistic backing,” he stressed. “Regrettably, Russian air companies are living through the process of mergers, so air flights to the republic are only performed via Moscow. However, thanks to the efforts of the Altai authorities, a direct flight from Gorno-Altaisk to Moscow was launched three months ago. It is a big achievement, since before that there had been absolutely no air service.”
According to Ilyushenko, the republican authorities are currently in talks with the Japanese side to launch direct air service between Tokyo and Russia’s Far Eastern city of Khabarovsk.
Efforts are being taken to improve tourism infrastructure. “Now we have hotels of all categories, from two-star accommodations to luxury hotels,” he noted. “There is a high-speed railway and motor ways.”
“More to it, efforts are being taken to develop the Altai Valley special economic zone, which is designed to serve up to 100,000 guests a year,” the Altai government official said.
Altai’s delegation to JATA-2012 is led by republic’s minister of tourism and entrepreneurship Yevgeny Larin. The delegation is expected to present the region’s tourism possibilities at the forum later in the day.