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Crimea beats Europe as vacation destination for Russians

July 21, 2014, 16:31 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila
© ITAR-TASS/Mikhail Pochuyev

MOSCOW, July 21. /ITAR-TASS/. The international agenda has directly affected Russians’ holiday preferences - they now go rather to Russia’s newly accepted region, Crimea, than Europe. But some profound changes are needed to make Crimea a top destination for large-scale tourism, experts say.

“The sanction regime has really caused a drop in Russians’ travelling to Europe,” Deputy Minister of Culture in charge of tourism, Alla Manilova, told Rossiyskaya Gazeta daily. “According to preliminary estimates, a decline of 15-30% is possible depending on the country.” However, the trend did not concern beach tourism to the countries like Turkey and Greece.

A recommendation to government officials to refrain from summer trips abroad was issued as early as May, though black lists of the sanctioned officials include only deputy prime ministers Dmitry Rogozin and Dmitry Kozak. The Foreign Ministry also released a recommendation for police employees not to go abroad for fear they can fall victim to provocation.

Many heeded the warnings and opted for Crimea that joined the Russian Federation this year as their summer destination. In particular, Deputy Prime Minister Olga Golodets already spent her May holiday in the peninsula, her aide told Moskovsky Komsomolets daily. The Minister for Open Government affairs Mikhail Abyzov visited Yalta.

The Russian Government has set about distributing Crimean retreats previously in Ukraine state property, some in disrepair, among Russian companies and state organizations, including ministries.

Having accepted Crimea, Russia acquired a huge resort area - 467 health resorts and holiday hotels, 232 hotels and 92 children health camps set to become one of the country’s most attractive resorts. But not in this season as the peninsula ran into difficulties with tourist flow - more than 60% of tourists earlier arrived from Ukraine.

Local authorities hope for a tourist flow of 2-3 million this year, though in 2013 Crimea was visited by 6 million. The future is grim, according to the Association of TourOperators: this year hotels in Crimea will have 50% guests less than usual.

According to the Russian Public Opinion Research Centre, percentage of Russians willing to spend vacation in Crimea has increased five times year-on-year but the put-off factor for many is the transport problem. Arriving by train through Ukraine earlier preferred by 80% of Russian tourists is now impossible.

The problem was planned to ease with the help of cheaper tickets and additional flights but all budget summer tickets were sold out overnight. The problem of Crimea’s connection to mainland Russia will hardly be resolved until a bridge is constructed across the Kerch Strait. This is not to be expected earlier than in three or four years. Until then, kilometer-long car lines near the ferry crossing are inevitable.

Many elderly Russians accepted news of Crimea’s accession with enthusiasm as this evoked their memories of Crimean childhood in the Soviet times, professor at the department of business processes management at the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration, Galina Dekhtyar, told ITAR-TASS. “But for tourism in Crimea to assume massive scales, which is only possible with average and small budget tourism, a bulk of problems is there to be resolved along with the transport issue,” she said.

Infrastructure in Crimea was worn-out, Dekhtyar said, while hotels left much to be desired in terms of both condition and the quality of services provided.

“Inadequate technical facilities, the absence of basic facilities on the beaches, poor personnel skills and even occasional kitchen theft in major hotels will certainly put off those Russians who got used to spend holidays in three star hotels in Turkey and Egypt and expect similarly high quality of service,” she said. The system of awarding hotel ratings to Crimean hotels was also still to be brought up to the world level, Dekhtyar said.

This, the expert believes, will require from 3 to 5 years and huge investments. However, the future is bright for large-scale budget tourism in Crimea, including social insurance trips for pensioners, given the peninsula’s unique climate, especially helpful for allergic people and patients with lung diseases, and the marvelous landscapes.

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