The Olympic Games, Formula 1, the World Cup, the Universiade are events that gave a big impetus to the development of Russia’s tourism infrastructure. There were resorts and hotels, jobs and opportunities, international exchange of professional knowledge and new professions, institutions and schools of hospitality and service. But the main question today is: what will happen next? Travel expert Denis Zavazalsky talked with colleagues and tried to find out what is happening with domestic tourism and travel outside the country.
Strategic Development Director of the Krasnaya Polyana Resort
Development Director of SWISSAM Hospitality University
international travel expert, CEO of Magnum Travel Club
hospitality expert and publisher of Antenna Daily
WHAT IS DOMESTIC TOURISM LOOKING TODAY?
At the beginning of 2014, the question hung in the air: what to do in the mountains of Russia, except for skiing in winter? The answer came immediately: in the summer of the same year, the resort team offered the tourist market a “mountain of entertainment” in any season of the year (the list is updated on a regular basis). Now in the tourism community, opinions differ. Someone says that the demand for recreation is falling sharply, while others, on the contrary, predict a high load on accommodation facilities and resorts.
“In the summer Sochi dispute “mountains or the sea”, the former are now winning. If five years ago tourists chose the mountains in the summer according to the leftover principle (accommodation is cheaper than on the sea), now the preference is given to the mountains, primarily because of a more comfortable climate, developed infrastructure, well-thought-out entertainment, intimacy, and comfort of the mountain environment. The ratio of “summer” and “winter” tourists is now 50 to 50. At the same time, summer in the resort lasts seven to eight months, and winter — four to five. The forecast for the summer season is an increase in tourist traffic by 20%. The depth of bookings for June has increased by 50% compared to last year, which allows us to hope for a good season and the demand for summer holidays in the mountains.”
According to the Center for Market Economics, In 2021, the hotel market has almost returned to pre-pandemic levels: if in 2020 the number of hotels was 20.4 thousand objects, then in 2021 this figure increased by 3% to 21 thousand objects.
HOW IS THE STAFF AND WHERE DO WE EXPECT GUESTS FROM?
Previously, investors and hotel owners, trying to ensure and maintain international standards of service and hospitality, attracted international management. A prerequisite for hiring other employees in the hotel was knowledge of English.
“The exodus of foreign management, which already took place in 2014–2015, is actively happening now. However, in recent years, the industry has been replenished with a galaxy of Russian managers who were brought up in the Western philosophy of hospitality, who underwent internships or studies abroad and adopted the best industry standards. Having stood at the helm of hotels in Moscow, St. Petersburg and the regions, they have already proven their effectiveness in managing facilities at a high professional level. In the coming years, we will see a further increase in the number of local managers. Nevertheless, constant training and upgrading of competencies, obtaining new knowledge are mandatory for all employees of the hospitality industry. The inbound tourism market, which is currently experiencing large-scale changes, is reorienting itself to receiving guests from Asia, the Middle East and Latin America, so knowledge of English will remain relevant for employees of facilities that rely on this flow.”
WHERE AND WHAT WILL WE EAT?
Gastronomy as a cultural phenomenon is already firmly entrenched in our minds. When planning a trip, it is important for us where it is tasty and interesting to eat. Over the past 10 years, gastronomic tourism has been developing in Russia. St. Petersburg, Moscow, Yekaterinburg, Kazan, Sochi showed themselves especially active. In 2021, the capital hosted the first Michelin Star Awards Ceremony, where nine restaurants were awarded stars and three received a green star. But there are still more than a hundred establishments in the industry that surprise the consumer with their quality, variety of dishes, interior solutions and, most importantly, price. To get into some of the restaurants you have to wait weeks or even months.
“Today we are witnessing a real boom in the opening of new projects both in Moscow and St. Petersburg and beyond. You can find projects worthy of guide stars even in the forests of Karelia. For example, in the restaurant of the Dacha Vintera hotel, which is a four-hour drive from St. Petersburg. In fact, the location largely dictates the style of the restaurant — this is traditional Karelian cuisine in a modern interpretation. Seasonally, the emphasis is on local gastronomic specialties — mushrooms, berries, fish and game. In St. Petersburg, in addition to popular names, there are more chamber, but no less interesting. For example, the Basque cuisine restaurant Bilbao, where local products and traditions of the Basque region are effectively combined. Restaurateurs and chefs traveled the world, studied and trained in various projects and restaurants. What is important, they do not copy other projects, but create their own. From new large-scale discoveries: already in June, the Holmgard ethno-village with the Northern cuisine restaurant Veresk will be launched in the Novgorod region. We are waiting for local specialties, farm products and a real immersive immersion in the gastronomy of ancient Russia and Scandinavia.”
And here I would like to note that colleagues from the restaurant sector are always distinguished by mobility and flexibility to any conditions. They quickly navigate in space and trends, thereby creating a relevant product for their consumer.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO TRAVELING ABROAD?
What about those who are used to traveling the world, choosing comfort and exclusivity? How to travel in a new reality and what nuances do you need to know about?
“The period of the pandemic and recent events have shown that all clients who are accustomed to luxury holidays are still looking for holidays abroad, so we see continued active interest in the UAE, especially in hotels with private beaches (Four Seasons Resort, Dubai at Jumeirah Beach, Bvlgari Resort, Dubai and Jumeirah and One&Only Royal Mirage). The holiday trend also continues in the Maldives, which were among the first to receive tourists during the pandemic. Although now you can only get there with transfers, but thanks to this, the duration of the rest increases.
We again see the rebirth of Turkey and especially Istanbul, which has now become literally one of the only hubs for flights to Europe. Many tourists are interested in hotels where you can rent apartments for a long time, such as CVK Park Bosphorus. Due to high demand, Turkish Airlines tickets are much more expensive than usual. The increase in the cost of air travel depends on two factors: demand with limited supply and changes in the exchange rate. Those who love Europe have reacted very positively to the lifting of covid restrictions in Italy and France, so there is interest in the Cote d’Azur, Rome and Florence. The Portrait Roma and Portrait Firenze hotels are in great demand, as they are more like stylish apartments, where there is even a small kitchen.
Today it is difficult to make long-term forecasts, but I can say that wealthy tourists did not stop traveling during the pandemic, and they will not stop now. The restrictions will affect the middle class to a greater extent due to the increase in ticket prices.”
As one of the tourists said: “You can be stressed forever, but you have to continue to live and raise children.” Yes, we must continue to live and, if possible, travel. After all, the history of our lives is partly the history of our travels.
Today we are at a point of change where every second a new reality is being born. And here it is important to keep abreast and follow the changes in the field of tourism, both local and international.