The number of foreign tourists who choose to spend their vacations in Russia, including Moscow and St. Petersburg, is smaller than the amount of people living in a little village in German countryside. Many potential visitors are discouraged by numerous difficulties with visa bureaucracy, the lack of hotel rooms for good cost, and the level of service.
Most of the countries in the world pay considerable attention to the development of their incoming tourism. After all foreigners not only bring the mentality and culture of their home-country but they also spend a lot of money in the host country. However, the number of foreign tourists who spend their vacations in Russia is decreasing every year. In 2007 there were only 2.2 million visitors in Russia which was 8 percent less than in the previous year. What is the reason for this negative tendency?
One of the most important reasons seems to be the lack of valuable travel information about the country and its tourist attractions. Naturally, this could be solved by a well-managed promotion abroad. A good example of destination promotion is Turkey that over the last years spent 10 percent of its state budget on promotion of its seaside facilities in Russia. As a result, the amount of Russian tourists coming to Turkey rose to 2.5 million visitors last year.
The institute responsible for the promotion of Russia and its image making is Rosturizm (Russian Federal Tourism Agency). In 2007 Rosturizm spent € 3,7 million on promotion which makes not even 17 percent of the whole agency’s budget. The bigger part of the budget was on the other hand spent on the participation of the Russia’s representatives at various international tourist exhibitions and numerous fam trips for foreign journalists. There is no information about any promotion campaign abroad, in foreign television or web pages. What more, even the website of Rosturizm is not in English.
Another serious problem for the development of incoming tourism in Russia is the fact that practically nobody speaks English or doesn’t speak good enough to be able to communicate with tourists. An overwhelming majority of street signs is written in Russian only. Tourists complain especially about the metro and its complex system that does not offer much help for non-locals.
Also, many potential visitors are discouraged by the visa formalities that need to be undergone by all EU citizens as well as Americans and many other countries. However, some changes in the formalities might appear soon after the good experience the Russian government had in spring. At that time the officials allowed the English football fans to come to the country without any visa for the final of the football Champions League hosted in Moscow. During three days more than 40,000 English fans came to the Russian capital. We can only guess how much money they spent in one of the most expensive cities in the world.
There are a lot of attractions and sights in Russia worth seeing. Tourists are mainly interested in places they heard about in the media. Of course, first of all it is Moscow and St. Petersburg. The popularity of Trans-Siberian Railway also rises over the last years. Also, a lot of tourists are interested in traveling in the Russian Golden Ring. However, it is quite clear that the number of tourists visiting this beautiful country is only in the hands of the officials and the leaders of Russia. The more people hear about the beauties of Russia the more they are tempted to come. It is all about the priorities.