Russia braces for fewer tourists


ST. PETERSBURG, Russia – Russians are bracing for a decline in international travel critical to cities like St. Petersburg that are heavily dependent on the tourist industry.

About 18 percent of the jobs in St. Petersburg or 500,000 jobs in the city rely on tourism, said Mariana Ordzhonikidze, who heads the city’s tourism department, the Moscow Times reported Monday.

The department expects a 30 percent drop in the number of foreign travelers this year and a 15 percent drop in Russians traveling to the city, Ordzhonikidze said.

“We are all very troubled and discouraged,” she said.

The World Tourism Organization reported international tourism would contract by 2 percent this year, the first decline since the organization began keeping track in 2003.

In response, Russian tourism departments are hoping to interest Russians in spending their vacations near home, a dynamic the global recession has already begun.

In the first quarter of 2009, the number of Russians traveling abroad dropped 25 percent, said Anatoly Yarochkin, head of the Federal Tourism Agency.

Amid the downturn, “we have asked the government to consider making summer sanatorium and health resort visits tax deductible for retirees and youth. We hope the measure is approved,” Yarochkin said.