Foreign tourists spend twice as much in Russia, but come three times less often

How can I fix this situation?

Иностранные туристы тратят в России вдвое больше, но приезжают в три раза реже

The problems facing the development of inbound tourism and ways to solve them were discussed on February 2 during the strategic session on inbound tourism of the Russian Union of Travel Industry by representatives of the tourism industry, relevant departments and the government of Russia.

According to Rosstat statistics, the number of foreign tourists coming to Russia has decreased by more than three times compared to the pre-pandemic figures. However, now every traveler from abroad spends twice as much money in our country. This was stated at the session by the co-head of the Committee on Inbound Tourism of the PCT, CEO of Profi.Travel Alexey Vengin.

“According to the Central Bank, in the first three quarters of 2023, the export of tourist services brought Russia 5 billion 124 million dollars. Whereas in the same period of 2019, our country received 8 billion 610 million dollars from inbound tourism. It is clear that tourist flows have fallen. According to Rosstat, in the first three quarters of this year, the number of trips to Russia has decreased by 3.3 times, when compared with the figures of 2019. But here is an interesting observation: if earlier one tourist spent an average of $ 435 per trip, now it is twice as much, $858,” the expert shared his analysis.

Иностранные туристы тратят в России вдвое больше, но приезжают в три раза реже

According to Alexey Vengin, there are two key reasons. Firstly, the number of so—called pendulum trips has sharply decreased (we are talking about daily border crossings primarily for the purpose of shopping for food and goods – ed.), especially on the western borders. Secondly, the prices in Prices in Russia are rising for everything, including travel services. In addition, the market situation is also changing: for example, the check for Chinese tourists has grown noticeably now, since the conditions of entry themselves have changed — a large number of travelers from China have visited Russia this year not within the framework of visa-free groups, as before, but having issued entry documents.

As Alexander Musikhin, CEO of the Intourist tour operator, added, $860 is the net price. The average gross price of a tour of Russia for a foreign tourist is about $1,000 (excluding flights). He clarified that the main markets that provided inbound tourist flows to Russia in 2023 are China, Vietnam, India, Indonesia, Middle Eastern countries such as the United Arab Emirates, Iran, Qatar and Kuwait. “We expect activity in the same markets this year,” said the top manager of Intourist.

Alexey Vengin listed the factors that can contribute to the increase in tourist flows to Russia. First, it is the continuation of the work on the electronic visa, which has already been launched in Of Russia. Secondly, the full-fledged launch of visa-free exchange of tourist groups with China and Iran. In addition, this is an increase in the number and expansion of the geography of direct and connecting flights. As well as the diversification of target markets: Asia (China, India, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia), the Middle East and the CIS countries. “We see the activation of businesses that have not previously engaged in inbound tourism — there is a very great interest in this market, the Center of Competence for Inbound Tourism at the PCT receives daily requests from tour operators. At the same time, there are objective problems that need to be solved. For example, more than 300 representatives of business and tourism agencies from all regions of Russia have registered online for our conference. And when registering, they named the key issues that require urgent solutions. 100% named Russia’s promotion abroad. 70% — the need for grant and other support to tour operators and accommodation facilities. 60% is the establishment of the settlement process and the launch of the promised tourist card,” he said.

Иностранные туристы тратят в России вдвое больше, но приезжают в три раза реже

The electronic visa will be simplified only a year later

As Nikita Kondratiev, Director of the Department of Multilateral Economic Cooperation and Special Projects of the Ministry of Economic Development, commented, A number of these issues are already being resolved. He announced the launch of a service for digitalizing the exchange of visa-free travel groups on “Public Services”, which will have to solve existing problems and difficulties with lists, etc. Nikita Kondratiev clarified that 17 priority countries have already been identified, which will be actively worked on this year.

In addition, according to the representative of the Ministry of Economic Development, the Russian Foreign Ministry is working to expand the list of countries with which an agreement on visa-free entry will be concluded, as well as to improve the electronic visa. “We will ensure that our colleagues simplify the electronic visa,” Nikita Kondratiev added.

However, according to Alexander Bessarabov, Head of the Department for the Entry of Foreigners of the Consular Department of the Russian Foreign Ministry,At the moment, the Ministry is analyzing the work of the electronic visa. And until at least a year has passed since its launch, there is not enough invoice for analysis, nothing is planned to change in this system. He hastened to reassure representatives of the travel industry, saying that the information about the large number of refusals is seriously exaggerated. “Out of 210 thousand. approved applications for the issuance of electronic visas were refused to 136 foreign citizens due to their being on the list of persons who are not allowed to enter the Russian Federation. And 1853 (from August 1 to January 29) refusals for other reasons,” he said.

However, the tour operators themselves have a different opinion on this matter. According to them, not everyone even reaches the approval of an application for an electronic visa, and this is not taken into account in the statistics of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Business is heard, but not in everything

Alexander Sirchenko, Deputy General Director of Fun&Sun, spoke about how tour operators look at government support measures. According to him, it is necessary to coordinate more decisions on the development of inbound tourism with travel industry professionals.

“In particular, 17 priority countries have been identified jointly with the ministries. And what does the inclusion of this country in the list of priorities give? In my opinion, this should be financial support for promotion, information tours, and other events, subsidizing tour operators to import foreign tourists to Russia,” he suggested.

Sergey Voitovich, the head of the Svoy TS tour operator, supported his colleague. “There are many marketing ways to attract tourists to the country. For example, in Hong Kong, after the pandemic, 500 thousand air tickets were distributed free of charge to tour operators, and as a result, inbound tourism recovered very quickly.”

He agreed with the cost of a tour of Russia for a foreigner given by the CEO of Intourist: $1 thousand. “Add another flight here — plus another $1 thousand. So that’s why tourists from Thailand, from Hong Kong of the same for $ 2 thousand should not go to South Korea, not in Japan, not in Australia, and in Russia? How can they reduce the cost of a trip here so that the choice falls more often on our country? This requires a compensation mechanism,” the expert believes.

As an example, he proposed the option of issuing certificates by the state for 1 million rubles, which tour operators will be able to purchase for half the price — for 500 thousand rubles — and present them to airlines when ordering group transportation or hoteliers when placing groups. “For this discount, actually 50%, tour operators will be able to reduce the cost of tours for foreign tourists. Then the tourist flows will come to us,” he noted.

According to the Honorary President of the PCT Sergey Shpilko,Without government investments, it is impossible to significantly develop inbound tourism in any country. Especially in such difficult conditions as have developed now in Of Russia. “According to the UNWTO report (now UN Tourism — ed.), the global entry tourism market has recovered by 92% over the past year. And ours is actually in a knockout due to the consequences of the pandemic, the political situation, sanctions, Russia’s anti-advertising in the world, etc. Without specific financial support from the state, no commercial organizations can shake up this market,” he concluded.

Иностранные туристы тратят в России вдвое больше, но приезжают в три раза реже

Toa Heftiba, unsplash

Settlements will become easier, but not immediately

The inability of foreign tourists to pay with cards in Russia continues to be one of the most key problems in the development of inbound tourism. As Sergey Voitovich commented, of course, there are exchange offices — both at Domodedovo airport and in large hotels. But there are two problems: if there are seals on dollars (in some states they are put to confirm the authenticity of the bill — ed.), then they are accepted at a huge discount. The second catch is that you can change the amount to $ 400 without any problems, but for more you need to sign a contract. “The contract is in Russian, and its completion takes 15-20 minutes. When a group of 50 people arrives, can you imagine how much time they spend on it? And it is also impossible without this — then, let’s say, we take them to lunch, and Russian money is already needed there,” he explained.

As Nikita Kondratiev commented, a non-cash payment scheme for foreign tourists in Russia has already been approved at the legislative level. “We are currently actively working with interested banks. Banks are starting to form a financial product for foreigners and are already doing the first test, one might say, pilot launches of the Tourist Card,” he said.

Alexey Geleta, Head of the Digital Compliance Group at the Analytical Center under the Government of the Russian Federation confirmed: “If earlier to a foreign tourist to open an account in In Russia, it was necessary to come with his feet to a bank branch in the Russian Federation, now, subject to certain conditions, he can do this remotely: open a virtual Mir card and replenish it while in his country. Now this mechanism is developing, and feedback is needed so that we know what is working wrong.”

He added that point-to-point solutions are already working today, which allow foreign tourists to pay in the usual way. For example, for guests from China already has a WeChat payment system, and the number of points where it is available will grow.

Andrey Efimochkin, Director of Retail Products at Yumani, gave an example of an alternative solution. He spoke about the developed solution: before the trip, a foreign tourist downloads an application in which he receives an anonymous wallet, which gives him the opportunity to receive a virtual Mir card. After that, he goes through remote identification by simply taking a selfie with his passport. When the banking company confirms his identity, he can replenish the card and subsequently pay with it on the territory of Russia.

To move forward with the money of the state and on the advice of business

Promotion is another problem that was tried to be solved even before the pandemic. Now it has become even more acute — it is necessary to reach new countries where they often know almost nothing about Russia and have never worked with it, and besides, it is necessary to neutralize the negative information background around the country.

As Nikita Kondratiev said, the Ministry of Economic Development now faces a large—scale task – the competent comprehensive promotion of Russia: “Now more than ever we need to create a recognizable and attractive tourist image of Russia. If in recent years this work has been built up through the efforts of individual regions — Moscow, St. Petersburg, Tatarstan, and the regions of the Far East, now we are trying to do it comprehensively. In collaboration with the regions, we plan to ensure Russia’s participation in the largest international tourism exhibitions and coverage of Russia’s tourism resources in the main foreign media. We are planning to organize press tours, family trips, filming of broadcasts and launching targeted advertising. We plan to approach each market individually, taking into account the cultural characteristics of the countries and their geographical location.”

He added that at the moment the Ministry of Economic Development is finalizing the formation of the initial information content, as well as a unified schedule with the regions for field events for this year.

At the same time, as Sergey Shpilko noted, the experience and advice of travel industry professionals are needed in these matters. “Business missions and exhibitions are a good thing, but only when their choice is made by business, not the state. If you see that a business is not ready to participate in roadshows or exhibitions in a particular country, this is a signal: then you do not need to go there at all, it will be a senseless waste of funds,” he stressed.

Иностранные туристы тратят в России вдвое больше, но приезжают в три раза реже

Results and conclusions

All the key proposals of the speakers who participated in the discussion of the problems of the inbound tourism market will be included in the final resolution and sent to the Ministry of Economic Development and other relevant departments. According to Alexey Vengin, this document will include such theses as, for example, the unified promotion of Russia in foreign markets. “We need to promote, first of all, not regions, but products and regional brands. As well as the creation of interregional National routes for intourists. In addition, it is necessary to plan a unified promotion and a unified stand of Russia at international events for 2-3 years in advance, so that joint activities of the regions can be planned in advance. Now, within the framework of planning for the year, this is almost impossible.”

In addition, the expert suggests paying more attention to improving the competencies of personnel employed in the field of inbound tourism. From his point of view, it is necessary to create online training courses that will allow you to study the differences and nuances of target markets and the portrait of a tourist, the rules of business communication. Practical training tours for regional teams or national teams are also needed.

Alexey Vengin also suggests holding an annual PCT competition among companies engaged in inbound tourism. “This will attract more attention to the industry, strengthen the desire to improve the professional level and raise the prestige of inbound tourism.”

Photo: Profi.Travel




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