Russia Prepares for Tourism Boom Due to Upcoming Sporting Events
By James Ruggia
August 28, 2012 10:12 PM
The Travel Industry Global Overview delivered by Euromonitor International (EI) at a number of World Travel Mart Vision Conferences this past spring predicted big things for Russian tourism over the next several years. A series of high-profile sporting events that include the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi and the 2018 FIFA World Cup will bring the world’s attention to an area, the Caucasus, that most people know very little about.
These events, according to EI, will increase visitation to Russia by at least 20 percent over the next four years. These events and such others as the World Athletic Championships and the Rugby Sevens World Cup in 2013 are expected to spike visitor numbers to more than 28.3 million -- up 20 percent on 2012’s expected figure of 23.7 million. EI sees most of this traffic coming from Europe, also predicts a 15 percent increase to 301,000 from the U.S. by 2016, a nice increase especially when you consider that Russia doesn’t even operate a tourist office in the U.S.
The 2014 Winter Olympics will put the winter resort area of Sochi in the Caucasus Krasnodar Kray region on the front page around the world. The region stretches along the Black Sea Coast at the foot of the western part of the Caucasus Mountain Range. It’s attracting all kinds of investment these days, as Russia sees an opportunity to add some sorely needed dimensions to a tourism that is basically stuck in Moscow, St. Petersburg and on Volga River cruise ships. The Black Sea Coast has long been popular with Russian travelers, but hasn't really attracted outsiders to its beaches. Ski resorts in the Caucasus could be an attraction that puts the Black Sea on the map for foreign tourists.
According to reports, Russian, South Korean, German and French investors are moneying up to build $15 billion worth of resorts in the North Caucasus. There are plans to build several resorts spanning the several republics of the region (Krasnodar Kray, Stavropol Kray, Adygea, Karachay-Cherkessia, Kabardino-Balkaria, North Ossetia-Alania, Ingushetia, Dagestan and the only one that 99 percent of non-Russians have heard of, Chechnya. All of them in combination with Georgia separate the Black Sea from the Caspian Sea. Resorts are planned for Lagonaki, Mamison, Matlas and Arkhyz among others. A fifth resort is planned for Mount Elbrus, a mountain taller than anything in Western Europe. When completed, the Russians believe these resorts will attract 5 million visitors per year.
With the London Olympics over, the onus falls on Russia to begin promoting these regions to skiers and other travelers. “You would think that they would be contacting ski operators in order to familiarize us with what’s available,” said John Frasca, president of World on Skis, a division of Central Holidays. “I haven’t heard anything. I think we are pretty important American ski operators.”
Perhaps the biggest question going forward is whether the 2014 Olympics are going to bring Russia back into international tourism marketing. They will have plenty of international models to emulate as destinations from around the world open shop in Moscow and St. Petersburg to attract an outbound market that’s expected to grow at 8 percent annually over the next several years.