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Chinese more, money less

In the Baikal area there is an increase in the volumes of "gray" tourism

Irkutsk tour operators and industry officials state that the flow of tourists, especially foreign ones, traveling to Baikal, has grown dramatically. At the same time, each of the visitors leaves less money than a year ago. One of the reasons for this phenomenon experts call not only the deficit of expensive facilities in the Baikal area, but also a significant increase in the volume of "gray" tourism, when most of the tourist spending goes without tax deductions, and, therefore, past local budgets.

Chinese more, money less
Photo: Maria Chernova
GROWTH IS

Only over the past five years the tourist flow to the Irkutsk region has grown by 56%, the head of the regional tourism agency Ekaterina Slivina cites.

- This increase goes somewhere at 8% every year. For comparison, in 2012, the region was visited by 976 thousand people, and last year the number of non-resident and foreign tourists was already 1,5 a million people, - notes Slivina.

The fastest tourist flow to Baikal is growing in the part of foreign tourists. Thus, according to the number of travelers from abroad, the Angara region has risen to the sixth place among all Russian regions this year: the approximate calculation of the first eight months showed 84 thousands of foreign tourists, and this is not yet final figures - the final data for the season will only be in November. Almost half of foreign visitors come from neighboring China. 35,9 thousand people - this is three times more than a year earlier.

The same trend is noted in neighboring Buryatia. There, the growth of foreign tourists was even more rapid - in the first half of the year, according to Rosturizm, more Chinese travelers came to the republic on 208% than during the same period of 2016.


BAD MONEY

Nevertheless, the quality of the tourist flow from abroad Irkutsk and Buryat experts is not always happy. Thus, Deputy Chairman of the Tourism Committee of the Economy Ministry of Buryatia Ekaterina Mukhina at the recent Baikal International Environmental Water Forum held in Irkutsk, said that the profit that the industry in the Baikal region receives from tourists is noticeably declining.

- We need to look not only at the rapidly increasing numbers of tourist traffic or the total amount that they leave on Baikal. Let's see how much each foreigner leaves. For example, in 2016 in Buryatia, tourists left 9 billion rubles. If this amount is divided by the total number of travelers, then by 2016 the indicator will be 3,5 thousand rubles per one arrived.

Noting in general the low expenditure of visitors (it's not about the daily expenses, but for the whole trip), the expert complains that the indicator has a tendency to decrease.

- If you track the figure in past years, it turns out that in 2014, one tourist on Lake Baikal left an average of 3,5 thousand rubles and this was a peak level. Then the decline began - in 2015 the figure reached 3,47 thousand rubles, - says Ekaterina Mukhina.

Officials and market participants admit that the sums of expenses of a conditional tourist are far from reality, and the main reasons for erroneous calculations can be in two points: incorrect registration of the visitors themselves and "gray" schemes for the waste of travelers.


THE PROBLEM OF ACCOUNTING

One of the largest operators of the tourist market of the Angara region notes that in the spring of 2017 the employees of the company specially recalculated the number fund, and it turned out that for the year on the shores of the lake, as well as in the two capitals of the Baikal region - Ulan-Ude and Irkutsk - physically can not rest more than a million human.

- Of this number, only 300-400 thousand people came from other regions or countries. It is quite obvious that for 3,5 thousand rubles per week (and so much is the term of an average trip to Lake Baikal), the tourist on the lake will not rest. The average check for an entry tourist here is within 25-100 thousand rubles. It is necessary to change the calculation methodology. For example, consider the number of overnights, not days, - argues the owner of the Irkutsk tourist company Anatoly Kazakevich.

In the absence of a decent record of the number of all tourists recognized in the FGBU "Reserve Pribaikalye", which controls the Baikal-Lensky Reserve and the Pribaikalsky National Park. According to the deputy director of the institution Nadezhda Nikolenko, despite the increased number of park inspectors, they physically can not keep track of all visitors to the park, as the total length of the protected routes reaches 300 kilometers.

In the absence of proper control correspondent EastRussia was able to be convinced by own experience: for six days in the north of Olkhon (enters the borders of the Baikal National Park. - EastRussia), no inspector was interested in having a ticket. At the same time, many tourists met with complaints that they could hardly find out where exactly it was possible to buy a ticket to enter the national park, and the only selling point in Olkhon only works until 4 hours of the day.

Just the other day, in order to expand the opportunity to buy a ticket to the national park to honest tourists, "Reserve Pribaikalye" in the test mode launched the sale of electronic permits to visit the reserves of the region.

"When the system is fully launched, the solution can be purchased from anywhere in the world where there is access to the Net," Nadezhda Nikolenko promised. - Now they, really, can be bought only in paper form at several points of sale in Irkutsk, Listvyanka and Olkhon. I think this will improve the overall control over the number of issued permits for a particular day and route. This will also allow to regulate the number of tourists on all 14 routes of the "Reserve Baikal region".


GRAY TOURISM AND THE "BAD" CHINESE

A number of Irkutsk tour operators, on the contrary, are sure that the error lies not in the counting of the total number of tourists, but in accounting for the amounts they actually leave in the Baikal region.

- For 3500 rubles to Lake Baikal, a Chinese citizen, of course, does not go, but at home they are given the opportunity to buy the so-called "zero ticket". This is when the tourist pays less than the cost of the tour - for example, thousands of 60 (rubles) for everything, including flights. It is impossible for this money to fly (30 thousand rubles, minimum) and a week to live on Baikal (from 20 thousand rubles), plus a transfer to the island. Where is the money for food? Excursions? How do they beat such tours? - Asked a rhetorical question employee travel agency Eugene Sergeyenko. - It fights off everything that a tourist buys in special stores. First, they all stay in hotels of their former or even real compatriots (most often, such hotels do not pay taxes, they are designed as housing, not commercial real estate). Secondly, on excursions they are carried through stores, where the same Chinese sell them clothes at exorbitant prices, precious metals and stones. At worst, a souvenir. 90% of these costs go past the tax. More often than not, they then return to China as an entrepreneur's family.