Course set to the east
For several years, statistics have been showing a steady growth of both domestic and inbound tourism in the east of Russia
There is every reason to believe that this is only the beginning. To save, and most importantly, to accelerate the growth of the development of tourism, a proposition has been made to create new points of attraction for tourists, relying on the exclusive advantages of each region. Let's analyze what has already been done and what tasks are to be accomplished in order to fully reveal the tourist potential of the east of Russia, a unique region that occupies more than a third of the territory of Russia.
What can be offered
Undoubtedly, the Far East and the Baikal region are a special territory. This includes not only unique natural landscapes, picturesque nature reserves, UNESCO World Heritage Sites, historical and ethnographic sights, exotic cuisine and national distinctive traditions. The 12 regions of the east of Russia are an intersection of important land, marine, and cultural routes. Here, new horizons are opened for the creation of unique tourist products that adequately represent our country on the international arena.
12 regions are located in the east of Russia, most of which have access to the sea. And the sea is almost everywhere. Various types of tourism – from environmental and sports to extreme and eventful – all have chances for successful development. After all, there are 32 nature reserves, 16 federal wildlife sanctuaries, 10 national parks, five UNESCO World Heritage sites, and a myriad of natural and ethnic monuments here.
An advantageous geographical position with direct proximity to densely populated and developed Asian countries (China, Japan, Korea) creates logical expectations for the high potential of inbound tourism. When it comes to increasing the tourist flow, it is first of all necessary to analyze the transport accessibility of the territories.
Only a part of the airports in the east of Russia are connected by regular flights to foreign countries. Regular flights to China, Korea, Japan and Thailand are carried out from the Vladivostok International Airport. New planes fly to China, Korea and Japan from the Khabarovsk airport. You can also fly to China and Korea from Yakutsk, to China and Thailand from Irkutsk, and to China, Mongolia and Thailand from Chita. Flight connections have been established between Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk and Japan, and also between Ulan-Ude and China.
Land checkpoints operate in the Amur Region, the Jewish Autonomous Region, Khabarovsky Territory and Primorsky Territory (the border with the PRC), in the Transbaikal Territory (border with Mongolia, China), and in the Republic of Buryatia (border with Mongolia). There are two regular ferry lines: Korsakov (Sakhalin Region) – Wakkanai (Japan); Vladivostok – Donghae (Korea) – Sakaiminato (Japan). The practice of cruise ship visits with foreign citizens is carried out in the Chukotka Autonomous District, in Kamchatka Territory, and in Primorsky Territory.
It is important to note that planes from Moscow regularly fly to all key airports in the regions of the Far East and the Baikal region. But inside the region, air traffic is not so well established and not all directions are covered.
Railway passenger transport operates in the Trans-Siberian Railway and Baikal-Amur Railway zones. The East Siberian Railway runs through the territory of the Republic of Buryatia, the Irkutsk region, the Transbaikal Territory, and the Republic of Yakutia. The road network is developed mainly in the south of the Far East and in the Baikal region. At the same time, only two regions are completely inaccessible to car drivers in the Far East: the Chukotka Autonomous District and Kamchatka Territory.
To become comfortable
Unfortunately, at the moment the tourism industry of the east of Russia is not developed enough. One of the main problems is a lack of, and sometimes the complete absence of, infrastructure facilities. Most enthusiasts of the industry create tourist products based on the natural potential of the territories. The share of tourism in the gross regional product of the regions is only 1–2%. The industry is represented mainly by small business organizations.
The offer on the market still does not meet the requirements of modern consumers of travel services. There is a shortage of classified accommodation facilities, while foreign guests expect conditions comparable to conditions in similar countries. There is not enough money to form a complete tour package, which would include food, communication, household, excursion and transportation services. And tourists are ready to buy a complex product.
It should be noted that today there has been a steady trend: the state and business have focused their attention on the development of the tourism sector of the east of Russia. Special economic zones are being created; Advanced Special Economic Zones and other sites designed to promote economic growth are being formed. Residents have already been registered at the Kamchatka ASEZ (Kamchatka Territory) and Gorny Vozdukh ASEZ (Sakhalin Region), who are implementing investment projects for the construction of tourist infrastructure: hotels, a water park, a ski resort, an aerodrome for light aviation, and so on. Using federal and regional funds, the pier for cruise ships (the port of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky) was modernized, and the infrastructure for providing thermal waters (Paratunka Zone, Kamchatka Territory) is being planned.
The private investors are a bit timid, but are still deploying large-scale construction. For example, the Primorye entertainment resort is perhaps the only project in Russia in which large foreign companies, the leaders of the entertainment industry, are investing. Small business is also increasing its activity: it is opening hotels and hostels.
Another measure that contributes to the development of tourism in the east of Russia is the simplification of visa entry. Thus, the Law "On the Free Port of Vladivostok", providing simplified visa entry into the territory of the south of Primorsky Territory (Vladivostok Airport, seaport, land checkpoints on the border with the PRC), entered into force on August 1, 2017. It's now enough to apply online to issue a visa for up to eight days on a special website four days before your visit. In the week since the program began, 362 electronic visas have been issued to citizens of 11 countries.
According to experts, the east of Russia is an extremely promising region. The first steps towards the development of tourism in this territory have already been made. But the most important victories are ahead. Tourism in the Far East and the Baikal region can become a driver for the development of small and medium-sized business, a challenge for the qualitative leap forward in the development of the social sphere and the urban environment, which is one of the components of the successful improvement of the quality of life of the local population.