Vitaliy Ivanenko, Head of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky Urban District, shares his plans for the city's development, opinions on the importance of collaboration between the state and private businesses, and the pivotal role the creation of the territory's image will play in developing the tourism sphere.
Kamchatka is a brand: a unique wildlife territory that travellers from around the world strive to visit while Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky attracts tourist and business inflow from the entire region. It is a city well-known for its history, the only ocean port in the Russian Federation; a city founded by sailors with the sea at the centre of its life. We see our future closely linked to the development of marine tourism. Our convenient gateway to Kamchatka, both by air and sea, is one of the key factors in the development of tourism. Previously, cruise liners would stop here in the roadstead and it was very inconvenient. However, a marine passenger terminal has now been built and commissioned in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky and reconstruction of the harbour walls is underway. Later, it will be possible to receive even larger vessels. The Kamchatka Territory Development Corporation has plans to turn the port section of the city into a dipper-shaped area adjacent to the marine passenger terminal. The air gateway to the region is also undergoing reconstruction so that we will be able to receive new charter flights and gain access to Asia-Pacific countries that will send more tourists.
Kamchatka was a closed region for a long time. The residents were mainly fishermen and members of the military and the infrastructure was formed with other purposes than tourism in mind. This was further aggravated by the peculiar features linked to the local terrain and seismic activity. Therefore, the architectural designs of many of the city's districts initially did not include sidewalks and storm drainage. Petropavlovsk's starting position was not as favourable as that of other cities. The boom period in the city's development took place after World War II when the Soviet Union took to the world's ocean and development skyrocketed. However, people used to come for a certain, limited period, to earn money, on an on-call basis, and little to no attention was paid to the infrastructure. Still, there are growth points offered by nature – they can and must be exploited. We still have a lot to do. In the past two years, thanks to the preferential treatment of the port of Vladivostok and the Advanced Development Territory regime being applied to Petropavlovsk, it has been possible to attract investors and not just rely on budgetary funds.
We see four principal development areas in the city. The first one is the city centre where both budgetary investments and the conduct of free investors are already bearing fruit. In the long term, we shall have three ring-roads and three pedestrian areas in the city: around the Kultuchnoye Lake where the improvement of the territory adjoining the reservoir from the side of the Lenina Square is entering its final stage and where investors are building a modern hotel, seafood restaurant and ethnic village. Funds have been allocated from the territory's budget for the construction of the Spartak Stadium; a pedestrian area will be installed around the lake equipped with historical, entertainment and sports zones. The second area is the modern nature park at the Nikolskaya Sopka Mountain, a historic place linked to the defence efforts from Anglo-French landing forces. There, we are restoring cultural heritage property; the work is in its final stage and will be completed in November. All that remains for next year is the landscaping work. The third growth point is the Mishennaya Sopka Mountain in the city centre. This year, a modern, interesting observation platform in the shape of a crown was built there. But it needs a footpath so we intend to remove private garages and their approach points from the bottom of the mountain, build parking lots, and equip the ascent to the Mishennaya Sopka Mountain with the necessary infrastructure. At present, we are developing a joint concept with young entrepreneurs. The fourth area is the famous black sands of Khalaktyrsky Beach. There, we are closely cooperating with the Kamchatka Territory Tourism Agency. We need to resolve the issue of transportation accessibility; then, it will become a full-scale tourist urban cluster. The Khalaktyrsky Beach itself is a tsunami-hazardous area, capital structures cannot be built there but there are modern modular structures. Another interesting spot is the territory near the Medvezhye Lake, where the Petropavlovsk and Geyser Hotels are located and another 50-room hotel is to be built next year. There are plans for the construction of the Kronotsky Wildlife Sanctuary visitor centre on the same territory. Interesting sites for tourists could be established there: camping sites, barbecue spots, gazebos, ethnic sculptures. While works in the city centre are mostly related to improvement, the attraction of large investments, and major inflows from the budget, the Mishennaya Sopka Mountain, Medvezhye Lake, and Khalaktyrsky Beach require that the authorities make more infrastructural decisions, and create growth points for small and me
In the city centre, the construction of the Naval Cathedral, the easternmost and only one in the Russian Far East, is nearing completion. Memorial plaques devoted to the memories of dead sailors will be placed there. Our Metropolitan Cathedral, the Church of Life-Giving Trinity, and the Naval Cathedral will become architectural landmarks and attract both local residents and tourists.
Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky has a very busy event calendar. One of its landmark events is the introductory race before the Beringia Dog-Rig Race – the extreme winter sports festival, Snow Way, which is a satellite of the Beringia Race. There is also the Cool Safari sea fishing festival held in June on the shore of Malolagernaya Bay where fishermen need to catch the flatfish pre-marked by the promoters within a certain period. Last year, the prize was awarded to visitors from Volgograd. In September, a new yet lively festival is held – the military history festival, From Rus to Russia. There are also the Day of the First Fish and the Khololo Festival. Volcano Day is also held on the territory while our neighbours host the Elizovsky Race. The Avachinsky Marathon is held in April.
Fishing, hunting and sports are available practically all year round. Recently, surfing and kayaking have been rapidly developing on Khalaktyrsky Beach. All in all, the city specialises in everything sea-related. Every year, there are more and more private yachts offering tours around the Avachinskaya Bay, that both go beyond the gate and stay within, offering fishing, diving, crab trapping, sea urchin catching, and a trip to Starichkov Island to do some bird-watching. Moreover, Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky is one of the three cities in the world where sea lions have breeding grounds within the city limits. Thanks to entrepreneurs, one of the city's fountain has a sculpture of a male sea lion, a female sea lion, and their baby. It has become one of the symbols of our city. The Sea and Life Festival will be held in late September. There are numerous events and if a tourist arrives during the season for a couple of weeks, they can catch several of them. Moreover, traditionally we have a special attitude towards the Day of the Navy and the Day of the Fisherman; these are very interesting events, and the entire city comes out to celebrate.
Where museums and exhibitions are concerned, there is a modern, interactive Vulcanarium Volcano Museum that offers an immensely interesting exhibit that words don't justice. It was created by truly passionate people. The exhibition hall, City of Military Valour, has been repaired; next year, we intend to spruce up the territory where military equipment is on display. A composition devoted to the Kurilsky Landing Force was erected near the city hall. I believe there will be more sites that will be supported not only by budgetary institutions but entrepreneurs as well. Private museums are cropping up too. For example, the Museum of the USSR.
There is a lot to yet to do to improve the restaurant sphere. There are some very interesting new establishments offering a specific cuisine made from local products and signature dishes. However, in my opinion, there is still a lot to do. Kamchatka's work with respect to human resources is far from done. Who will staff the hotels? Who will work as guides? This personnel needs to be trained now. So far we, as the receiving party, need to improve their qualifications. Building a hotel is just half of the work; if it is staffed with unskilled personnel who do not speak foreign languages, it would fail to impress and what kind of guests will want to come and stay? Therefore, the authorities and businesses have a lot to do together to create a joint hospitality base. We need to do more than just build: we need to give the projects life and meaning.
Let me offer an example of the importance of speaking well about us. We have the Association of Mayors of towns of the Russian Far East, Siberia, Trans-Baikal Regions, and the west coast of Japan. Meetings are held once every two years, once in Japan and once in Russia. In August next year, Petropavlovsk-Kamchasky will be visited by 15—20 mayors. When we visited Niigata in 2017, we saw that the Japanese know a lot about the Russian Far East and they need not be told about volcanoes, bears and salmon. But they know practically nothing – I must stress that I speak of mayors and not the general populace – about our services. They imagine that modern-day Russia has remained practically unchanged since the 1990s; they hear rumours and know nothing of the potential of our tour companies, Japanese-speaking tour guides, or the quality of our cuisine and the Japanese are very picky in this respect. So, if anyone believes we talk a lot about ourselves promote ourselves enough, it is not the case: we do not do nearly enough! We must put in serious effort to create the brand of Kamchatka tourism across the board.