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More Tourists Choose to Arrive by Sea

Published: October 6, 2009 (Issue # 1515)



  • Cruise tourism to St. Petersburg has suffered less than the rest of the industry, with the port seeing an increase in visitors.
    Photo: Alexander Belenky / The St. Petersburg Times

The number of tourist groups visiting St. Petersburg decreased by 15 to 25 percent this year. Cruise tourism has suffered the least during the economic crisis.

The citys passenger seaport closed for the season late last month. This year, it welcomed 426,500 people 7 percent more than the year before. During the last year, the number of passengers grew by 32 percent. Three hundred and twenty-three passenger vessels docked in the St. Petersburg port from May 4 through Sept. 25, compared to 317 last year. The Marine Facade terminal served as the gateway for 244,300 of the citys tourists, said Nikolai Isayev, head of tourism infrastructure development at St. Petersburgs committee for investment and strategic projects.

Ships filled up at pre-crisis levels of 99 to 100 percent, said Igor Glukhov, general director of Inflot Worldwide St. Petersburg cruise company. Stopping in St. Petersburg has become more profitable for cruise ships, since harbor dues which make up 30 to 50 percent of ship-owners costs have decreased by 25 to 30 percent due to the devaluation of the ruble, explained Glukhov. According to him, cruises last from three to 20 days, with an average cost of $150 per person per night. The manager of one American cruise operator confirmed that demand has not decreased, although filling up one vessel takes several times longer than it did in pre-crisis times. The majority of passengers are American and British retirees whose incomes have not suffered, he said.

When visiting ports, tourists generally spend little. Clients have become penny-pinchers and are more likely to choose inexpensive overview excursions that do not include museum visits, said Yelena Malchonok, general director of Arktour Travel. Demand among foreign tourists for river cruises from St. Petersburg to Moscow has decreased by 2 to 3 percent, said Anastasia Stepanova, the department manager of the Vodhod St. Petersburg cruise line.

Yet the level of organized inbound tourism fell this year by 15 to 20 percent compared to the same period in 2008, said Sergey Korneyev, northwest division manager for the Russian Union of Tourist Industries. This year the hotel occupancy level was 55 percent, while the average for 2008 was 70 percent. Prices for accommodation have not gone up, said Vladimir Ivanov, general director of Hotel Oktyabrskaya. In summer, up to 80 percent of the guests are foreigners. Hotel occupancy has fallen on average by fifteen percent down to sixty percent mostly on account of tourists, said Alexei Musakin, director of the St. Petersburg branch of the Russian Hotel Association.

The flow of foreign tourists has decreased by 20 to 25 percent, estimates Valery Fridman, general director of Mir. Tourists reduced their spending by 20 to 25 percent compared to last year; for instance, 10 to 15 out of every 30 people will visit Peterhof, said Fridman. The excursion costs 22 euros. A year ago, clients spent $30 on additional tours; now, they think before spending $20, added the director of another tour company.

According to Korneyev, the reduced flow is compensated by individual tourists, both foreign and Russian. Fridman and Ivanov said they had not noticed such a trend.

By Malchonoks estimates, the number of passenger vessels may fall by 10 to 15 percent in 2010.





 


ALL ABOUT TOWN

Thursday, Aug. 28


Learn more about the citys upcoming municipal elections during the presentation of the project Road Map for the Municipal Elections being presented this evening in the conference hall on the third floor of Biblioteka at 21 Nevsky Prospekt. Steve Kaddins, a coordinator for Beautiful St. Petersburg, which gives residents an online forum to lodge complaints about infrastructure problems in the city, will be on hand to answer any questions. The meeting starts at 7 p.m. and is open to all.



Friday, Aug. 29


Park Pobedy will feature the sights and sounds of the world outside of Russia during the Open Art International Festival today. Taste foreign cuisine, learn how to make tea like the Chinese or relax in a hammock during the free event. Although entrance is free, you must register beforehand if you wish to attend.



Saturday, Aug. 30


Break out the tweed and channel your inner Englishman during the English Hunt Picnic this afternoon organized by the Bagmut stables from Krasny Bor in the Leningrad Oblast. Equestrian stunts, English archery and classic hunting fashion will all be available to visitors hoping to live like the characters in Downton Abbey if only for a day. Tickets for the event cost 7,900 rubles ($219.40).


Bookworms will have their chance to swap out well-read classics for something new for their bookshelves at Knigovorot, a free book exchange that will be held in the Yusupov Garden on Sadovaya Ulitsa today. Come for the chance to get a new book or take the opportunity to discuss the literary merits of your favorite authors with fellow fans.



Sunday, Aug. 31


The Neva Delta International Blues Festival wraps up this afternoon on Vasilevsky Island with a concert featuring not only some of Russias best blues bands but international stars as well. Admission is free for all three days of the festival, which begins on Aug. 29, and the shows starting at 5 p.m. each day.



Monday, Sept. 1


Today marks the beginning of Lermontov-Fest, a fall festival celebrating the life of one of Russias most remarkable poets who, in a fate eerily similar to Pushkins, was killed in a duel at the age of 26. Organized by the Lermontov Library System, the next several months will see art exhibitions, concerts and public lectures focusing on the Lermontovs short yet prolific career. Check the Lermontov Library Systems website for more details.



Tuesday, Sept. 2


Join expats and practice your Russian during the Russian Clubs weekly meetings every Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. The club is free to participate in although you need to be a registered member of Couchsurfing.



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