Tourists Turn Back on St. Petersburg
Published: April 30, 2014 (Issue # 1808)
The number of trips to St. Petersburg canceled by foreign tourists has increased by 15 to 20 percent this year when compared to the same time last year, tourism industry representatives said at a press conference Monday.
According to Leonid Flit, chairman of the management board of the North-Western regional department of the Russian Tourism Industry Union, the increase in canceled trips and bookings is due to recent events in Ukraine.
The majority of cancellations have been made by American tourists, as well as by a number of European tourists, Flit said. However, the city’s tourism officials said that such decreases are not fatal to the industry. “I think the situation will improve in June,” he said.
At the same time, Yekaterina Shadskaya, director of the North-Western regional department of the Russian Tourism Industry Union, said that they registered an increase in the number of Russian tourists from other regions visiting St. Petersburg.
“This year we witnessed an increase in Russian tourists traveling around the country. More and more of them are coming to St. Petersburg,” Shadskaya said.
The experts also discussed the general options to attract more tourists to the city. Some of the suggestions included building more budget and two- and three-star hotels in St. Petersburg, developing new tourism clusters in the city as well as launching more St. Petersburg-oriented Internet applications.
Inna Shalyto, head of St. Petersburg’s Tourism Development Committee, admitted that the city has a deficit of two- and three-star hotels, and that officials are currently discussing what can be done to improve the situation.
“We understand that building two- or three-star hotels in the center of the city is quite expensive. Therefore we may consider the construction of such hotels in areas further from the center. However, this will then mean we need to organize faster and easier transportation to those areas and the introduction of English road signs in the city. It is quite a process,” Shalyto said.
Shalyto said St. Petersburg could become a place for international exhibitions too but, “we’ll need to build a modern hall able to hold up to 7,000 people and another two halls to seat up to 3,000 people,” she said.
Shalyto said St. Petersburg should also develop cluster tourism, in which tourists come not only to see the most famous sights but other areas of the city, along with yacht tourism and roof-walking tours.
“In Paris, people don’t want to only see the Louvre but also Montmartre; in London they want to see Big Ben but they’re also interested in Soho. In turn, we can offer trips to Vasilievsky Island and develop it as a tourist destination,” Shalyto said.
“Tallinn’s yacht tourism brings up to 20 million euros a year and Stockholm takes in 50 million euros a year,” Shalyto said. “We only get a few thousand euros for that. We should open more yacht clubs and develop this activity.”
Roof-walks are another interesting option for providing tourists a new view of the city. However, Shalyto said that the safety of the city’s roofs must improve first.