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Without Asia: Coronavirus painfully hit tourist industry in Far Eastern Federal District
Travel agencies, hotels, hotels and restaurants in the Far East suffer losses due to border closures
The suspension of passenger traffic between Russia, China and Korea significantly affected all spheres of life in the border regions. The tourism sector suffered the most in large cities in the Far East: hotels, restaurants, transport companies, travel agencies are already suffering losses and are looking for a way out of the situation. Experts believe that the situation with the closure of borders should be used to develop domestic tourism.
LOSSES AT ALL FRONTS
Since February 20, because of the coronavirus, the entry of Chinese citizens has been temporarily suspended in Russia for private, educational, and tourist purposes. The residents of China also stopped accepting documents for registration and issuance of invitations to enter for these purposes. Since January 31, border crossings on the border with China have been closed in the country; they work only for those wishing to return to their homeland.
Since South Korea became the second country after China in the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus, it also fell under restrictions. Since March 1, Russia has introduced a temporary ban on regular and charter flights to this country. The ban does not apply only to Aeroflot and Korean air. At the same time, both companies operate all flights only at terminal F Sheremetyevo in Moscow. Airlines Aurora, S7 and Yakutia, which until now flew to South Korea with regular flights, continued to operate charter flights, while South Korean Korean Air suspended flights from Seoul to Moscow and Vladivostok until April 25.
In addition, Rostourism recommended that Russian tourists not go to the Japanese island of Hokkaido, which is connected by direct air links with Sakhalin. Since March 6, Aurora Airlines has temporarily suspended regular flights on the route Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk - Sapporo - Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk.
The lack of tourists from neighboring Asian countries was already felt in large cities of the Far East: Khabarovsk, Vladivostok, Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky. Large international events were canceled there, experts sent on a forced vacation were sent to hotels, their reservations were canceled, restaurants were empty, tour buses were idle.
“Accepting tourists from China, from South Korea, from Japan, we use transport. It is needed for meeting and seeing off tourists, an excursion program. Due to the closure of borders and the suspension of flights, everyone suffered along the chain: hotels, food outlets, cultural sites, museums, guides, souvenir shops. This also affected banks, because a lot of money supply passed through them. In travel companies, employees, working and getting a decent salary, could afford to use some services. Now this is not. On the whole, the economy is suffering, ”said Valentina Oseeva, representative of the Far Eastern Regional Tourism Association, to EastRussia.
According to the president of the Far Eastern Association of restaurateurs and hoteliers Roman Ivanishchev, most of all the absence of Chinese and Korean tourists felt the hotel business.
“Reservations in all hotels are canceled in batches. If there is any alternative for restaurants - somehow they lived before the arrival of tourists, and somehow could “support their pants” at the expense of Russian citizens, then hotels in which over the past four years have appeared four times more sleeping The places are very bad because they live off the guests. Now the beginning of the tourist season. There is such a thing as long armor when a person plans to arrive in May, and book in December. Now these reservations are starting to be canceled. That is, the whole hotel was busy, and now it has become free, ”Roman Ivanishchev explains.
In his opinion, if the situation continues, this may lead to the closure of many hotels.
“The longer these restrictions last, the more deplorably this will affect the entire hospitality business, which has developed and began to strengthen in the Far East over the past three or four years. This can lead to stagnation and closure. It was a low season, people were waiting for the high to repulse him, as a result, he became even lower. And many who do not have an airbag can really close: someone planned to spend a low season on credit, and then beat it off during the high season, and then the rhythm is broken, ”the expert noted.
As the owner of a mini-hotel in Vladivostok Valeria Karabaneva said, due to the lack of Asian tourists, there is no reservation for three months in advance.
“All March is empty, April, too. April armor began to cancel the Koreans. I heard that there should be a meeting of hoteliers who opened mini-hotels and hostels and took loans for this matter. They plan to ask for a respite. A very tangible minus of income. Those who are focused only on the external market, those with total failure, larger hotels still somehow stay at the expense of domestic tourism, ”said Valeria Karabaneva.
IMPACT ON THE PRIMORY
The main flow of tourists from Asian countries took Primorsky Krai. It is in this region that the tourism sector is now the most difficult.
“The flow of tourists from China and Korea is dominant, of course. For example, Seoul and Vladivostok connected six flights daily. This is much more than Vladivostok connects with Moscow. For the tourism industry and for several more destinations this is a significant challenge. The plans of our hoteliers for occupancy of hotels and recreation centers are not fulfilled, the situation affects the catering, transport. In the direction of China and Korea, we have a strong block of organized tourist groups, they used sightseeing buses. Now the buses are in the parking lots, and the drivers were sent on vacation, ”said Konstantin Shestakov, deputy chairman of the Primorye government.
After the border with China was closed in mid-February, the Primorsky Organization of the All-Russian Trade Union of Road Transport and Road Workers appealed to the Russian government. The federal authorities were asked to compensate for the losses.
“Due to the closure of checkpoints on the border with China, international passenger traffic has stopped, and this has left more than two thousand drivers unemployed. Since January 24, people are on vacation without maintenance, and when they can get to work is unknown. In total, more than 400 cars are idle in the industry. There is no other job for these cars now, and will not be in the near future, ”said Yuri Poshivailo, leader of the Primorye Auto Transport Carrier's Union, in a statement.
According to him, trucking companies suffer significant losses. Their work is unprofitable, the salaries of employees are low, so even a month without work negatively affects the family budget. In addition to drivers, locksmiths and engineering personnel went on vacation without pay.
Primoravtotrans, the largest motor transport company in the Far East, has recently been in a difficult situation. It recently purchased new buses on lease and at the expense of credit funds. In 2000, by decision of the Russian Ministry of Transport, the company was appointed an official carrier on regular bus routes in China. Now there is no work.
The outflow of guests is also noted in the restaurant sector of Vladivostok. Now they are trying to reorient themselves to the Russian market.
“Since the beginning of 2019, with an increase in tourist flow from the nearest Asian countries, we have seen an increase in guests. Now that we have closed the border with China and Korea, we saw how much their number has decreased. The Japanese guests showed great interest in us, it was earlier, but now it has become more noticeable. Of course, this is due to the fact that Japanese airlines have visited us. Japanese guests go around, they are interested, their television comes, they shot our programs about Russian life and cuisine three times. There has been no Russian historical cuisine in Vladivostok for many years, and the residents of the city do not know what it is. The Japanese go and continue to get acquainted with unusual Russian cuisine that is unusual for us, ”said Alexander Konovalov, director of the traditional Russian cuisine restaurant in Vladivostok“ Gus Karas ”.
Other restaurants that have experienced an outflow of foreign guests are now attracting local residents and guests from other regions of Russia. Trying to take customers views from the windows, interior and kitchen. At the same time, the lack of Asians even affected establishments that were not initially oriented to tourists.
“We were not originally a tourist cafe, but we see that there are fewer foreign guests. There are many mini-hotels near us, now they are all empty. Their guests usually came for breakfast, now they are gone. But this did not particularly affect us. I can’t say that something has disappeared from the products. The only thing that they, of course, increased in price, ”said Natalia Kasyan, director of the Fontanka cafe in Vladivostok.
The regional authorities are looking for ways out of the situation. Konstantin Shestakov, Deputy Prime Minister of the Primorye Government, said that there are plans to reorient the tourism industry to the youth of the Far East and Siberia.
“We decide to reorient to other markets. First of all, we focus on the domestic market of Russia. We want to focus on the youth segment and show Vladivostok, first of all, attractive. We want to emphasize the arrival as part of the weekend, ”Shestakov said.
According to him, in recent years the number of hostels in Vladivostok has increased, and they are in demand among young people. They are going to take advantage of this.
“There are a lot of eventful events in the city, Vladivostok is romantic: beautiful sunsets, good, high-quality gastronomy. We will focus on holding gastronomic festivals, not only in the territory of restaurants, but also in the format of a city-wide celebration, ”the deputy chairman noted.
The authorities plan to actively develop tourism with Japan and India, with which they want to open direct flights.
“At the end of March, the governors of the Russian Far East will leave for India. We will raise the issue of opening a direct charter line with Vladivostok, primarily, as with a large tourist transport hub. This is an opportunity to replace tourist flows, ”said Konstantin Shestakov.
In turn, the public council on tourism development in Primorye asked the regional authorities to index tariffs for central Russia on flights to Vladivostok in order to compensate for the expected failure in the industry due to Russian tourists.
“We came up with an initiative on the regional administration, on the department of economy, tourism, with the proposal to index the tariffs for central Russia on flights to the Far Eastern Federal District, so that prices are acceptable for Russians. This will somehow compensate for the failure that is expected. This is an alternative if the initiative is supported, ”said Roman Ivanishchev, President of the Far Eastern Association of Restaurateurs and Hoteliers, a member of the Public Council for Tourism Development in Primorye.
BET ON OWN
One of the main tourist destinations of the Far East is Kamchatka. The unique nature attracts visitors from all over the world to the region. In the Kronotsky Reserve, they note that due to the lack of Koreans and Chinese, the number of tourists decreased by about a quarter.
“Over the past three years, the growth of tourists from the Asia-Pacific countries has been the strongest. If you take the pie chart last year, you can see that exactly half of all tourists are Russians, and a quarter are Chinese. And if we talk about the dynamics of past years, then South Korea came in second after Germany, ahead of France. Speaking in numbers, the Chinese came about two thousand tourists. Most often they come to us through agencies and travel agencies, so now we can’t tell the exact data how everything will be. Travel companies tied to tourists from China have not yet confirmed the arrival of planned groups. We can assume that we will receive about a quarter less tourists, ”said Roman Korchigin, deputy director for the development of tourism at the Kronotsky State Reserve, EastRussia.
He noted that this will not significantly affect the reserve, since the emphasis is still on the Russians.
“In terms of extrabudgetary revenues, this is, of course, bad. Because without receiving extrabudgetary income, we will not be able to spend it on the development, provision and supply of infrastructure, on construction. But this is not vital. Because some of the foreigners will come from Europe. We hope that the coronavirus will not develop, and they will not close Germany, France, the USA, all this will decline and calm down. And we always wait for Russians, because our main mission is to convey the idea of preserving and understanding nature, the need for creating and protecting the reserve, ”added Roman Korchigin.
The Stagecoach-Kamchatka travel company, Heritage Expedition cruise operator, notes that the tourist season has not yet begun, there have been no cancellations, the refusals are still insignificant. The company organizes cruises from Sakhalin to Kamchatka, from Kamchatka to Chukotka, Anadyr and from Anadyr along the Northern Sea Route.
“Now the absence of Chinese and Korean tourists is not particularly felt, in the spring we did not have joint projects, we have all the projects for the summer, while they are confirmed. We have all the summer scheduled. We hope that the borders will be open, so we did not remove the reservation for them and they do not give up their travels, ”said Elena Avramenko, general manager of the Stagecoach-Kamchatka.
According to her, a group of 20 Chinese tourists canceled the tour in her other company, Northern Expedition, which is engaged in cruises in the Far East and the Russian Arctic.
“We shot a group of 20 people of Chinese citizens from whom the seats were bought, because they no longer have time, because they do not issue visas. Naturally, they do not have time for this cruise. They receive border passes and other permits there, and since there are no visas on hand, they do not have time for anything, ”Avramenko added.
The head of the travel agency added that it is still difficult to predict the damage, but it is already tangible. She expressed hope that the situation will stabilize by the summer and Asian tourists will return to the Far East.
COURSE FOR DOMESTIC TOURISM
According to the representative of the Far Eastern Regional Tourism Association, Valentina Aseeva, Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk is the only large city in the Far East that has not so much felt the outflow of tourists from Asia. It is popular among Russians because of the well-developed ski mountain base “Mountain Air”. Agreed with the Tourism Agency of the Sakhalin Oblast.
“Undoubtedly, the coronavirus epidemic will affect tourist flows in all regions, including the Sakhalin Oblast. To date, the situation is such that the visits of organized groups of tourists from Japan are planned for the summer. While we do not predict anything. Everything will be clear when the situation with coronavirus is more or less clarified. Organized tourists from Korea love to come in March to go skiing. The arrival of Korean groups has been canceled. In general, Russia has seen an increased demand for domestic tourism. To date, the Sakhalin tour operators for the summer period, booking tours has already increased by 15-20%. In general, while the situation in Korea and Japan has not stabilized, it’s premature to talk about flows, ”said Natalia Pakholkova, head of the Sakhalin Tourism Agency.
Valentina Aseeva believes that the situation with the outflow of Asian tourists should be used to develop tourism infrastructure for domestic tourism.
“Ten years ago, I raised the question of when the transitions between China and Russia were being built, I requested at least 10% of the tourism industry to be allocated for the construction of some objects. But they answered that it is necessary to build transitions. Who built them? They stand inactive. And there are people who have to get paid. Even 10% could not be allocated to create infrastructure in the region. For Russian citizens who could not manage to go abroad, there would be an alternative - to go to a holiday home, for example. This is propaganda of a healthy lifestyle. The more options there are, the cheaper the cost, the greater part of the population will allow themselves to use it. This is a big plus, jobs. We must think about the development of the region. And it seems to me, of course, that it’s bad that all this is happening, but today the plus is that there is an opportunity to think in which direction to move further. Then people will remain in our region, ”the expert expressed her opinion.