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“It's sad, but the fact is that soon the money will run out”

Head of Kamchatka's travel industry association: tour companies' margin of safety - until June

Irina Sedova, the head of one of the key companies, the chairman of the Kamchatka Tourism Industry Association, comments on the situation in the tourism industry in Kamchatka. The coronavirus pandemic and the ensuing protective measures have put the tourism business in the region on the brink of survival. The armor is being canceled en masse, the season is in question, the safety reserve is until June. 

“It's sad, but the fact is that soon the money will run out”

Irina Sedova

General Director of Kamchatintour Travel Company LLC, Chairman of the Board of the Kamchatka Travel Industry Association
Today, the tourism industry of Kamchatka froze in anticipation. The mood of market participants is frankly alarming, there is even some confusion. Personally, I have seen such a crisis for the first time in 30 years of experience in tourism. There are no tourists in Kamchatka now, since movement from abroad and between regions of Russia is virtually closed. No confirmed cases of coronavirus infection have been recorded in the Kamchatka Territory, but a self-isolation regime has been introduced, tours and excursions are prohibited [by the time the material was published, two cases were nevertheless confirmed - approx. East russia]. The prospects for recovery in the near future are not encouraging. Almost all foreign groups of tourists cancel the previously made reservation in depth until September 2020, or transfer it to 2021. The Russians are still booking summers, but whether the regions will open up for free movement up to this time is unclear.

In these conditions, we are in correspondence with partners on the "remote", offer our programs, advertise tours. But we cannot book yet, we make only preliminary requests to the accommodation facilities. Hotels, for the most part, met us halfway and do not require prepayment. Unfortunately, there is no assurance that guests will be able to come to us in July and August - at the height of the tourist season. I suppose that as a result of the epidemic, the flow of tourists to Kamchatka will change significantly in the next one or two years - there will be much fewer foreigners, they will be afraid to travel, and the internal Russian flow, on the contrary, may increase, due to the fact that the borders of Russia will be in one or more otherwise closed. 

In the current circumstances, I recommend travel companies to work for the future: expand their client base, look for new partners, and actively promote their region in anticipation of deferred demand. The other day we held a webinar for Russian tour operators and travel agencies on the topic: "Prefabricated group tours in Kamchatka." The event was attended by 370 people. In my opinion, the webinar was successful, colleagues reacted with sincere interest, asked a lot of questions, found out the details. In recent days, I have noted a tendency of increasing requests from companies from Moscow, St. Petersburg and other large cities, which were previously oriented to travel and did not even think about selling tours to Kamchatka. This, of course, inspires some optimism.

So far, the key players of inbound tourism in Kamchatka with many years of experience and a staff of workers (including our company Kamchatintur) continue to pay salaries from their own reserves, largely borrowed. It is important to retain qualified personnel, because it is difficult to find them, and it takes years to train. Sadly, but true - very soon the money will run out, and, of course, we just have to close down and fire people. At the moment there are no receipts of money at all, since there are no tourists, and we earn only on clients. Even now, if nothing changes by June 2020, we can confidently predict mass layoffs in travel companies, unemployment and an increase in the outflow of the population to the mainland.

Frankly, we do not feel any significant measures to support the authorities that would effectively help entrepreneurs in a crisis. I am absolutely sure that it is necessary to abolish taxes and insurance contributions to tour operators, travel agents, hotels at least until the end of 2020. This is an absolutely essential support measure in such conditions.
I wish all colleagues in the tourism industry the end of the epidemic and the restoration of tourism. I hope for the speedy normalization of life in the country and the world. Health to you! Take care of yourself and your loved ones.
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