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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

The situation in the tourism industry of Kamchatka is commented on by Irina Sedova, the head of one of the key companies, the chairman of the Kamchatka Tourism Industry Association. The coronavirus pandemic and the ensuing protective measures put the tourism industry in the region on the brink of survival. Reservations are massively canceled, the season is in doubt, the safety margin 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 has stood still. The mood of the market participants is frankly alarming, even some confusion is felt. Personally, I have seen such a crisis for the first time in over 30 years of experience working in tourism. There are no tourists in Kamchatka right now, since movement from abroad and between the regions of Russia is actually closed. There are no confirmed cases of coronavirus infection 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 in the remote area, offer our programs, advertise tours. But we can’t reserve yet, we only make preliminary applications for accommodation facilities. Hotels, for the most part, have met us and do not require prepayment. Unfortunately, there is no certainty 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, tourist flows to Kamchatka will change significantly in the next one to two years - there will be much fewer foreigners, they will be afraid to travel, and the domestic Russian flow, on the contrary, may increase due to the fact that the borders of Russia will be otherwise closed.

In the current circumstances, I recommend travel companies to work for the future: expand their client base, seek 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: "Combined group tours in Kamchatka." The event was attended by 370 people. In my opinion, the webinar was successful, the colleagues reacted with sincere interest, asked a lot of questions, and found out the details. In recent days, I have noted a tendency to increase requests from companies from Moscow, St. Petersburg and other large cities that were previously oriented to travel and did not even think of selling tours to Kamchatka. This, of course, instills certain optimism.

So far, key players of inbound tourism of Kamchatka with many years of experience and a staff of employees (including our Kamchatintur company as well) 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. It’s sad, but the fact is that soon the money will run out, and, of course, we just have to close and fire people. At the moment, there are no any cash receipts at all, since there are no tourists, and we only make money on clients. Already, if nothing changes before June 2020, one can confidently predict massive layoffs in travel agencies, 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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