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Primorye but tourist - fatale problem!

The tourism industry of Primorye in a deep knockout. This was the result of the cumulative effect of restrictive measures due to coronavirus infection, natural disaster and, paradoxically, from an attempt to stir up tourism in Russia as a whole.

The main event of 2020 was the coronavirus pandemic, which had a negative impact on almost all sectors of the Russian economy, especially on the tourism sector. At the same time, the Primorsky Territory became one of the most economically affected regions of the country. What is the scale of losses to the regional tourism industry due to the closure of Asian borders? Were Russian citizens able to compensate for the absence of foreign guests? What factors led to a sharp drop in the level of domestic tourism in the region? - the answer to these questions tried to find an expert of IA "East Russia" Roman Tarantul.

Primorye but tourist - fatale problem!
Photo: EastRussia

Roman Tarantula

Entrepreneur, member of the Russian Geographical Society
According to the estimates of the Accounts Chamber of the Russian Federation, under the influence of the pandemic in 2020, the country lost from 3,9 to 4,5% of GDP. The number of the poor has grown by one million people and amounted to 20,5 million. The number of people employed in small and medium-sized businesses has decreased per million, which is designated as the main driver of the country's economic development. At the same time, the industry of inbound and partly domestic tourism has become the most affected industry. However, in such traditionally popular tourist regions as the Crimea and Krasnodar Territory, over the decades of operation, business is mostly on its feet and managed to “accumulate fat”, thanks to which it was able to overcome the crisis with minimal losses. In addition, the Black Sea resorts have always been more focused on domestic tourists, whose number has increased sharply in the face of border closures, which allowed these regions to go through 2020 quite well. So, at the end of 2020, the decrease in tourist traffic in Crimea was only 15% compared to 2019, in the Krasnodar Territory - 36%.

In Primorye, by the beginning of 2020, the tourism industry was still in the stage of rapid growth, which started in 2014, and was in a vulnerable state, like an airplane taking off. Many companies have not yet reached the payback stage or have been completely credited. A negative role was played by the fact that Vladivostok, in contrast to the Crimea and the Kuban, relied on the development of inbound tourism. The “entry profile” of the Primorye tourism industry is evidenced by the fact that, at the end of 2019, Vladivostok took the third place in Russia in terms of the number of foreign guests, behind only Moscow and St. Petersburg. The city had just turned into an attractive destination for foreigners, when it was suddenly overtaken by a "coronavirus", accompanied by the closure of borders with the main supplying countries of tourists - China, South Korea, Japan. And if in 2019 the Primorsky Territory was visited by 5,3 million people, of which 760 thousand were foreigners, then in 2020 only 970 thousand guests arrived in the region, of which only 44 thousand were from abroad. Thus, the total tourist flow in Primorye in 2020 fell by more than 5 times, while in other regions of the country this indicator decreased by only 30-50%, and, as mentioned above, in Crimea and Kuban - by 15 and 36%.
As a result, the fast-growing seaside tourism industry, which by the beginning of 2020 “pumped” its capacity to receive almost 1 million foreign and 5 million Russian guests, was left practically without work. It is indicative that over the five years - from 2015 to 2020, the number of places of mass accommodation and public catering has grown from 2 880 to 3 307. There is a tendency in the labor market to shift personnel to “near-tourist” professions. Only in 2018 - 2019 the number of employees in retail trade increased by 4 thousand people, hotel service and public catering - by 1,1 thousand people, in real estate transactions - by 3,2 thousand people, in the field of transport services - by 400 people.

More than fivefold losses at the end of the year were noted in the revenues brought by the tourism sector for the budget and business. If in 2019 the total turnover of funds in the tourism industry amounted to 29,6 billion rubles, then in 2020 - only 5,7 billion rubles. Tax revenues decreased from 5,1 billion rubles in 2019 to 1 billion in 2020. The share of the tourism industry in the gross regional product decreased from 5,7 to 1%.
If the reasons for the zeroing of the inbound tourist flow are more or less clear, then why was there a fivefold drop in domestic tourism in Primorye, which, given the closed borders, it would seem, should have come to the rescue of local representatives of the tourism market?
Thus, the duration of quarantine bans on tourist trips turned out to be extremely unfavorable for Primorye. The border with China and South Korea, which are the main suppliers of tourists to the region, was closed in February-March 2020, long before the start of general quarantine restrictions in the country. Despite the fact that the first quarter is traditionally not a high tourist season in Primorye, in January-March 2019 the region was visited by 52 thousand tourists from China and 46 thousand from South Korea. Each of these numbers is larger than the total number of foreigners arriving in the region in 2020!

Since mid-March, Primorye has also been closed for Russian tourists. Their reception was resumed only in late June and early July. Considering that the swimming season in the Primorsky Territory is limited to July-August, a significant part of Russians simply did not have time to plan a vacation on the coast of the Sea of ​​Japan, choosing other domestic destinations or even refusing to travel.
For comparison, in Crimea, a ban on tourist visits was in effect from March 28 to June 1. As in Primorye, the period is considerable, but for Crimea it is quite compatible with life, since the tourist season here lasts almost all year round. In the Krasnodar Territory, the ban on tourist trips was in effect from March 31 to June 21 - almost a month longer than in Crimea, but with a minimum intersection of the period of quarantine restrictions with a period of high season.
In addition, the very fact of the border closure played in favor of the Crimea and the Kuban, which cannot be said about Primorye. In the conditions of inaccessibility of foreign recreation, the interest of Russians in these regions has grown sharply, as a result, since June 2020, the Black Sea resorts have faced an exuberant demand for recreation. Obviously, the regular flights launched in July-August from Khabarovsk and Vladivostok to Simferopol and Sochi went to Primorye. Apparently, in the conditions of border closures and affordable air tickets to the Black Sea coast, a certain proportion of the Far East preferred to try a vacation in the resorts of Crimea and Kuban instead of a trip to Vladivostok.

No matter how strange it may sound, the tourist "cashback" program launched by Rosturizm did not play into the hands of Primorye, which, again, cannot be said about Crimea and Krasnodar Territory. Firstly, the sale of discounted tours began only on August 21, when the tourist season in Primorye is rapidly coming to an end, and hopes for a significant influx of domestic tourists to the region in autumn and winter in autumn, even taking into account the "cashback", look too optimistic. Secondly, from Primorsky Krai, only 15 collective accommodation places and 18 tour operators took part in the program. The figures are very modest and incapable of having a significant impact on the total annual number of tourist traffic, especially for the period of the action from the end of August to December 2020. In popular tourist areas, where the season is almost all year round, a much larger number of organizations took part in the action: in the Crimea - 84 collective accommodation places, in Krasnodar - 250, in the Stavropol Territory - 69. As a result, these regions became leaders in terms of sales of trips from "Cashback" and were able to significantly increase the flow of tourists in the low season. For example, on the Black Sea coast, the occupancy rate of hotels in December 2020 was about 60%, which is 20% higher than in 2019.

Nature itself also had a negative impact on the seaside tourism industry, awarding the region the strongest typhoon Maysak over the past 50 years. Many of the already not flourishing recreation centers, sanatoriums and boarding houses suffered serious material damage, and some even turned out to be close to complete destruction.
Separately, it is worth mentioning the fact of the cancellation of the Eastern Economic Forum (EEF), which was supposed to take place from 2 to 5 September 2020. In five years, Vladivostok has developed its own industry for providing the WEF. For some companies, especially in the event industry, the forum determined their existence for the entire next year. For the EEF period, most city restaurants are reserved for special services, and hotels are overcrowded. It is indicative that in 2019 8,5 thousand delegates took part in the forum, and the Vladivostok airport during the period of its preparation and holding served a total of 52 thousand passengers. Undoubtedly, the cancellation of the WEF had a negative impact on local businesses, especially the tourism industry. Many entrepreneurs have resigned themselves to the spring-summer quarantine restrictions, counting on high profits during the forum.

Thus, 2020 has become extremely difficult for the Primorsky Territory. It would seem that economic, geographic, climatic and even historical factors not related to the spread of the coronavirus created a cumulative negative effect that fivefold brought down the tourist flow to the region. As a result, during the pandemic, the Primorsky Territory has become one of the most economically affected regions of the country. The region, redesigned for inbound tourism, was left without foreign tourists, hopes for high domestic demand did not come true, and closed borders, coupled with government support measures and new air routes, attracted Russian tourists to the Black Sea resorts, leaving Primorye even without the traditional influx of Far Easterners.
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