The Deputy Minister of Sports and Tourism and the chairman of the specialized tourism union discussed the prospects for the development of the industry in the Sputnik multimedia press center.
Deputy Head of the Ministry of Sports of Belarus Mikhail Portnoy and Head of the Republican Union of Tourism Industry Philip Guly spoke at the press center about the preliminary results of the development of the tourism industry.
In September, a Belarusian delegation headed by President Alexander Lukashenko visited India, where the parties came to a number of agreements, including in the field of tourism development.
According to Gulogo, during his visit to Mumbai and New Delhi, information points of Belarus were opened, and RSTI successfully negotiated with Indian tour operators.
"I would like to see what the results will be for the first three months. For now, we are treated with restrained optimism," he said.
At the same time, Guly stated, a number of problems remain, including the inability of state hotels to provide rooms for information tours free of charge. It is during such tours that representatives of foreign travel business are introduced to the country's capabilities.
Now Belarus is thinking about increasing the period of stay in the country without a visa for citizens of 80 countries from five to ten days.
"Now, if we take medical tourism or health tourism. To get positive dynamics, you need 8-12 procedures, we no longer fit into five days of visa-free stay. And from the point of view of sports, for example, we can hold training camps, but five days is not enough, "Portnoy argued.
The proposal to increase the period of visa-free stay has already been supported by several departments. The decision will be made shortly.
In anticipation of 2020, we looked back and saw how the outgoing year 2019 was marked for our tourism.
What have we gained and what have we lost? What events became significant in the past year?
As for public life in the domestic tourist business, here, I think, everyone had enough "fire". Discussions on the draft of the new main law of the industry - the Law "On Tourism" - were stormy. On this basis, the RSTO changed several chairmen of the Council, increased the number of members of the association, in constant contact with the Ministry of Sports and Tourism, permanently refined something, wrote letters, did a great deal of work with insurance companies, which, if they supported the insurance of each package, they would decide undoubtedly, the problem of financial guarantees, which work so poorly in Russia, but now hang over our small cozy tourist market.
In general, so far nothing is clear about the Law "On Tourism". In the spring, according to plans, the document should be in parliament. But, having looked up the publications of the beginning of this year, we found that it should have been on consideration in the House of Representatives already last autumn. However, I never reached the Chamber. It is not a fact that in 2020 his fate will be finally decided. But, nevertheless, the authorities in cooperation with industry professionals are doing some movement to improve tourism legislation - this is good.
What's bad? It's bad that for 25-30 years of the existence of a free market, we have not developed our own clear laws for the functioning of the tourist business. But what to hide, Belarus is on the eve of serious integration processes with Russia. It would not be necessary, under pressure, to blindly copy the laws of another country and another market! We are with the Russian Federation in different weight categories: what is tolerated by the Russian tourist business is death for us! In general, the next year again promises a rich social life and violent controversy. RSTO invites firms not to stand aside and join. The doors of a community organization are open to new members - being together is especially important at critical times for the industry.
The news of 2019 that Belarusian travel agencies have introduced paid tour selection has become almost a sensation for our tourism. Of course, not all were introduced. And those who entered - also with reservations - for example, a refund of the amount in case of buying a tour. Nevertheless, in Belarus they officially began to talk about what they had been silent about for a long time. That it is impossible to put a discount at the forefront of sales. That you need to appreciate the work and competence of the manager. In general, as reported by travel agents who began to practice paid selection, customers calmly accepted the innovation. After all, not everyone is chasing discounts and using the competence of one agent in order, in the end, to buy from another - where the price is lower. Many tourists want to pay for the quality of the selection and a reliable travel agent's shoulder - in case something happens on vacation.
Strictly speaking, Dmitry Tsarev, director of Dorogobay, created chats for Belarusian travel agents in Viber and Telegram in 2018. But they still flourished in the outgoing, 2019. It is at these sites that there is a lively discussion of travel agency everyday life, and, in general, the life of our Belarusian tourism industry. There, in these chats, there are stars, their outcasts, sometimes there are persons in them who possess very important information. What is important in these chats is that they unite the participants in the process.
What is happening now in the markets of inbound and domestic tourism in Belarus and how is the number of tourists who come to us without a visa growing? What areas are especially popular with foreigners and, therefore, promising for business? Egor Gavrilov, the manager for the formation and sale of a tourist product of Trade Voyage, told about this "About business".
- Over the past year, the number of tourists who entered Belarus has grown impressively as a percentage. But if you look at the specific numbers, it is not so impressive. I'll tell you more.
Egor GavrilovManager for the formation and sale of travel products "Trade Voyage"
Our inbound tourism is highly dependent on Russians. Due to the weakening of the ruble after 2014, the level of income of our eastern neighbors began to decline, as a result of which it became relevant for a smaller number of people to travel to Europe, at least to Poland. In addition, it became much more difficult for Russians to enter Ukraine, and they went to us en masse. Over the past five years, the flow of tourists from Russia has almost doubled. If in 2013, according to Belstat, 111,000 people entered us through travel agencies, then in 2018 there were already 213,000. Compared to 2017, the number of Russian tourists has grown by about 15,000 people. However, at the same time, since the same 2014, our eastern neighbors have been actively developing their domestic tourism: they began to pay attention to their vast territories and travel across Russia.
As for European tourists, there are not as many of them in Belarus as we would like. Over the entire 2018, only about 135,000 people came to Belarus from the EU countries, and more than 100,000 of them are our closest neighbors from Lithuania and Poland. Large Western companies currently do not send their clients to us in large quantities. Most likely, this is due to the fact that there is still no sufficient interest in our country. But in any case, thanks to visa-free travel and the holding of major sporting events (the same European Games), Belarus has become a more recognizable country in the last year. In 2017, the European Union gave us almost half the number of tourists - about 70,000.
Over the past year, the overall number of tourists has increased by about 30%. It sounds strong, but not so much in absolute terms. For example, in 2017, about 280,000 tourists came to us, and in the past, about 365,000. Speaking in terms of market volume, the inbound tourism is about 8%, domestic - about 2%, the rest is outbound tourism, according to Belstat.
Photo from nemnovotour website. y
The five countries from which people come to us without visas are Germany, Poland, Italy, Lithuania and the United States. And there is an explanation for this. For Lithuanians and Poles, Belarus is close, there is a historical connection. The Germans are, in principle, very active travelers. Among Americans there are many descendants of migrants from here and those who are interested in their Jewish roots. Our country also has a connection with Italy: Italians received many children as part of the Chernobyl programs, now they have friends and acquaintances in Belarus. In addition, Italians love to come to Belarus in search of wives.
If we are talking about organized groups, then it is important to take into account one peculiarity - visa-free travel throughout Belarus is available for them only if they arrive at the Minsk National Airport. If they travel by bus, then, as a rule, they visit Grodno, the Augustow Canal - those places that are included in the border visa-free zone. The flow of tourists in the Grodno region has increased significantly over the year: more than 2 times, and this is quite logical - a new direction, but at the same time so close and familiar to the same Poles or Lithuanians. In 2017, this region was visited by about 40,000 tourists, and in 2018 - almost 95,000. According to this indicator, the Grodno region caught up with the Brest region, which traditionally ranks second after Minsk in terms of attendance. In 2018, Minsk was visited by just over 115,000 tourists, the Brest region - 95,000.
If we talk about the whole republic, then there is undoubtedly growth, but not so large on the scale of the ten-million-strong country. The point is that it is groups, not individuals, that provide a stable flow. Gathering a whole group for an excursion air tour to Belarus, even for a company from non-poor European countries, is not so simple, and the number of arriving Russians and Ukrainians does not depend on visa-free travel. Until now, an important point is the lack of cheap air connections with Belarus in European countries. Of course, a western tourist is solvent, but when choosing the route of the next trip, he will also pay attention to the ticket price.
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