Outdoor Role Play: Immersive Tourism vs Recreation

Farewell to last minute travel deals: how digital technologies will change Russian tourism

What does a typical trip abroad consist of? Hotels, local attractions, restaurants and social media photos. Immersive tourism offers something completely different - an exciting adventure, immersion in an unfamiliar culture and the opportunity to feel like a hero. What happens in the end - an act of psychotherapy or just a role-playing game - depends on the diligence of the organizers and the mood of the participants. But in any case, this is a new word in the established travel industry, this is an unusual type of vacation, in which the success of a vacation is measured by likes in social networks.

Immersive tours appeared in the West in the second half of the 2010s, and came to Russia only a year or two ago. After the coronavirus pandemic, their popularity is likely to grow: according to travel industry experts, traditional all inclusive travel will no longer be the same, which will push the development of individual and author travel. True, many Russians clearly cannot afford immersive tours - at this stage, their target audience is limited to the capital's audience. "Profile" understood the features and prospects of this trend with the help of domestic operators of immersive tourism.

The main thing is not “where”, but “why”

Imagine that a man in camouflage comes up to you in an unfamiliar country and says that soon you will have to save the world from an unknown threat. In this case, you will not act alone, but together with other such chosen ones. This is how the immersive tour begins - in the best traditions of RPG games. Only instead of a joystick, a tourist has a real bow in his hands, and instead of an NPC (computer-controlled characters), he is surrounded by actors.

“Immersive travel is an opportunity to live several days in a parallel reality. Here, elements of extreme, performance, role-playing, quest and travel are woven into a harmonious plot with many branches - the scenario changes in accordance with the actions of the players. This is a postmodern phenomenon, where many pieces are combined into one bright and beautiful blanket, ”Tigran Vardanyan, co-founder of the Terra Epica travel agency, told Profil.

As a result, the participant of the trip from a passive tourist turns into an active researcher. He is not only photographed against the background of local attractions, but he lives among them bright moments. Tourist groups are formed small so that everyone can have a unique experience during which the actors interact only with him. Tour organizers can even take the player away from other participants to immerse them in a personalized mini-adventure.

“This journey has a vision and purpose that transforms the participants, allowing them to acquire a variety of useful skills. Immersive travel is when the main thing is not "where", but "why", - Milena Perfilyeva, director of the immersive travel brand My Ways On, explains to Profile.

The role-playing game takes place non-stop: changing locations, like sleeping and eating breaks, is built into the overall concept of the adventure, thereby creating the effect of immersion in an alternative reality. For example, during an immersive tour in Armenia, organized by one of the agencies, participants spend the night in a cave city (in a specially equipped area with the provision of the necessary equipment). The program also includes visits to attractions: climbing Mount Ukhtasar, swimming in the mineral geysers of Jermuk. The difference from an ordinary trip is that they are not the purpose of the trip, but serve as decorations for an unusual performance, where the main goal may be, for example, in finding parts of the heart of the god Aramazd, which are scattered throughout Armenia.

Another example is a trip to Kalmykia. Its participants become ancient nomads: they learn to shoot a bow, ride camels and cook kyur (a Kalmyk national dish). Newly made nomads live in authentic houses on the territory of the reserve "Black Lands" in complete isolation from civilization.

Separately, the organizers of immersive tours highlight the psychological effect of such adventures. “It is also a journey through the unknown sides of personality. Players have to overcome themselves, face their phobias, ”explains Tigran Vardanyan.

Immersive travel for a unique experience

Outdoor Role Play: Immersive Tourism vs Recreation

Interesting places, Instruction for tourists, Active rest in Russia; Ukraine; Ethiopia

Everything is never enough for us. It's such a beautiful natural need to expect something more and strive for excellence. We also hone our travels, each time enriching them with new colors and emotions. If the feeling that the new colors copy the old ones does not leave you, and emotions do not give the necessary charge, you need to change the approach to travel, consider them from a different angle.

The clearest example of a fantastic journey is an expedition.

An expedition is a planned search for something, and the further use of this “something” for public or private purposes. In short, a journey with a specific purpose. But whatever the goals, the main one is romance. It is she who can be fully felt on a journey of this kind. The expedition is fraught with a whole adventure world and is an excellent alternative to the usual types of rest.

Travel Clubs

In order to go on a real journey, you must first decide which of the routes you want to go (forgive those words, those who are lying on the snow-white sand of a popular resort, diluted with a couple - three long excursions to true travel). Yet travel is, rather, a kind of unity with nature, its knowledge, acquaintance with its secrets and moments hidden from the average eyes. But we are not talking about the wild conditions of existence (at least not now) - on the contrary, travel, tailored to your needs, can easily replace your usual vacation.

Let's go back to choosing a route. Fans of comfortable rest, who want to feel like a real traveler, should not immediately go on a serious expedition. Better to debut with hiking. These are offered by numerous tourist clubs. Routes are abundant: starting with a 10-day hike around Elbrus and ending with a hike to the foot of the Belukha and rafting, for example, along the Chirka-Kem River in Karelia. One of the most popular and uncomplicated routes is the "Three Crimea Canyons" (Chernorechensky, Bolshoi, Uzundzha) hike. Completely accessible and insanely educational. In addition to the wonderful juniper forest, there are mountains, rivers, the sea and many intriguing landscapes at your service.

If the proposed options do not inspire you, you can call on your imagination to help, draw up a route yourself and send your proposal to the organizers of "tourist outings". As did the novice traveler from Moscow Dmitry Potapov, who dreamed of visiting the unique Ural river. “Rafting down the Chusovaya River is a great opportunity to visit two parts of the world at once - Europe and Asia. The classic route starts from the Chusovaya tourist center, but I preferred to start contemplating the river from the mysterious village of Sloboda, located inside a large bend in a high place. He also wished to add to the proposed route a sortie in the village of the Old Believers. The trip was organized for a fat five. The rafting was great: breathtaking nature, many caves. In general, the route is not riddled with difficult obstacles, therefore it is suitable for any level of tourist training. "

Forwarding Centers

Travels offered by expeditionary centers, in contrast to tourist clubs, for the most part require participants to be physically fit. But believe me, it's worth it. To make a trip, for example, to Machu Picchu, using the services of one of the many travel agencies, means not to feel Machu Picchu. To become a member of an expedition to the Inca empire conducted by a large expeditionary center means to dissolve in this mysterious place, to break away from the classic excursion program. Only as part of the expedition can you get on rafting along the Amazon tributary - the Urubamba River, walk in the trekking style around Machu Picchu and visit the famous Tiwanaku sanctuary. On average, such a trip is estimated by the organizers at $ 4,000 (excluding flights). Fans of extreme exoticism simply need to be included in the team of travelers who annually go on cruises in the Arctic. Here seals, air, reality dissolving in ice, enriched consciousness and communication await adventurers.

Don't be upset if you don't have time to make such a tempting adventure this year. You can shorten the time until the next voyage on an expedition to Namibia. The desire to see penguins and the Atlantic Ocean, pet cheetahs and climb the world's highest dunes in the Namib Desert will cost you about 2,400 EUR. Expeditions full of events and meetings also take place in the highlands of the Tibetan plateau. The route is very long and incredibly exciting. Participation fees are similar to those for Namibia.

In fact, it makes no sense to list all the possible routes of the expedition - it's easier to start preparing for one of them. A lot of expedition centers offer a look at the world from the inside, but it is better to use the services of those organized by members of the Russian Geographical Society. It is very easy to become one of the participants. However, calculate your strength. Expeditions are always colossal work, both moral and physical. And sometimes beauty is as gorgeous as it is scary. But nothing is impossible. Anatoly Ortin, the organizer of numerous expeditions from the Himalayas to Brazil, recalls: “In 2010, I took my client, who wanted to take exclusive photos, to the habitat of the closed tribe of Ethiopia. The path was long and exhausting, I had to live in really wild conditions. In general, when we reached the goal, my would-be photographer did not quite understand why he had gone all the way. This kind of travel should be approached with all seriousness. In fact, this is an isolated case. For most tourists, these places are intoxicating and beckon them again and again. "

What does a typical trip abroad consist of? Hotels, local attractions, restaurants and social media photos. Immersive tourism offers something

The Russian Geographical Society supports the All-Russian competition "Masters of hospitality" of the presidential platform "Russia - the country of opportunities". The second season of the competition was replenished with new nominations - "Event tourism and event industry", "Ethnocultural tourism", "Innovations in hotel business management".

The objectives of the "Masters of Hospitality" competition are to search for professionals and author's projects in the field of tourism and hospitality. And the new nominations of the competition are in line with the global tourism trends. Russia is a country that, like no other, can give travelers a huge variety of incredible cultural discoveries, a variety of festivals, the richest impressions from getting to know the ethnocultural heritage and customs of different peoples. However, it is generally recognized that the regions of our country need a new level of the hospitality industry, and the competition is an excellent opportunity for everyone to get support, the necessary knowledge, useful contacts for professionals in the tourism industry. The Russian Geographical Society supports the competition in the Ethnocultural Tourism nomination. The nomination was created to help solve the problems of popularizing the geography, traditions of the peoples of Russia, preserving the historical and cultural heritage of our country. The best projects in this category will be supported by the Russian Geographical Society.

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Deputy Executive Director - Director of the Regional Development Department of the Russian Geographical Society Sergey Korlykhanov: "Domestic tourism continues to strengthen its position. Destinations and routes that have recently been out of sight of travelers are gaining more and more popularity. Search for new impressions comes to the fore. and the desire to see the remote corners of our homeland with their own eyes. And often the strongest emotions among tourists are the return to the land of their ancestors, to their ethnic roots. Therefore, ethnocultural tourism is now a new trend, a rapidly developing direction of travel. Tourists are keenly interested in gastronomy, national costumes, and the way of life of indigenous peoples. Especially in our country, where over 180 nationalities and ethnic groups live. We see that the potential of ethno-tourism is incredibly high, but at the same time, in our opinion, this direction has not yet been fully disclosed. The Russian Geographical Society sees the need for a comprehensive study of the ethnocultural phenomenon for the goals and objectives of the domestic tourism industry and, of course, for the qualitative development of new, unique ethnocultural programs. We are sure that the participants of the second season of the competition will present worthy projects that will be able to bring ethnic travel in our country to a new level. "/ P>

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The nomination "Event tourism and event industry" is aimed at the most creative participants who are ready to come up with and implement interesting events - forums, festivals, concerts, holidays that can attract tourists to the regions. There are many opportunities for this in Russia, and the imagination of the participants knows no bounds. The main partner of the Masters of Hospitality competition in this category is the Roscongress Foundation, a socially oriented non-financial development institution, the largest organizer of international conventions, exhibitions, business, social, sports and cultural events. The best participants in the competition will be invited to the Roscongress team and gain experience in implementing projects at the national and international levels.

The Innovation in Hospitality Management nomination is aimed at finding projects that will give a new impetus to the development of the hospitality industry. This nomination is one of the most innovative and creative, because the hotel business needs new remote technologies, infrastructural innovations, and ideas in the field of a variety of services. The partner of the competition in this nomination is the Azimut hotel chain.

Anton Serikov, Head of the Partner Relations Department of the ANO "Russia is a Land of Opportunities": "The second season of the Masters of Hospitality competition attracted many new partners with author's nominations. This indicates the demand for participants and the high level of projects in the first season. We are confident that each partner will find interesting solutions and creative ideas in their areas, and the industry itself will receive a synergistic effect from the interaction of different stakeholders.It is great that this year partners are large organizations that are directly related to the hospitality industry and organizations that ready to develop it from a new side. "

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The Masters of Hospitality competition is a project for active people, an opportunity to present your project - an author's tour or event, investment, educational or educational project; a project initiative or a well-developed idea that not only exists on paper, but is already being implemented. The best projects will receive the support of the competition partners and will be proposed for implementation in the regions. The winners receive real financial support for the development of their own project, modern education, mentors from among industry leaders, unique career prospects and a chance to become part of a community of true professionals!

September 27 is World Tourism Day. Every year this holiday, established by the General Assembly of the World Tourism Organization in 1979, is held under one or another motto. The motto for World Tourism Day 2020 is Tourism and Rural Development.

In recent decades, a recognized global trend for those who travel has become the desire not just to escape from big cities to where a change of impressions awaits, but the movement "to the roots" - visiting the rural hinterland, turning to folk traditions, to pristine nature. Let this often mean giving up the comfort of expensive hotels, fine cuisine, dynamic and noisy life in large resorts. This movement towards simplicity and purity, towards the history of their land is perceived by the world community also as an opportunity to give a "new breath", a new round of development to remote rural areas of any country.

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Rural tourism - a path to heritage conservation

This tourism is universally recognized as helping rural communities to preserve their unique natural and cultural heritage. The arrival of the tourism industry in remote regions is an investment, jobs for rural residents, a chance to develop their own small business, an opportunity for the younger generation to find use of their strengths and talents, "exit" from the hinterland to the big world.

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Rural tourism, as well as active ecological and educational tourism are inextricably linked. The untouched wilderness of Russia's reserves and national parks and the originality of life in remote villages, where people live in close proximity to nature, know and understand it - these are two sides of one unique heritage. There are many positive examples in the national parks of Russia. Thus, in the Kenozersky National Park, wooden architecture, the culture of rural holidays, and the treasury of the folk word are preserved. In the Alania National Park in North Ossetia, the nature of the reserved mountain valley is inseparable from the national monuments of Digoria - ancient towers, villages and necropolises. And the national park "Curonian Spit" collects and revives the customs of the Curonian peoples, preserves the fragile nature of the Baltic coast, actively develops the initiatives of local residents to create infrastructure for rural tourism.

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2020 - the search for new travel genres

The Russian Geographical Society considers ecological and educational tourism with rural elements to be the most important and priority for development. In the project "Traveling with the Russian Geographical Society" the Society supports a number of projects in various parts of Russia. A striking example is the work of tour operators from the Kostroma region, where, thanks to the efforts of enthusiasts, unique wooden towers built a century ago are preserved. Guests can spend the night under the roof of a century-old mansion, get acquainted with the life and the amazing history of peasant families, walk the paths of the surrounding forests, plunging into their silence and primordiality.

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Another partner of the Russian Geographical Society - Mountain Park "Ruskeala" in Karelia, despite the tourism crisis of 2020, experienced a considerable influx of guests. Just like the whole of Karelia, where rural and ecological tourism is actively developing.

The pioneers of the Russian tourist business are celebrating their 30th anniversaries. Rose of the Winds, Academservice and those few who were able to go through all the stages of the industry's development through the millstones of tough competition, withstood the periods of falling demand and massive bankruptcies, survived all economic collapses and legislative initiatives. The upcoming 2020 may be the year for the tourism industry that will complete the consolidation of the Russian market. Mandatory introduction of electronic vouchers should make the industry absolutely transparent.

Now, when the tourism business is in anticipation of reforms, it is worth remembering how the industry developed, overcoming in a matter of years those sections of the path that the Western market spent decades on. Each stage in the history of the tourism business in Russia had its own criteria for success.

First Steps

In the early 1990s, the "iron curtain" collapsed and the flow of tourists abroad grew by 40-50% per year. Gone are the monopoly of Soviet state structures - Intourist, Sputnik, the Council for Tourism and Excursions of the All-Union Central Council of Trade Unions. They were replaced by private business.

At the rift between the Soviet and market economies, first-generation businessmen, lacking knowledge, experience and technology, mastered this business empirically. Success was determined by the presence of contacts or relatives abroad, a banal knowledge of a foreign language and, of course, initiative and creativity, revived in enterprising people in an era of change. In particular, Biblio-Globus was one of the first to open the sale of tours to Cyprus, where members of the founder's family lived.

Many came to tourism, obsessed with the desire to see the world and show it to others. After defending my thesis on "Planning tourist and excursion activities in the USSR" I worked as a senior research fellow at the Central Economic Research Institute, developing regional recreational complexes. The idea to go into the travel business appeared in 1991 after an internship at an American travel agency, which completely changed my understanding of the industry. In the United States, already then, high-tech solutions were actively used to automate business processes for all participants in the tourism market. I returned to Russia with an advantage in a suitcase - I was carrying a heavy catalog of all the hotels in the world. It was a real asset for starting a business! Six months later, my husband and I mortgaged a one-room apartment and borrowed $ 25,000 to launch our own company "Inna Tour", and six months later we fully repaid the loan.

Agents and Operators

The dashing nineties were not easy for everyone, but the first commercial travel agencies worked in conditions where demand exceeded supply. Travel agencies grew at a hypertrophied pace with the highest profitability by modern standards. The most successful companies felt the need and opportunity to use risky but more profitable block and charter flights. This accelerated the division of the market into tour operators - wholesale manufacturers of tourist products and travel agents-distributors.

Tour operators acted as wholesale purchasers of seats for the season for the airlines at a special rate, assumed the promotion of the corresponding direction and 100% responsibility - to pay the carrier regardless of the actual use of the block. Inna Tour was the first on the market in 1993 to decide to take blocks of seats on Aeroflot flights, opening a “window to Paris” for thousands of compatriots. This helped to become the leading agent of the national carrier for many years.

In the same years, the first charters went up. The history of obtaining permission by Svetal for the first flight to Turkey for shopping tourists could be the subject of a separate article. I will only say that the final "go-ahead" for landing in Istanbul was given when the plane was already in the air. The founders of Svetal, Svetlana and Alexander Golovachev, were innovators and recognized leaders of the old market, and for my husband and I they were friends. Alexander passed away at the age of 37 in 1997, on the Day of Tourism. Svetlana died tragically exactly one year later. This couple was able to influence the fate of the industry.

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