Russian Public Opinion Research Center and Center for Regional Policy Development present a rating of the most promising Russian regions in terms of inner tourism development.
-- A total of 60 mln tourists visited Russia in 2019. Approximately 15 mln of them represent inbound tourism (tourists from China, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine). The majority of all the tourists are Russian citizens (appr. 45 mln). At the same time, the number of tourist trips from Russia is about 24 mln; the most favorite destinations are Turkey, Abkhazia and Finland.
-- The market of Russian tourist services is focused on the Russia’s central part: Moscow and St Petersburg (making up 60% of the entire tourism market); 25% of the market is represented by cities with a multi-plus population; mid-sized rich cities of the Russian north (Surgut, Tyumen, Nizhny Tagil, etc.) make up 10%; other cities and rural area settlements are represented by 5%.
-- Russia has an immense potential for developing inner tourism: about half of Russians (45%) travel at least once a year; most of them travel within the Russian territory. A majority of those who prefer to go abroad (81%) would also like to travel within Russia if travel options and conditions are similar. This opinion is shared by more than half of Russians (56%).
The report on Russian tourist preferences (demand) is made in relation to Russian regions’ supply. Based on the data of quantitative surveys the following two ratings were drawn up:
1) rating of plans: a rating of the most famous and most in-demand regions that Russians would choose to go to, i.e. a “map of dream destinations of a traveler across Russia”;
2) rating of interests: a list of regions with a clear, though different, tourism potential but a potential not fully fulfilled; the rating reflects the level of interest in different destinations, i.e. the readiness of a tourist to go there if he/she is offered an opportunity.
RATING OF PLANS
According to Rambler data, in 2019 Russian tourists were more likely to opt for Russian destinations than the overseas. The last summer top destination was Krasnodar krai; the most popular resorts were Sochi, Anapa, Gelendzhik and Yeysk. The VCIOM’s survey results are similar (fig. 1). A total of 10 mln visitors were travelling to the southern Russian cities from June through August. The second place is held by Crimea visited by 5 mln Russians; Turkey is ranked third. In addition, Abkhazia and Italy were among top five popular tourist destinations visited by Russians last year.
As to the opinions of potential tourists, they point to Crimea as a spot fitting any type of tourism activity (fig.2). Indeed, 29% of respondents would choose Crimea to have a rest and to have a good time; 16% would go there for their own pleasure or fun; a further 12% would opt for Crimea for health recovery; 5% would like to get acquainted with the Crimean sightseeing.
When it comes to sport destinations, Sochi is the leading one. This might be due to the fact that the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics sport facilities were widely covered by media; 21% of respondents, first of all, mention “Rosa Khutor” and “Krasnaya Polyana” when asked about sport tourism destinations. In contrast, the entire Krasnodar krai is only mentioned by 3% of respondents; the same percentage of respondents name the Northern Caucasus resorts (Dombay (Karachay-Cherkess Republic) and the entire Caucasus region); Altai is slightly more popular (4%). Apparently, those Russians who prefer sport trips are mainly skiers and snowboarders. As to Crimea being one of top’s health retreat destinations (12%), along with the Caucasian resorts and mineral waters, Russians probably choose it for preventive therapy rather than medical tourism.
Russians fail to name the destination which attracts them most when it comes to types of tourism (fig.3). Almost one-third of respondents do not consider Russia as a place for sport tourism; every fifth respondent failed to specify any sport destination. Every tenth says there is nowhere to go to within Russia for health retreat; a further 17% remain undecided. Eleven percent of respondents find it hard to specify any interesting place for nature tourism; 18% remain undecided. At the same time, places for cultural tourism and recreation are well defined in the minds of most of Russians. However, Russian preferences are mainly extended to St Petersburg (58%), Moscow (23%) and the Golden Ring (13%). It means that, so far, any tourism cluster development programs are not resonating with the majority of the population.
BARRIERS AND PERSPECTIVES
Over the recent five years, 45% of Russians have travelled to various places, for different purposes. Forty-one percent of them travelled less than once a year; 30%, at least once a year; 12%, at least once every half a year; only 1% went somewhere every month (fig. 4, 5). Remarkably, an overwhelming majority (81%) of those travelling internationally (15%) would like to travel domestically provided that the prices and service quality levels are well balanced.
What prevents half of Russians from travelling? Low income, a lack of money on leisure activities and a lack of confidence in the future are major reasons behind that. Sixty-four percent of those Russians who have not travelled anywhere over the recent five years point to high prices for trips; in the group of respondents aged 45–59 this share makes 70%. Another reason is a lack of time on travelling (20%). The busiest group of respondents are young Russians aged 18-24 (37%). A total of 5% say they are not interested in travelling domestically; 7% do not like travelling at all. Service and tourism infrastructure shortcomings also reduce respondent willingness to travel within Russia although these percentages are small: 3% point to low service quality; 2%, transport problems; the same share of respondents mention remote location of tourist regions.
NEW PLACES OF INTEREST
Since Russians are extremely conservative in terms of domestic tourism we tried to find out if there is a demand for underrated tourist spots rather than the must-visit places such as Moscow, St Petersburg or Crimea (fig. 6). It is worth noting that respondents lack awareness to voluntarily mention such destinations as top priority. They mainly point to the regions containing tourism attractions: the so called “wonders of the world”, nature reserves, religious buildings or architectural landmarks which are appealing to many tourists. At the moment, certain off-the-beaten-path destinations are more than just undiscovered - they are not even open to mass tourism.
The study findings are ambivalent. The Volgograd region (with its famous “Mother Russia is calling you" monumental sculpture in Mamayev Kurgan) is the leading destination among the “undiscovered” ones: 65% of respondents would be interested to visit this place. Russians would also be excited to see the Lena Pillars in Yakutia (41%) and the Ivolginsky Datsan in Buryatia (33%). But what we are facing is that respondents tend to name either those spots with which are already familiar through mass media or the landmarks which do not require any extra explanation. Thus, 60% would rather opt for whale watching on the Shantar Islands rather that going to the Ivolginsky Datsan in Buryatia which requires a greater knowledge (f.e. about the lama’s imperishable body).
Different age groups also perceive new spots in different ways. For instance, Mamayev Kurgan are often mentioned by respondents aged 35 and older (68% of those aged 35-44 and 45-59; 67% of those aged 60 and older), unlike young Russians aged 18-24 - half of them are likely to show no interest in this region as a tourist spot (52% along with 34% of total respondents). On the contrary, the Shantar Islands are appealing to 67–75% of Russians aged 18-34 (along with 60% of total respondents), whereas Russians aged 45 and older are less likely to travel there.
All-Russian VCIOM-Sputnik surveys were conducted November 13 and 26, 2019. Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,600 Russians aged 18 and older. A stratified dual-frame random sample based on a complete list of Russian landline and mobile phone numbers is used. The data were weighted according to selection probability and social and demographic characteristics. The margin of error at a 95% confidence level does not exceed 2.5%. In addition to sampling error, minor changes in question wording and different circumstances arising during the fieldwork can introduce bias into the survey.
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