Oleg Safonov: "Russians actively travel to Caucasus"

Oleg Safonov: "Russians actively travel to Caucasus"

The head of the Russian Federal Tourism Agency Oleg Safonov told Vestnik Kavkaza about the development of the North Caucasus resorts, cooperation with the South Caucasus republics, as well as pressing challenges, which Russia's domestic and outbound tourism is facing.

- Oleg Petrovich, how high is the interest of Russians in the North Caucasus resorts this year?

- I think that, in general, the current peak tourist season in our country is very successful, because the demand for travel inside the country is very high. The main tourist destinations are very popular among our citizens, including the North Caucasus resorts. At the same time the North Caucasus resorts offer services not only during the peak summer tourist season, but also in the winter, there are a lot of sanatorium and resort complexes of various kinds and they actively develop various types of tourism - both  cultural and informative, extreme and gastronomic, as well as sanatorium treatment. The development of winter tourism, which is very active now, is also very important for us, a new high-quality tourist infrastructure is being created. I would like to emphasize the security of the North Caucasus regions, the heads of the respective regions and our law enforcement agencies work very actively on this issue. So I want to emphasize once again that the North Caucasus resorts, like other our main tourist destinations, are very popular.

- Is the interest of Russian tourists in outbound tourism in the South Caucasus republics increasing?

- The tourist flow of Russians to these countries, as well as to neighboring Iran, is indeed increasing. Armenia is our strategic ally and partner, and the rate of tourist flows between our countries is very high. Our cooperation with Azerbaijan is also developing, we have a lot of opportunities in terms of further development of tourism. In particular, we consider the development of cruise tourism in the Caspian Sea to be very promising, which will allow us to build various cross-border cruise lines, which, we expect, will be very popular. At present, you know, the construction of a special vessel is underway, this construction was initiated by our President Vladimir Putin last year. We hope that it will be built in about a year, and еhe Caspian cruises will be organized.

I would also like to say that the tourist flow to Georgia has also grown, but when visiting this country, one must proceed from the fact that, unfortunately, there are no diplomatic relations between these countries, and tourists should take this into consideration when organizing trips. In addition, there are several laws in Georgia that pose a potential threat to Russian tourists, so a decision to visit Georgia should be always carefully considered.

- Concerning the issue of outbound tourism, how will the restriction for issuing tourist visas by the embassy in Moscow affect those who want to visit the US?

- We learned that, unfortunately, the embassy introduced the restriction on issuing visas. Of course, it is very sad, because the visa application process will become more complicated and expensive for our citizens who would like to visit the US. It's hard to say how long this restriction will last, but I hope that the situation will improve after a short period of time, and our citizens will be able to visit the US as before.

- One more question, concerning domestic tourism restrictions: is there any potential for reducing costs for air transportation in Russia?

- Indeed, 50-70% of a tourists trip is the cost of transportation. Therefore, the decline in the cost of transportation seems to be one of the most important directions for stimulating domestic tourist flows and creating comfortable and quality conditions for the travel of our citizens. You know that the government decided recently to reduce VAT to 10%, which is included in the price of air transportation, which significantly lowered the price of tickets. The President instructed the economic bloc to consider the possibility of introducing a zero rate, and such a zero VAT rate was introduced for flights, for example, to Crimea, perhaps it will be introduced for flights to the Kaliningrad region. I think it will be a very important, serious stimulus for increasing domestic tourist flows. In general, the cost of air transportation within the country has significantly decreased this year, by about 13%, which is showed by the price monitoring - and this is despite the fact that additional opportunities has not been used.