If the government makes needed changes to its infrastructure and reputation, visitor arrivals in Russia could increase 5 percent by 2016, during which time incoming tourist expenditures could double to $15.3 billion, finds a new report commissioned by Hilton Worldwide.
Titled "Balancing Russia's Tourism Deficit: A Report on the Future of the Industry," the report examines Russia's tourism industry and concludes that Russian tourism suffers from a "distorted perception" among international tourists, who are turned off by the country's red tape, lack of proper infrastructure, high accommodation prices and unpredictable quality of services. In order to increase tourism arrivals and spending, the report suggests, Russia must first simplify its visa system in order to reduce the price and waiting period for a visa. In addition, the Russian government must invest in hospitality education and training to improve the quality of local tourism services, create an attractive image of itself as a travel destination, grow its online retail presence, develop event tourism, increase its number of low-cost air carriers, and invest in travel transportation and accommodation.
If it does those things, Hilton argues, Russia — already projected to become one of the fastest growing outbound markets in Europe, with an annual average growth rate of 7.4 percent from 2011 to 2016, during which time it's expected to double its outbound tourism expenditures to $67.1 billion — could increase inbound tourism dramatically within the next four years.
"Not only is there the opportunity in Russia to double the amount of revenue generated by incoming tourism, but the fact that outbound expenditure is three times bigger than spend by visitors to the country shows the long term potential that still remains," said Simon Vincent, area president, Europe, Hilton Worldwide. "The report highlights the huge opportunity that exists to make Russia's tourism industry more competitive and identifies the measures that are urgently needed to help the country attract a greater share of the growing number of international travelers."
Although tourists are attracted mostly to large cities like Moscow and St. Petersburg, Hilton believes there also is opportunity to develop more "small-scale unconventional" tourism, including event-based, ethnic, ecological, extreme and industrial tourism that's focused on the Russian regions' natural and historical sites. As such, the company has filled its development pipeline appropriately.
"We believe there is great potential for Russia's tourism industry," said Patrick Fitzgibbon, senior vice president of development, Europe and Africa, Hilton Worldwide. "The country is one of our biggest and most exciting development markets. We have 28 hotel openings across Russia over the next few years, which is more than anywhere else in Europe, with brands including Hilton Hotels & Resorts, DoubleTree by Hilton, Hampton by Hilton and Hilton Garden Inn. We look forward to building on this great momentum by working with the travel industry and government to help attract more tourists to Russia."