ST. PETERSBURG MEETS THE NEEDS OF THE MOST DEMANDING TRAVELERS

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What actions are being taken by St. Petersburg to increase the inbound tourist flow? What is St. Petersburg ready to offer to the most demanding tourists? What are the perspectives of mutual tourist flow between St. Petersburg and India? Sergey Korneev, the chairman of St. Petersburg Committee for Tourism Development, answered these questions.

The development of Russian Indian relations mainly takes place in the energy, science and technology, and space sectors. Are there any plans to develop other areas, such as industrial tourism?

In July this year, St. Petersburg was presented as an international tourist destination in Mumbai
at the IX Annual Congress MICE India & Luxury Travel (MILT). Personnel of the Convention Bureau
of the Northern capital of Russia, a subordinate to the Tourism Development Committee, held more than 20 presentations of the city as well as business negotiations. These meetings addressed the tourism opportunities in St. Petersburg, for example, in the luxury segment, wedding tours and events
in the MICE-industry. The topic of industrial tourism aroused great interest of Indian colleagues.

Special attention is paid to the development of industrial tourism in St. Petersburg. Our city is an active participant of the training program for specialists in this field, as well as is a pilot region. In April 2022,
St. Petersburg was awarded as the best region in Russia for the integration of industrial and business tourism.

More than two dozen St. Petersburg enterprises have been trained to organize tours to their production facilities. Among them are companies manufacturing porcelain and gas-turbine engines, breweries
and shipyards, a watch factory and other large companies that may be of interest to visitors from India.

In addition, during our meetings several Indian companies said they were interested in developing film tourism in St. Petersburg. They noted that the city has great potential as a film set for Indian cinema.

What measures are being or will be taken to increase the inbound tourist flow?

St. Petersburg Committee for Tourism Development and the Convention Bureau held two Roadshows and two exhibitions in India as part of a unified integrated marketing campaign “Welcome to St. Petersburg!”. The main task of these Roadshows is the presentation of both classic and new proposals in the sphere
of hospitality of the Northern capital of Russia.

St. Petersburg also became a partner city of India’s largest international exhibition in the field of business travel and tourism Business + Leisure Travel and MICE (BLTM) in Delhi. St. Petersburg’s stand included
a dynamic display featuring drawbridges over the Neva River with a ship on crimson sails gliding beneath them. The stand not only became an opening stage for the whole exhibition, but also won the award for the best design.

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During the exhibition, the delegation of the Northern Capital discussed cooperation in the development of business tourism with representatives of associations, operators, the organizers of corporate tours, including Tourism Unity Club, the union of Indian tour companies, an incentive travel community SITE, organizer of exhibitions Fairfest PVT.LTD.

At the international tourist exhibition OTM in Mumbai St. Petersburg received the “Best upcoming destination” award. In addition, special attention was paid to the joint project of St. Petersburg and Moscow called “Two Capitals – A Million Impressions” , which is an opportunity to visit both Russian capitals in one trip. Also, the Indian audience was introduced the “Silver Necklace of Russia” programme that unites 11 regions of the North-West Federal District with a vast array of historical monuments, including the first capitals of the early Russian state, and natural landmarks. Almost all of them are accessible
to those who visit our city, the largest national travel hub in this part of Russia.

Earlier in Delhi and Mumbai tourist Roadshows of St. Petersburg were successfully held. During these events more than 200 business meetings were arranged with representatives of the tourism industry
in India.

St. Petersburg Committee for Tourism Development has already presented its tourist opportunities in Hong Kong and Vietnam within the framework of a single awareness campaign. The Roadshows of the Northern Capital of Russia took place in the United Arab Emirates, and in October they will be held in a new promising market – in Saudi Arabia. In all visited countries Petersburg proposals have caught the attention of professionals as well as prospective tourists. To develop further interest, tours to St. Petersburg will be organized for tour operators in the Greater Middle East and Southeast Asia. This includes our Indian colleagues.

Indian tourists are a special category of guests with their own specific characteristics and features. Tell us, what package deals for tourist trips the Northern Capital has to offer now?

St. Petersburg is a world tourist center, the cultural capital of Russia and the ” open-air museum”,
so it traditionally offers a wide range of tourist programs. For example, these are both traditional museums and sights, as well as “New Tourist Geography”, a combination of “classics” and contemporary. The city develops all kinds of modern tourism: cultural, family, business, and others. New trends also include gastronomic and medical tourism as well as luxury programs. High professionalism
of St. Petersburg hospitality industry allows one to find new ideas, products, and services to organize
the recreation of tourists at a consistently high level. This is confirmed by the fact that 92% of guests said that they were “highly” and “very highly” satisfied with their stay in St. Petersburg this year.

And there is a reason for that: the Northern Capital has all the capabilities to meet the demands
of the most demanding travelers. The city has premium hotels, a large variety of restaurants, including Indian cuisine, and concierge services to help organize leisure activities. St. Petersburg is a city with a rich cultural and tourist agenda at all seasons, with many places of interest to visit as an organized group, individually, with friends or as a family.

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In addition, St. Petersburg is recognized as the most romantic city in Russia. The inimitable atmosphere, combined with magnificent architecture and a valuable collection of historic palaces and mansions, make St. Petersburg especially attractive to those wishing to have a wedding and an unforgettable wedding trip.

As practice shows, a visit to Russia is a very attractive proposition for Indian tourists.

Are there any plans to establish direct flights between St. Petersburg and Indian cities to increase
the flow of tourists?

This issue is very relevant, as demonstrated by business meetings of St. Petersburg travel industry representatives with Indian colleagues during our roadshows in India. The simplification of visa regulations and improvement of logistical accessibility for Indians can undoubtedly contribute to more active arrival of Indian visitors to St. Petersburg. The establishment of direct flights between St. Petersburg and Indian cities requires special attention.

Russians, it is known, have their own impressions of India. They are often contradictory. The Indian side, on the other hand, is shocked by many Russian traditions. What work is being done now in Russia, particularly in St. Petersburg, to eliminate the existing intercultural barriers between the countries?

St. Petersburg Committee for Tourism Development is launching a program “St. Petersburg hospitality”, which
is focused on foreign tourists and considers their cultural and domestic preferences, traditions, and religion. It includes the development of standards for the comfortable stay of different groups of tourists from abroad, taking into account their customs. The program also includes training workers of Russian tourist industry in communicating with guests taking into account these peculiarities. Particular attention is paid to working with Indian tourists as part of the “India Friendly”. Program

What is remarkable about the “India Friendly” program?

Its purpose is to create favorable conditions for the development of inbound tourism from India to Russia. There is a clear interest in Russia as a travel destination. In this regard, the growth of outbound tourism to more than 90,000 people per year is evident. In 2018 alone, the year-on-year growth was 30%. Several indicators led to the creation of this program, which drew attention to the needs of Indian tourists.

For example, in 2018 a new group of hotels appeared in Moscow and St. Petersburg, corresponding
to the “India Frendly” program: Azimut Olympic Moscow 4*, Radisson Royal St. Petersburg 5*, Alfa Izmailovo Moscow 4*. The program trainers are experts in the field of tourism and restaurant business from India and Russia who have experience in meeting the demands of Indian tourists in different conditions. The training program covered topics of ancient and modern culture of India, the uniqueness of the Indian mindset, individual religious beliefs and how it affects demands, eating habits, communication styles of Indian tourists.

The topic of food was given special attention, as it is the main for the second phase of training and the most important requirement for Indian tourists and the key point of the “India Friendly” program. Representatives of hotels were introduced to Indian cuisine, its concepts, and rules of serving dishes
to Indian tourists. Special attention was paid to training hotels how to delicately communicate with special representatives of Indian culture, such as Jains, Hindus, and Islam following faiths.

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In addition, Russian Chefs were trained by a Master Chef, Mr. Agarwal Yashik, owner of a hotel
and restaurant in India. The trainings were carried out in the hi-tech kitchens of the Higher School
of Culinary Arts, St. Petersburg State Economic University and in a professional culinary studio in Moscow.

Specialized workshops were also arranged to develop and create the most attractive offers within the framework of the aforementioned “Two Capitals – A Million Impressions ” project. Hospitality industry experts provide tour operators, hotel industry representatives, concierge services, entertainment and sports facilities, the gastronomy industry and transport infrastructure of the two capitals with comprehensive knowledge of Indian culture. This knowledge is used to create thematic programs for tourists from your country.

What prospects do you see for the Indian inbound tourism market in Russia?

India is considered one of the most promising markets in terms of international tourism. Earlier, before the pandemic, the inbound flow of tourists to St. Petersburg from Asia-Pacific countries reached 53%
of the total number of foreign visitors. India was then one of the top 3 countries in the region
for the number of arrivals to our city. It should be noted that the St. Petersburg Committee for Tourism Development paid a lot of attention to the promotion of the city’s tourist potential in India. To promote
it as a travel destination, a Visit Petersburg office was opened in Mumbai in 2017, where Indian tourists can get all the necessary information about the Northern Capital when planning their trip to our city.

Recently held marketing events in St. Petersburg undoubtedly allowed Indian colleagues to learn more about the city on the Neva, to assess the benefits of working with our market of tourist services. They had a chance to get acquainted directly with experts of different directions, to communicate with the hotel and tour operators of the Northern Capital in a friendly atmosphere. We hope that the ideas developed during the communication will be implemented and lead to an increase in the flow of tourists.

The mutual tourist flow between India and Russia is growing year by year, with major cities – centers
of tourist attraction – playing a significant part in this. All the events aimed at the development of external and internal tourism in both countries are of interest to travelers. In addition, a lot is being done
by the governments and the Ministries of Tourism of both countries. If the direction remains the same, Russia and India will firmly stay in the top three countries of outbound tourism.

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