Sergei Sobyanin: Domestic Tourism Allowed the Tourism Industry to Withstand the Impact of the Pandemic

February 18
Economy and entrepreneurship

Sergei Sobyanin summarized last year results of the tourism sector in his blog. According to the Mayor of Moscow, the hospitality industry - one of the main hallmarks of the city in the recent years - suffered from the pandemic to the greater extent as compared to others.

In 2019 Moscow hosted a record-breaking 25.1 million tourists and won the World's Leading City Destination nomination of the most prestigious industry award - World Travel Awards.  5.5 million visitors succeeded to come to the capital city in the 1st quarter of 2020, which is a 12-percent increase as compared to the same previous year period. However, April saw a drastic fall of the tourist flow. The summer decrease in COVID decease rate slightly reanimated the industry. As a result, 13.6 million travellers visited Moscow as of the end of 2020, which is a 46-percent downfall as against 2019. The number of domestic tourists dropped by 34 percent, and that of foreign travellers by 86 percent. The annual average room occupancy rate went down from с 77 to 38–44 percent.

 “Such outcome could have become a disaster. But reality is that the tourism industry of Moscow managed to survive. Travellers from abroad were predictably scarce in number. Nearly 800 thousand foreign tourists can be attributed to those who managed to visit the city within January – February last year. The focus on domestic travel policy justified the expectations put on it. In 2020, 12.8 million non-Moscow residents visited the capital city,” says Sergei Sobyanin.

Besides, the hospitality industry continued to be an important source of income for the city budget by yielding 77.7 billion rubles. By the way, this is twice as much as in the year 2010.

Profile of a Typical Tourist

A typical tourist of 2020 is a resident of a Russia’s region aged 25 to 44 who came to Moscow alone or with the family and friends. A lot of people took children along. On the average, tourists used to spend five to six days in Moscow staying with their friends, acquaintances or renting a room. As many as 30 percent stayed at hotels and hostels giving preference to 3-4 star ones.

Though, the way of spending time in Moscow was about the same before. This year, due to cancelled festivals and museum attendance restrictions the most popular amusement among the capital city guests was shopping. Besides, tourists liked going for a stroll in the streets and parks, visiting cafes and restaurants.

State Aid for Hotels

Hotels found themselves in the worst situation. They lost up to 90 percent of their guests but nonetheless utility bills had to be settled and employees’ salaries had to be paid. On top of this, they had to dip into their pocket to pay for disinfection.

Under these conditions, the temporary accommodation program for doctors and nurses who worked at coronavirus hospitals became a great help. From spring to autumn, more than nine thousand health care workers were temporary relocated to hotels, thus reducing the risk of infecting their families. 42 city’s largest hotels took part in the program.

Besides, 46 hotels were granted subsidies to disinfect their premises.

Not Russpass Alone

In the midst of the pandemic, the Russpass travel service was launched, which is a digital travel constructor that allows selecting a route, booking a hotel, and buying tickets. This year was also marked by the opening of a cultural and tourist atlas #Moskvastoboy containing video tours and lectures, and by the launch of an educational tourism project for children called The City of Discoveries.

All these projects turned out to be in demand and prompted many people to visit Moscow.

 “But the most valuable help for the tourism industry was the ability to work even during the most difficult months of the pandemic. We abstained from closing up hotels temporarily. By agreement with the Government of Russia, all talks on introducing any aircraft and train traffic restrictions were nipped in the bud. The pass system in Moscow was canceled immediately as soon as the slightest opportunity appeared. Moreover, the city came through the autumn rise in the disease rate without the pass system. As a result, the absolute majority of hotels managed to stay afloat. Albeit the occupancy was low, the hotels kept on working. They managed to preserve their teams, and first of all the key workers,” says Sergei Sobyanin.

During the New Year holidays, 1.9 million people visited the capital city despite the cancelled street festivals, closed museums, and restricted opening hours for restaurants. The average hotel occupancy rate went up to 25–30 percent. Well-known inexpensive hotels in the city center were 50–60 percent full.

“The tourism industry is coming to life, and I am sure that 2021 will bring it good luck,” concludes Sergei Sobyanin.


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