Moscow goes on tourist charm offensive

In an effort to try to make the Russian capital more attractive to holidaymakers, City Hall is planning to employ the latest developments in the tourism industry.

Renovations will include, among other things, a tourist call center, a new dedicated internet site, and a convenient system of navigation around the city.

“We have launched a number of projects aimed at creating a comfortable tourist environment,” the head of Moscow tourism committee, Sergey Shpilko, said at a city government meeting. “All the big cities around the world, including St. Petersburg, have already done that.”

Officials are also going to launch a wide public relations campaign to present the variety of attractions in the Russian capital. They hope this can help re-brand the image of Moscow.

Among other measures are additional parking lots for tourist buses, a new classification system for the capital’s hotels, new attractions and bicycle rentals in Moscow parks.

The cost of the renovations will amount to about $10 million. The figure is less than half of what had initially been planned. The authorities say that they plan to attract more money from non-budgetary funds. They also plan to shut down a number of “expensive and useless projects.”

The projects are to be finished by 2012, while the “tourism strategy of the city” will be developed by the end of 2011.

The set of measures comes after an 18% growth in the number of tourists who visited the Russian capital in the first half of 2010. By 2020, Moscow authorities hope to attract twice as many visitors.

Tourism specialists point out that instead of wasting money on a website, officials seeking to attract more tourists should start with such simple things as stationing guideposts, free toilets and English-speaking policemen around the city.

“It is very easy just to put everywhere special signs, for example, near the Red Square, showing that in order to see Lenin’s Tomb you should go this or that way,” Marina Levchenko, general director of the Tari Travel Group, told RT. “But it takes a very long time for the city’s authorities to do such an easy thing.”

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