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Tourism in Buryatia

Author:  Ye. Kryazhev
Source:  Buryatia. 2007. May 18. pp. 5, 7.

The modern tourist industry is one of the biggest highly profitable and mostly dynamic branches of the world economics which includes about 10 per cent of the world gross domestic product (GDP), the world investments, the total number of jobs and the world consumer expenses. Tourism development stimulates such economics sectors as transport, communication, trade, construction, consumer goods production etc., and it is one of the most prospective directions of economics structural reconstruction.

Mostly women and young people are employed in the sphere of tourism, and they are mostly subject to social changes.

The meaning of tourism in the modern world is constantly growing, and according to specialists, the 21st century will become the age of tourism. Tourism in its present condition is becoming a kind of bridge for people to cross space and time more and more successfully.

Nowadays there are three most general concepts of tourism. The first one is narrow limiting it to travel companies’ activity only. The second is consumer one which considers tourism as the process of consuming services and goods in the time free from job problems outside the permanent place of residence. And thirdly, tourism is defined as a social relation concerning peoples free time outside their places of residence and in relation with reproduction of the whole spectre of the services and goods necessary for that.

It is important to note that the latter definition is not only the broadest and most comprehensive, but it also determines the new estimation of the role of tourism in the modern society. It is conditioned by the fact that a broad spectre of branches is in the sphere of tourism, from advertising and information services, transport, construction, agriculture and processing industries to such branches as education, health care, sport and culture.

From ECONOMIC point of view the concept of tourism development in Buryatia is based upon striving for reducing the negative balance of payments and trade. The tourism income is up to 30 per cent of economically developed countries. Besides economic effect expressed in increasing income of the budgets of all levels, the development of tourism presupposes organizing new jobs and raising the people’s wellbeing. For example, one job in the sphere of tourism makes up six new jobs in other spheres of economics – trade, construction, communication, entertainment industry, services and others.

By the beginning of 2007 there have been 50 licensed registered travel organizations, 7 of them had travel operating licenses, 20 were travel agencies, and 23 had travel operating and travel agent licenses. In 2006, according to experts, the number of tourists having visited Buryatia was 178 thousand people which is 7 per cent more than in 2005. According to statistics data, the amount of paid services for tourists was 574.7 mln roubles, which is 130.4 mln roubles more than in 2005. The index of the physical amount of paid services for tourists is 112 per cent. 17.4 per cent were the services of travel organizations, 50.5 per cent were health resort services, 32.1 per cent were hotel and other accommodation services in the total structure of services for tourists.

According to the report data, from 2001 to 2003 fewer tourists visited Buryatia. The number of visits in 2003 was seriously affected by a considerable proximity of the republic to the sources of atypical pneumonia and the danger of fires in the Baikal region, as well as the world oil prices rise. But thanks to active formation of the tourist infrastructure, advertising promotion, service quality raise and working out new excursion and tourist routes, the tendency of visits increase appeared in the region. So, in the last three years the number of tourists has increased 16.6 per cent.

The number of foreign tourists coming to Buryatia is 11.4 per cent. The geography of entrance tourism is broad and it includes more than 60 countries. Most tourists come from Mongolia (25.8 per cent), China (24.6 per cent), Germany (14.5 per cent) and the USA (14.4 per cent).

The most prospective directions of the Buryatia tourism product promotion and the tourists attraction are the USA, the countries of the Central Europe (Germany, France, Italy, Great Britain), the countries of the Asian-Pacific Region (China, Mongolia, Japan, South Korea), the European part of Russia, Siberia and the Far East. In this connection Buryatia plans annual participation in 5-6 Russian and international tourist exhibitions, fairs and exchanges in Irkutsk, Novosibirsk and Moscow, as well as at the united stand of Russia – in London, Berlin, Tokyo and Shanghai.

In the condition of tourism globalization, inter-regional international cooperation becomes especially important. So, in 2000-2006 great attention was paid to the work of interregional associations “Siberian Agreement” and The Far East and Zabaikalye where the problems of organizing and promotion of inter-regional and international tourist routes were discussed. Buryatia tourism agency initiated working out the Tea Road international tourist route. In 2003 expanded sitting of the Tourism Commission in Ulan Ude was held. Representatives of tourism administrations, travel business and mass media of the Altai Republic, the Krasnoyarsk territory, the Omsk, Novosibirsk and Irkutsk regions and the Khanty-Mansiisk Autonomous Okrug took part in the sitting.

Three years ago an expedition examination of tourism resources on the “Baikal-Khubsugul” part of the Tea Road route was organized together with Mongolia to define the resource potential of the route and work out promotion recommendations according to the Protocol on intentions in the field of tourism.

Before Russia’s entering the World tourist organization realizing inter-government agreements, introduction of tourist activity certification, collecting and analysis of statistic information became very important for Buryatia.

In 2000 Agreement between the Government of China and the Russian Federation Government was signed, about visa-free tourist travelling; in Buryatia it should be controlled by the Republican tourism agency. Within the report period the right to organize visa-free group travels was given to “Tourist” Ltd., Geser Hotel association, Buryatintur, Sputnik-Buryatia Ltd. and Morin tur Ltd. The above mentioned travel agencies serve about 11 thousand Russian citizens yearly according to the given Agreement.

Last year the number of foreign guests who have visited Buryatia was 20 thousand people which 5 per cent overcame the figure of the previous year. If the present rate is preserved, the number of foreign visitors will exceed 25 thousand people by 2010.

Together with increasing number of international visits the inflow of foreign currency also increases in proportion. According to the World tourist organization methods, each foreign tourist spends in Buryatia an average of $ 0.3 to 1 thousand without transport expenditures (plane tickets) within 5-7 days of stay.

Together with foreign tourism development home tourism is also developing fast. It makes up 88.6 per cent in the structure of tourists’ visits. Whereas in 2003 the number of home tourists in Buryatia was 129,039 people, in 2006 their number was over 158 thousand.

Together with increasing visits, broadening of their geography, transport development, the role of state regulation of travellin activity increases, too. Not to sound proofless I will give an example of the main principles of the state tourism politics of Buryatia:

·        To admit that tourism is a priority industry in Buryatia;

·        To encourage tourism and to organize favourable conditions for its development;

·        To determine and support the priority guidelines of tourism development;

·        To form the opinion about the Republic of Buryatia as a region favourable for tourism;

·        To establish conditions for protecting the legitimate rights and interests of tourists, travel operators, travel agents and their associations.

·        To provide conditions for developing international cooperation in the field of tourism;

·        To support non-government organizations created by tourism activity subjects.

Accomplishing the programme activities aimed at carrying out the state policy in the field of tourism allows creating a system of state management and encouraging tourism development corresponding with the nature of market relations and taking into consideration the world experience in this field. The law foundation has already been formed in the republic, a number of legal acts regulating the sphere of tourism have been worked out. Creating certification and licensing systems corresponding to the world ones is especially important to protect the consumers’ rights.

Much is done by the Republican agency on marketing policy in the sphere of tourism – forming the image and presenting Buryatia as a favourable and attractive region at the world tourist market. For example, last year, in early summer, the Republican agency together with the Federal tourism agency and the Irkutsk Region tourism department made an introduction tour about Buryatia for representatives of 16 countries, members of the Association of the national tourist offices for the countries accredited in Russia. Heads of the national tourist offices of Bulgaria, Hungary, Great Britain, Greece, Germany, Jordan, Italy, Spain, Korea, Latvia, Malta, the Emirates, Poland, Tunisia and Estonia took part in the tour.

The effect of the activity was making business and partner relations and cooperation contracts. There was a series of publications about the Republic of Buryatia tourist resources, about Buryatia’s prospects as a tourist centre of Russia.

There was expedition research on location of the route, the concept and the programme project were worked out, and negotiations are being carried on with the project’s potential partners within the “Tea Road” international tourism project after the agreement with the Buryatia regional organization of the Russian Travel Industry Union.

Like many other regions of the Russian Federation, Buryatia is not adapted to tourism in comparison with the world tourism leaders. The question has just been put by the Russian Federation President V.V. Putin at the sitting of the Russian Federation State Council in July 2004, in Gelendzhik, Krasnodar Territory. There is great job ahead to organize normal production of the local integrated tourist products including historical, cultural, ideological, geographic, industrial, personnel and other components of the modern travel business.

Development of home tourism is connected with the population’s solvency first and foremost. For the time being the average income of Buryatias population doesnt allow the people make tours or visit resorts. When asked “How do you spend your holiday?” 78 per cent of cloth factory workers answered that they spent it at home. 18 per cent of the respondents work in their country houses growing vegetables and 4 per cent of the respondents work additionally. 53.1 per cent of the people working in Construction Company 182 spend their holiday at home, 3.1 per cent go to resorts, 9.3 per cent go hunting or fishing, 21.8 per cent work in their country houses growing vegetables and 3.5 per cent gave other answers. In Buryatmebel furniture making company 4 per cent of the respondents go touring, 44.4 per cent spend their holiday at home, 4 per cent go to resorts, 2 per cent go hunting or fishing, 30 per cent work in their country houses growing vegetables, 8.3 per cent have additional work, 6.2 per cent gave other answers.

As a result of the research a considerable difference was found out between the ways the respondents spend their holiday and the way they would like to spend it. Answering the question “What prevents you from spending your holiday the way you like?” 19.1 per cent of the respondents working in the Republican printing house mentioned their being occupied with their household, 8.5 per cent are tired of their main and household work, 48.9 per cent cannot afford it, 12.7 per cent don’t have leisure conditions, 2.1 per cent referred to lack of ability to organize their free time, 8.7 per cent noted that nothing prevented them from it. Among the Ulan Ude aircraft making plant workers the same questions were answered by 10.4, 15.1, 56.9, 3.4, 1.1, and 10.4 per cent correspondingly and 2.7 per cent wrote other answers. Among the Buryatmebel furniture making company workers the questions were answered by 8.1, 16.3, 48.9, 8.1, 2.4, 14.2 per cent and 2 per cent of the respondents gave other answers.

Unlike the tourists coming to Buryatia, many residents of the republic think such forms of recreation as “weekend tourism”, short corporate outings or special recreation programmes for young or elderly people to be most appropriate.

The advantages of the republican residents’ recreation are considerable reduction of transport expenses, minimization of acclimatization period and less loading on health. These advantages are revealed in recreation connected with health improvement. Since even citizens of modest means dont save on their health, it is important to develop health tourism services which can be sold in resort establishments of the republic. The development of “voucher tourism” makes additional demand for entertainment services, educational and culture and ethnographic tourism, small and family inns.

In 2002 Regulations of volunteer certification of small accommodation services and Rules of volunteer classification of specialized accommodation services in Buryatia were worked out to develop small travel business in the country, as well as architectural design of reconstruction of country houses as mini-inns.

Registration results show that in Buryatia there are 327 accommodation means for 14,244 visitors, including 20 resorts. Besides, there are 120 countryside guest houses in the republic. The accommodation places are very worn out; about 80 per cent of the objects need reconstruction and modernization.

Marketing research shows that accommodation demand grows constantly, which makes investments in the travel industry more and more prospective. In 2000-2006 about 700 mln roubles were invested in tourism of Buryatia. Nowadays the “Sagan Morin” hotel and the Zhasso company hotel in Ulan Ude are being developed, the Baikal hotel is being reconstructed, a number of tourist centres on the Baikal shore in the Kabansk, Pribaikalsk, Barguzin, Severobaikalsk, Tunka and Oka districts are also being built and reconstructed.

The runway in “Mukhino” airport has been made longer, the Russian drama theatre construction has been started, and the Ulan Ude opera and ballet house is being reconstructed.

Building hotels in Buryatia in recent years has become a result of market development and demand growth which causes foreigners’ interest in the tourism sector of Buryatia. The growth of hotels number promotes competition, as a result the “quality-price” correlation is regulated in that service sector, which influences competitiveness of the travel product of Russia.

At the same time in Ulan Ude there are problems connected with ecology. In the recent 10 years the number of cars in the city has grown 4-5 times, about 2 thousand mini-buses work as passenger public transport. We can add to this the work of heat and power station # 1 which exhausts thousands of tons of substances harmful for people and environment. A TV viewer asked the head manager of the “TGK-14” company Mr. Alferov a question about the prospects of reducing the harmful exhausts into the atmosphere. Mr. Alferov answered with a meaningless excuse.

It is also necessary to change the city planning policy in Ulan Ude. Different objects have been built without any system, so buildings and people are clustered together; there are many traffic jams and car accidents. It is time to come to a decision to build the city of Ulan Ude-N and transfer the construction of residential areas and administrative buildings to the areas of the distillery, Sosnovy Bor and other vacant sites. It is time to build a modern city with broad avenues, squares and parks, the city of the 21st century.

In 2005 the federal law “On Special Economic Zones of the Russian Federation” was adopted. The Republic of Buryatia prepared and submitted an application about organizing a tourism and recreation special economic zone in the Pribaikalsk district. It is common knowledge that Buryatia is among the winners of the contest for creating a tourism and recreation zone. The SEZ concept presupposes organizing two Alpine skiing resorts, a sea resort, and a water sports centre by Lake Kotokel.

It is planned to build 54 hotels and inns and 800 tourist cottages for 22.33 thousand people, catering and entertainment structures, basic infrastructure including roads, electric supply and drainage systems, communication, transport infrastructure and social objects. According to prognoses the total number of tourists arriving in Buryatia will be 1.91 mln. people by 2006.

The development of the special economic zone will need the total investment of 57.3 mlrd. roubles until 2026. More than 80 per cent will be invested by private business.

Great amounts of currency may be received for transporting the Baikal water to the countries of the Asian-Pacific region and Central Asia. There is apprehension that millions of tourists by Lake Baikal may destroy the fragile ecological balance and lead to pollution of the sacred lake.

…The Baikal is the biggest freshwater lake of Russia. It is 636 km long. The area of the water surface is 31,500 sq. kilometres. The amount of water resources is 23,600 cubic kilometres. The Angara River takes 60.9 cub. kilometres out of the lake and 387 years of incessant work are necessary to drain its cavity under the condition that water did not get into the lake and evaporate from its surface.

333 rivers flow into the Baikal. But the Baikal suffers not from water being taken from it, but from poisonous wastes getting there. The Baikalsk cellulose and paper making plant throws an average of 400,000 cubic metres of industrial wastes a day – 400 mln. litres a day. If we take an average price of 1 litre of the Baikal water, 6 roubles and multiply it by 400 mln. litres, we’ll get 2 mlrd. 400 mln. roubles. Such amount of money is daily dissolved in the Baikal water by the plant, damaging the whole ecological system. Great need in water mankind cant go without, promises colossal business, much more efficient than the distillery one. For example, during the visit of the delegation of the Republic of Buryatia Peoples Khural (Parliament) to Kalmykia from April 12 to 15 this year, the Republic of Kalmykia expressed its interest in purchasing clear fresh water from the Baikal.

There are no significant sources of fresh water on the planet any more. Now many regions of the planet, including Russia, lack clear water. The Amur River in the Far East is being polluted with chemicals exhausted by Chinese plants. Almost 2 mlrd. people may remain without drinking water by 2025. According to Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) data, more than 1 mlrd. people have no access to clear water, and 400 million live without water supply and sewerage.

Very soon clear Baikal water will cost more than gold. Now the price of the yellow metal at the world markets is $ 700 for Troy ounce (31.1 grammes) and is still growing. We’ll remind the reader that unlike Russia, western countries keep their gold reserve mostly in dollars, but not in paper dollars, pounds and euros. Gold is the real money. The gold reserve in the USA had been 8,138 tons by early 2000, which is 20 times greater than in Russia, in France it is 3,025 tons, in Germany it is 3,469 tons, in Switzerland it is 2,590 tons, in Italy it is 2,452 tons and the World Currency Fund has got 3.2 thousand tons. In the USSR the gold reserve was 3.5 thousand tons, but the anti-alcohol campaign lead to the deficit of the Union budget of about 150 mlrd. roubles a year. By M. Gorbachev the sale of the USSR gold reserve was started…

The whole history of mankind gives evidence: when man intrudes into nature, there is nothing good about it. We should act after the principle “Don’t do any harm” or Look before you leap. Now the struggle between states for restructuring the resources is very active, including armed struggle. The visual evidence is the USA-Iraq or the USA-Iran; and we waste our resources.

To sum it up we’ll point out that taking into consideration the opportunities of tourism at Lake Baikal, we should balance all “pros” and cons. We should develop tourism at Lake Baikal creating the corresponding material and technical basis and infrastructure. Nobody has the right to prohibit tourism at Lake Baikal, but its scale should be limited – not more than 50 thousand foreign tourists visits a year in the prospect.

Lake Baikal is the last strategic resource of Russia, and it will last forever. We’ll run out of oil soon, and what will we have then? The Baikal water resources will serve Russia and the whole mankind for a long time on condition that the attitude towards it was appropriate. The main thing here is to preserve the Baikal clear water and primordial nature. A whole complex of various measures is necessary, including prohibiting cutting down forests around the Baikal and on the banks of the rivers flowing into it, forestation, stopping throwing dirty wastes into Lake Baikal etc. Both our nature protection organizations and the community should speak out about the problem. Why does a group of officials solve such an important problem? It seems to me that we should work out and adopt the law “On the Baikal” anew, together with our neighbours, the Irkutsk region.


Yevgeny KRYAZHEV  



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