Be sure to stock up on tickets for the "Greater Urals"!
14.05.2014 — Analysis
That train is on its way
At the Greater Urals tourism forum (April 3-4, 2014 in Ekaterinburg), Russian Railway Tours announced its plans to run a special sightseeing train from Perm to Tobolsk by way of Ekaterinburg and Tyumen. The new "Greater Urals" route should attract a great many tourists to the Central Urals. The director of the Tourism Development Center of the Sverdlovsk region, Elmira Tukanova, discussed this in an exclusive interview with RusBusinessNews.
- Ms. Tukanova, didn't the Greater Urals brand first appear during the administration of Governor Eduard Rossel as the Association of Urals Regions?
- Please don't confuse the two. This is a tourism brand. After the federal districts were introduced, the Urals were "split" into the Urals Federal District and the Volga Federal District. And now when I introduce this geographical area, referring to it as the "Sverdlovsk region," people ask me where that is. Is it the Urals? Is it Ekaterinburg?
It's very difficult to explain to someone from another country why I'm zeroing in on this particular section of the Urals. After all, there's also the Chelyabinsk region with its fallen meteorite, and the Tyumen region has Rasputin and the Tobolsk Kremlin.
The mental world map of a typical tourist is focused on destinations with global name recognition, such as the Urals, the Caucasus, Siberia, Lake Baikal, the Golden Ring, and the Volga. He doesn't care what region of Russia those are in.
And we need to be able to skillfully convey information to our audience that delineates the area geographically.
Why "Greater"? The brand extends beyond its geographic borders. Ekaterinburg is a logistics center and sees traffic from parts of Western Siberia, such as Yugra and Yamal. And consequently, the regions that frequently fly or drive through here are perceived as one part of a single entity.
At the Second International Greater Urals Tourism Forum, which took place in April, we held detailed discussions of how to expand the brand. We needed to create an offering that would be meaningful. For example, the Great Volga is the route used by ships traveling between Moscow and Samara.
- What is the Greater Urals route?
- Russian Railway Tours has introduced the concept of the first interregional tourism project, which would include regularly scheduled tourist excursions on a special train from Perm to Tobolsk and back through Ekaterinburg and Tyumen. And it wouldn't be just that company acting as the proprietor of the route - local companies would be involved as well. For example, a tour operator in Perm will assemble a rail car of sightseers, and then in Ekaterinburg another couple of cars will be created, and so on.
- Twelve tourism clusters, including about 40 municipalities, have been created in the Sverdlovsk region. How will this approach help the development of the industry?
- The formation of the clusters is determined by their geographical affiliation, logistics, and infrastructure, and is centered around a key anchor location. Each geographical area has its own "edge." For example, the focus of the promotional efforts might be on the local environmental setting or industry.
And no single cluster will be limited to the development of only one certain type of tourism. But there is a basic concept around which satellite plans are formed. For example, can mineralogical tourism be interesting to children? Of course, and there you have an educational component.
- What types of tourists is the Sverdlovsk region focused on?
- First of all, our geographic neighbors. We have a global advantage in that Ekaterinburg is not only a huge regional business center, but also a high-powered aviation hub and the biggest rail junction on the Trans-Siberian Railway. By that I'm referring to the huge Urals-Siberia loading terminal. It's no wonder that over 25 countries have diplomatic outposts here, as well as major trade missions.
And we know that there are a lot of areas around the Sverdlovsk region that are interested in us, and Ekaterinburg ends up drawing those people here for a variety of reasons. For example, as people pass through this region our task is to offer them as much information as we can, in order to convince them to spend at least one night here.
What do we offer them? At the Koltsovo airport there is now an information desk where you can pick up tourist maps and calendars of local events. In the summers that same desk can be found at the Ekaterinburg railway station. All our printed materials come with a scannable QR code that will immediately take you to a website or mobile app where you can see tours and routes.
In addition to the information that potential tourists can find in major logistics centers, we also stage professional exhibits with presentations about the tourism potential of the Sverdlovsk region. The Greater Urals International Tourism Forum was a key event associated with conventions and exhibitions in the region.
- How many tourists can the Sverdlovsk region accommodate?
- The traffic from our neighboring regions could potentially amount to three or four million people each year. The Sverdlovsk region enjoys a favorable geographical position. Residents from Yugra, Yamal, and the Tyumen region all pass through this area. Thirty to forty years ago many people left to go work up north, and now every summer they drive back down to visit family in Tatarstan and Bashkiria. And that's the traffic we need to "snag."
We know perfectly well that the Sverdlovsk region will never become a huge tourist destination like Turkey or Egypt. But tourism is a powerful economic and political tool that can help create infrastructure in towns that today have no industrial facilities or companies that can act as major local employers. Their only hope is to contribute in some way to the development of their economies by exploiting their own local history, natural attractions, and arts-and-crafts resources. Today the development of tourism in the region has to be viewed from the standpoint of its capacity to improve the quality of life for people in Sverdlovsk.
- What is being done to attract investors to a city with a weak economy?
- In order to give the business community a clear understanding of where to invest their money, we developed the "Jewel Ring of the Urals" project. The Ministry of the Economy in the Sverdlovsk region has created a project that brings together eight cities in the region. The route stretches for 635 kilometers.
In this way we have identified municipalities that, by partnering with the project, should be able to provide investors with attractive terms. This includes the development of infrastructure, informational support, product promotion, and a legal and regulatory framework.
This is very complex work and so it's good that the development of tourism has been turned over to the Ministry of the Economy in the Sverdlovsk region, because they have the majority of the tools to support small and medium-sized businesses.
Interviewed by Irina Kalinina
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