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Search for the Pyramid of Cheops in the South Urals

Search for the Pyramid of Cheops in the South Urals

31.10.2014 — Analysis

Which can become a point of attraction for tourists

Zlatoust, Miass, Chebarkul, Satka are the towns that still need to be discovered by tourists. However, in the near future the South Urals will attract travelers from around the world. By 2020 the tourist flow coming to the Chelyabinsk Region is expected to increase 3 times. Alexey Betekhtin, Minister of Culture of the Chelyabinsk Region, told RusBusinessNews what types of tourism are going to be promoted in the region and what products the region will come with into the highly competitive market.

- Alexey Valerievich, the Chelyabinsk Region is the most promising region in the Urals by the level of development of its domestic and inbound tourism; it is also successful nation-wide. How many visitors come to the region annually?

- In 2013 the region was visited by 740.4 thousand Russian tourists. For reference, one year before the number was smaller – 685.8 thousand people. The number of foreign guests was 13.8 thousand in 2013.

- Can we say that the flow of tourists is increasing?

- It’s not quite so. We have not opened any new sights or new resorts like our Golden Beach – a countryside hotel at Turgoyak Lake. The flow of tourists has increased, though not much and mostly because of the national trend – people have become more mobile, started travelling more frequently and have become more interested in the history of their country.

- How well is this trend developed among the residents of the South Urals?

- By and large, the residents of the Chelyabinsk Region are light on their feet. In winter they go out of town every two weeks; in summer – three times a month.

- Is there any top-list of the most popular holiday destinations in the Chelyabinsk Region?

- Yes, certainly, the most popular destination is Arkaim, a historical and cultural reserve; I think it is the best promoted. We put a lot of effort into it. Even local residents say jokingly: We used to keep chickens, now we are taking care of tourists. Besides, we have such national parks as Zyuratkul and Taganai, Turgoyak Lake. There are also ski resorts, for example, Abzakovo. The Sun Valley ski resort in Miass is very interesting – when combined with Golden Beach, it offers year-round servicing of tourists.

- Alexey Valerievich, do you have any favorite destinations in the South Urals?

- It happened so that I have taken interest in diving for the last two years; I even have my personal equipment. Unfortunately, we have no resources for this kind of hobby; therefore, I have to go to other places for two weeks once a year. As for short-time leisure activities, I like to spend time in the Sun Valley and I like snowmobiles. Satka is a wonderful place and I like the Zyuratkul Park. There is the highest lake and the highest mountain top in the South Urals.

- What is your opinion about the level of development of the tourism infrastructure in the region? What are its advantages and what should be improved?

- The regional infrastructure is stull insufficiently developed. Tourism became an agenda item only in 2010, both at the federal and regional levels. At the same time, the Tourism Department was opened at the South Ural Ministry of Culture and the program addressing development of the tourism sector was adopted, being focused mostly on attraction of investors.

Today we are armed with the strategy for development of tourism in the Chelyabinsk Region till 2020. The strategy specifies in detail what we must do now, in the near future, and what we should lay aside. We realize that the regions that started developing tourism 10 years ago have moved far ahead by now; take a look at Bashkiria or Altai. Every time we made an attempt to develop tourism we encountered administrative barriers. That was why Boris Dubrovsky, Governor of the Chelyabinsk Region, requested administrative support of tourism projects to make the work easier and faster. The Center for Tourism Development will be responsible for that.

The achievement of this year has been allocation of considerable regional funds for 2015. We are talking about 15 million rubles; for reference, in 2013 we expected only 4.5 million rubles. The first thing we intend to do is to develop the project of the Europe-Asia tourism cluster.

- What are the reasons for choosing a cluster approach?

- The development of tourism concurrently within the entire area of the region is impossible and infeasible; it must be done by using a cluster method.

Our region is unique as it has areas where there are historical, architectural and natural sites existing side by side with each other. For example, the natural park – Taganai – neighboring Zlatoust, an ancient Ural town, the birthplace of the Russian steel and steel engraving.

We should create a magnet, which will be the focal point surrounded by numerous sites. It will stand out as a certain Pyramid of Cheops. The borderline between Europe and Asia can become our pyramid.

Under the Europe-Asia Project we will build a theme park or the central tourist complex showcasing miniature replicas of the sights of our region. For example, Arkaim, though instead of ruins there will be a partially restored ancient town or gold mines, which we have in Plast. The complex will be located in a mining and manufacturing area in the vicinity of Satka and Zlatoust.

The park will be surrounded by numerous related facilities and services. For example, tourist will be able to buy tickets in the complex and go to Plast where they will be offered to descend into a real mine and look for gold. Travelers will be able to take a ride on a yacht, on a dogsled, to visit a chum – a rawhide tent, to go fishing. All these trips should last no longer than one day.

- How many clusters are there going to be?

- The first cluster will be Europe-Asia. It will be followed by the Land of Three Thousand Lakes - Miass, Zlatoust and Chebarkul. Guests will be able to visit the Ilmensky Festival, enjoy the beauty of the Ilmen Natural Reserve and Turgoyak, do sports in the Sun Valley, visit city museums. In addition, the plans include development of another four tourism clusters.

- Are there any problems finding investors?

- At the moment, we have a number of business people who are ready to invest money. Before we can start meaningful negotiations with them, we should implement the Europe-Asia Project. The funds have already been earmarked for its development. At present, we are creating a pool of consultants, then we will invite investors who later on will act as contrators.

- Is there any hope for federal support?

- The government is ready for participation; the co-financing may range from 10 to 20%; however, we understand that we must offer something more definite. As soon as the design work for the Europe-Asia Project is completed, we will make a presentation and then we will be able to provide detailed information.

- The Chelyabinsk Region became famous all over the world after the meteorite crash. Did the event help to attract more tourists?

- The interest in the Chelyabinsk meteorite was especially high during the first months after it had crashed. We offered a sightseeing route – The Trail of the Meteorite – however, it did not generate much interest from the tourists coming to the region. Yes, the meteorite fell and attracted attention. But it did not spark any desire to drop everything, to go to the other end of the world to look at it. It is a different story, if a person happened to be in the South Urals; then he or she will definitely want to see the fireball. The Regional Museum of Local Lore has benefited from the event; the number of visitors almost doubled.

- What other non-conventional types of inbound tourism are going to be developed and what has been done in this respect?

- The plans in the environmental tourism sector include the project of an ethnic park in the Chelyabinsk Region, which will combine the principles of environmental and rural tourism.

I borrowed the idea from Bashkiria. It will be appealing to people who got tired of civilization. They will be offered to live in an isolated farmstead located in a secluded and quiet place without any television, telephones and Internet. Undisturbed communication with nature. It is clear that it will be quite expensive, but I think we will find those who may like the idea.

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