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Will Belarusian Tourism Survive?

Will Belarusian Tourism Survive?
By Elena Spasyuk
Belorusskie Novosty
We are unable to change the situation unless we change the infrastructure, said Victor Yankovenko, the Director of the Tourism Department at the Ministry of Sports and Tourism.
“The modern tourist is not somebody carrying lots of bags with him. Today, modern tourists need good accommodation, food, good transportation, and entertainment facilities. We need to build more buildings, buy new coaches, train staff accordingly, and teach them foreign languages,” said the Tourism Department Director, reports BelTA.
In fact, Victor Yankovenko announced what officials have long been talking about in the corridors. The idea is that tourism infrastructure is to be greatly improved as a means to increase the number of foreign tourists coming to Belarus.
The situation now is like this. Last year, more than 5 million foreign citizens visited Belarus, excluding those travelling from the Russian Federation. Almost one and a half million of them were travelling across Belarus on transit. “The World Tourism Organisation regards all these people as real tourists,” said Victor Yankovenko. Most tourists come from Russia, Ukraine, Lithuania, Poland, Germany, Italy, England, the Czech Republic, Israel, and the USA.
The State Border Committee says that 300 thousand visitors stated the purpose of their visit to be tourism. The Ministry of Statistics said the number to be different – 105,410 people, which is 17.7% more than in 2006. Victor Yankovenko said: “I wouldn’t say that 10-15 thousand more tourists than a year before is a significant number in the tourism statistics.” He also said that these figures concern tourists that booked their holidays with tourist agencies, but so many tourists come to Belarus privately.
Victor Yankovenko said that “the three selling points in the Belarusian tourism are good enough roads, unique nature resources, and people whose tolerance and hospitality make foreigners feel really secure in our country. Plus there are four national parks in Belarus, nature reserves, thousands of lakes and rivers.”
The problem is that the state of our resorts leaves much to be desired. For instance the Naroch Lake has had public facilities improved since 2005. Now the government passed the National Strategy to Manage Natural Reserves until 2015, and some other programmes concerning nature reserves and the use of them. All these resolutions concern the Naroch Lake in this way or another but they have not been put in force yet. Now this lake is to face another tourist season and it might be too late.
Victor Yankovenko also said than much funds are used to renovate historical buildings. There are about 5 thousand architectural, cultural, and architectural monuments in Belarus. There are many promising opportunities in Belarusian tourism, and tourists will chose what they prefer for themselves.
Still, making up a list and doing something practical is very different. The present state of cultural monuments is not competitive in the present state.
Another problem in Belarus is poor road service. It is hardly developing as the State Control Committee put it last year. The Belarusian President said in this respect that “it should be done quickly. There is not any road service in some places at all.” Of course, this issue will be discussed many times again as Alexander Lukashenko himself said that the year 2008 will be a check point for this industry.
Victor Yankovenko also said that transportation is another problem in Belarus: “We need to increase the number of airplane routes and deal with their costs. Why should tourists pay times more for flying from Minsk than from Moscow or Kiev? This is a rhetorical question. This is why there is a group of people that travel abroad and don’t use the Belarusian aviation.”
The state is going to deal with these problems step by step within the National Tourism Development Programme for 2008-2010.
Victor Yankovenko said that there have been 144 buildings built and renovated during the past two years. In general, the Ministry of Sports and Tourism has big plans about making foreign tourism feel more comfortable in Belarus. The National Tourism Development Programme has details about numerous tourism attractions. Local regions will also be given some attention as most historical monuments are located there. The Programme makes provisions for 71 new hotels in small towns, 179 apartments, 146 road cafes, 107 demonstration workshops, 78 amusement parks, 27 health resorts, and 70 hunting bases.


29 Февраля, 2008
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