The world cup is over. What’s next?
At the end of June, Moscow held a round table – “Moscow on the World’s Tourism Map After the World Cup. The City’s Accomplishments and Prospects.” The event took place with support from the Department of Foreign Economic and International Relations and its business publication, “Capital Ideas.”
How the World Cup changed the capital’s image, the impetus it gave to the development of Moscow’s tourism infrastructure – these were the main issues discussed by members of the round table about what has happened since the FIFA World Cup.
“Memories from the World Cup are going to stay with all of us. It became yet another reason to be proud of Moscow,” said Tatiana Shashavitskaya, Deputy Chairman of the Moscow Tourism Committee, “The championship dispelled stereotypes about the Russian capital. People understood that it’s safe, clean, and beautiful, and that the prices in cafes and restaurants are lower than in the West.”
During the World Cup, a lot of people from all over the planet visited the Russian capital. Tourists were surprised by their positive impression of the city, said Andrey Shemyakin, managing partner at SEA Company. Experts and major Western publications also had a lot to say. Here is the leitmotif from some American sources: “Russia is Defying Expectations” (Forbes), “World’s Greatest Places 2018) (Time). According to CNN, Moscow is undoubtedly on the list of the top ten best places to visit. It’s no wonder that, according to the numbers from the Tourism Committee, the majority of fans at the World Cup came from non-CIS countries – here, tourism flows increased by more than 50%.
Analysts from Amadeus, a leader in information technologies for tourism, managed to collect some interesting data. According to Leonid Marmer, the General Director of Amadeus Russia, most World Cup guests came from Germany. Fans from the US were in second place, and Israel ranked third. Foreign tourists stayed in the city for 12 days. In 2018, the number of flight ticket reservations to Moscow increased by 19%. The analysis of tourist flight data before and after the championship is also important. In the first 6 months of 2019, the demand for tickets was absolutely unreal – there was a growth of 280% in May. “Today, Moscow is in 19th place in terms of search engine popularity across the globe,” Leonid Marmer said, “We’re already in 7th place in Europe. The World Cup moved us up 14 spots.”
Undoubtedly, the infrastructure that was built for the championship can’t exist without hosting other athletic events,” said Sergey Anokhin, Vice President of the Russian Football Union and President of the Moscow Football Federation, “Moscow became a sport and football metropolis. The city definitely needs these kinds of major events.”
Sergey Anokhin also invited all fans to the Beach Volleyball World Championship, which Moscow will host in 2021, and said that the federation plans to set a new record – to hold football matches on all 50 fields at the Luzhniki athletic complex simultaneously.
“The World Cup is not an isolated event,” said Sergey Cheremin, Minister of the Moscow Government and Head of the Moscow Department of Foreign Economic and International Relations.
Moscow is almost constantly holding festivals and various public holidays in the city. The World Cup fit neatly into a series of other events held by the Moscow government for Muscovites and the capital’s guests. The Minister mentioned the most important ones – “Journey into Christmas,” “Festival of Fireworks,” “Flower Jam,” which was visited by over 6 million people on opening day, and the international festival “Circle of Light,” which made it into the Guiness Book of World Records.
“Moscow currently holds 240 days of events throughout the year, and 70 million people are out and about the city’s picturesque streets annually. Not every big city would be able to sustain this,” Sergey Cheremin noted.
Investments into the city’s infrastructure, especially into the “My Street” project, as well as into the hotel and transport infrastructure, helped the capital succeed.
“All of this has a huge economic effect, the turnover of the tourism industry amounts to 860-870 billion rubles, and it’s growing,” Sergey Cheremin continued.
The capital also holds a lot of events jointly with other cities, such as Italy, Israel, and Asian countries.
Tim Ettelt, Hilton Worldwide’s Area and Country Manager for Russia and the CIS, pointed to the efforts of organizers and the capital’s authorities during preparations for the World Cup, especially in terms of updating the city’s infrastructure and transportatation logistics. All of this changed foreigners’ opinions not only about Moscow, but Russia as a whole. Millions understood that Moscow is a welcoming city with friendly residents. Moscow’s image has improved so much that Hilton is starting to promote more actively Russia to its clients.
Olga Tkacheva, Deputy Director for Strategic Development and Marketing at Flotilla Radisson Royal in Moscow, talked about new developments in the city’s logistics. The successful launch of the new trams that run along the Moscow River is helping relieve traffic by providing tourists and city residents with a new and convenient form of transportation. The Flotilla also holds yacht trips on the Moscow River later in the day, including thematic dinners and literary evenings.
“Tourism is a business. A product that is put together and promoted properly will give the desired effect,” Olga Tkacheva pointed out, “It’s important for business and the authorities to have a dialog these days.”
According to Tatiana Shashavitskaya, one of the city’s key tasks is the development of hotel infrastructure. In light of this, the participants discussed a property tax for hotels. The Moscow Tourism Committee reports that over half of all hotels used the 7% subsidy – a major help to hoteliers. Tatiana Shashavitskaya assured the participants that Moscow’s government remains on the side of hoteliers and works to promote hotel development in the city in many ways.
“We decided to extend the subsidy for another five years,” she said.
The World Cup also unveiled a number of problems, such as the deficit of mid-range hotels in the capital. By the way, hostels in residential buildings will stop operating starting in October 1, 2019 – there are over 500 of them throughout the city. The city government’s task is to fill this niche with quality offers. The initiative is supported by the company Azimut, which has a plan to fill the niche with new brand hostels.
Another problem is visas. It’s important to simplify the visa restrictions – something that all round table participants agreed on. As the World Cup has shown, foreign guests liked the FanID system, as it significantly reduced barriers to entering the country. Simplifying the visa policy will help boost tourist volumes by about 40% in the future.
Yes, the World Cup dispelled a lot of myths about Moscow and Russia, but the question of how to maintain this positive trend among foreigners remains. Andrey Shemyakin pointed to the importance of professional press tours and conferences: “We need to work with international journalists to cover key events in the city, as well as to use all modern tools to promote Moscow to the public.”
Sergey Nalobin, Deputy Director of the Information and Press Department of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, shared his positive experience with promoting Russia on social media. In 2018, the ministry did a lot of work to inform the citizens of foreign countries about changes in Russia and Moscow. To combat anti-Russian propaganda, for example, the ministry created a special “Fake News” section on its website – a project that yielded great results.
The meeting also touched on issues of guide education in Moscow.
“There is no question that the tourism sector is growing. Guides should change along with it. The key task and duty of a modern guide is to convey the heritage and values of Russia and Moscow to tourists, as well as to introduce them to new developments,” said Marina Kressova, Vice President of the Russian Association Of Tourist Guides And Tour Managers, “Today’s guide must not only accompany tourists to the Kremlin, but also take them to other interesting places in the capital, showing them famous streets and allowing them to not only get to know more about the city’s history, but to also get acquainted with the present.”
Marina Kressova pointed to an important trend that continued after the World Cup. The championship showed Moscow in a new light, and the city now has a new tour that’s gaining popularity: “Moscow – the capital of international football.” The epic tour covers sports in the capital, explaining why football is very much a Russian phenomenon, what happened on the streets and inside stadiums during the championship, and what’s happening today.
Sergo Kukhianidze, Editor-in-Chief of Capital Ideas, said the following during his speech: “When we created the publication six years ago, we wanted to help foreigners understand what modern-day Moscow is all about. The World Cup definitely helped in this regard. Because for the majority of people abroad, our city, just like Russia, is terra incognitа – a blank space on the world map.”
“Moscow is not a blank space, but a space that’s been painted it over with black paint, and we now have to wash it off,” Sergey Cheremin said during his closing remarks. He stressed that the Moscow authorities will continue to do everything in their power to turn the city into a comfortable place to live.