Why Moscow is great for tourists
As Russia’s capital and biggest hotel and tourist service market, Moscow has a unique cultural and historical heritage. It plays a leading political and economic role in today’s Russia, and therefore has every right to claim the title of a major hospitality center that can successfully compete with the capitals of Western Europe on the global market.
Tourism plays an important role in the global economy. The UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) recorded a total of 1.54 billion international tourist arrivals in 2018 – a 6% increase from the year before. By 2030, this figure is expected to reach 1.8 billion people. Obviously, this global trend also applies to Moscow, which is ready for an increase in tourist flows, has the infrastructure to support it, and considers tourism development one of its key objectives.
“Today, the tourism industry makes a big contribution to the city’s economy and budget. The city’s tax profits from tourism amount to about 120 million rubles. This figure is comparable to the money spent on the implementation of the renovation program or the roads and metro construction expenses in Moscow. So this is a serious income. I am confident that it will grow every year because we’re making improvements to the city, focusing on event tourism, holding festivals, fairs, and landmark events that, first and foremost, Muscovites need. But as a positive cumulative effect, this of course also interests the capital’s guests,” Moscow’s Mayor Sergey Sobyanin said.
According to him, the number of tourists in the capital will continue to grow.
This will lead to the development of the economy, of small and medium-sized business, and will end up positively impacting incomes and the city’s qualitative development.
Moscow has become appealing to tourists in just a few years. In order to accomplish this, the city worked on creating a quality city environment (improvements to streets and parks), improving public transportation, and developing the hospitality industry – opening new hotels for all price ranges, constantly holding cultural, athletic, and other events, and improving security.
“A comfortable environment and conditions for living, working, exercise, and spending time with friends and family is a priority principle guiding the city’s development. By improving the city for ourselves as its residents, we have also made it appealing and welcoming to tourists,” said Natalya Sergunina, Deputy Mayor and Head of the Mayor and Government Executive Office.
According to her, a comfortable environment is having access to all goods and services within walking distance, comfortable transportation and an infrastructure than supports it, modern public spaces and pedestrian areas, digital city services, free Wi-Fi, intelligent security systems, leisure programs for any taste, and new attractions.
Moscow is in the top 20 most-visited cities in Europe, and inbound tourist flows have nearly doubled over the past eight years. In the next six years, the capital should make it into the top ten. Moscow has all the necessary ingredients to make this happen: a developed infrastructure, quality hotel service, and an extensive public transportation network.
The international travel metasearch engine’s experts conducted a study. They researched user hotel searches, and then determined the most popular holiday destinations for tourists. Moscow placed seventh among all European capitals in terms of availability of top-quality hotels, and is in twentieth place among all cities in the world.
The average price for a room in a Moscow hotel is five thousand rubles a day – that’s eight times less expensive than in Monaco, and almost half the price of a hotel in Amsterdam, Paris, and London. According to the metasearch engine experts, you can get a room at a five-star hotel in Moscow for 9,250 rubles on average. Rooms of this caliber go for 20-24,000 rubles a night in Oslo, Coppenhagen, Paris, and Bern.
The number of tourists who come to the capital grows every year. In 2019, over 23.5 million people visited Moscow. 18 million of them were Russian citizens, while the other 5.5 million were foreigners. The most guests came from China – 803,600 people. Germany was in second place with 321,900 guests, France placed second with 149,300 tourists, and Israel came in fourth with 144,300 people. In fifth place is the US, with 137,800 visitors. In the last year, tourists from countries that used to be poorly represented on the Russian market started traveling to the capital – Indonesia, Vietnam, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Arab Emirates.
According to a sociological survey conducted by the Moscow Tourism Committee over the first six months of 2019, people under 34 are most likely to visit the capital: 77.5% of guests from other Russian regions are millennials (people who were born after 1981). 33.3% of visitors are young people between the ages of 18 and 24. Men account for 53.2% of all Russian tourists. Most tourists from foreign countries are also young people under 34 (63.6%). 28% of them are tourists between the ages of 18 and 24. About 19.9% of foreign tourists are guests between the ages of 35 and 44. Men account for 57.2% of all foreign tourists.
According to the international consulting company Deloitte, millennials were the most active visitors in 2019. Travel and the opportunity to see the world are key values for them, so they spend money on experiences, not things. They are drawn to the many festivals and athletic events, as well as the cultural life in the capital. Since transport infrastructure is developing and new services are being introduced for tourists, this makes the Russian capital even more appealing as a travel destination.
Aside from events, Moscow attracts young people with its affordable prices for accommodations and entertainment. According to analysts, average expenses for a trip to Moscow amount to about 49,000 rubles for foreigners, 35,000 rubles for tourists from CIS countries, and 23,000 for Russian visitors.
Almost every tourist who comes to Moscow goes to the Red Square. Other top attractions include Sparrow Hills, Ostankino Tower, Tretyakov Gallery, the Moscow metro, and Arbat.
In 2012, Arbat used to be the capital’s only pedestrian street. Now, the city has 350. The total length of pedestrian streets has increased fivefold since 2011. Moscow ranks seventh in the world in terms of this parameter, and second in terms of the share of park areas. It’s no wonder tourists prefer to explore the city on foot. They’re drawn to the renovated VDNKh pavilions, the city’s many squares and embankments.
The city’s environment has not only become more comfortable, but also more appealing – the banners have disappeared from building facades, and the huge media screens have been removed from the roofs of historical buildings.
In the increasingly fast-paced modern world, the preferences of people who use hospitality services have changed considerably and continue to change today.
People no longer want to simply have a roof over their heads and be comfortable – they want excitement and new experiences, which enhance their perception of beauty and understanding of history, make them feel like they’re a part of a specific community, etc. This is why new strategies and business models are emerging in the hospitality industry for the development and promotion of hotel brands that correspond to the preferences and interests of loyal consumers and attract new segments of the hotel services market.
In terms of the hotel industry, Moscow is one of the most developed cities in both Russia and the world.
“The number of tourists who come to Moscow increases every year, and 23.5 million people visited our city in 2018. There is also tour traffic— people who come to Moscow, but don’t spend the night. These types of tourists amounted to about 56 million people. This is a colossal number. The tourism industry is becoming more important for the city’s economy every year. And of course it’s impossible to imagine it without the development of hotel services. Over the past few years, over 50 quality hotels have been built in Moscow,” said the Mayor of Moscow Sergey Sobyanin.
There are a total of 1,718 hotels, hostels, and furnished rooms in Moscow that have undergone qualification assessments and have received the corresponding classification. 41 establishments received five stars, 132 were ranked as four-star hotels, 331 got three stars, 152 ended up with two stars, and 86 received one star. There are 976 establishments with no stars. Moscow’s total number of hotel rooms amounts to 82,900, and they can accommodate 233,000 people (data from September 2019). From 2011 to 2019, buildings for 55 new hotels with a total of 10,570 rooms have been constructed and renovated.
44 hotels with a total of 13,000 rooms operate in Moscow under famous brand names like Four Seasons, Hilton Hotels & Resorts, Holiday Inn, InterContinental, Kempinski Hotels & Resorts, Marriott Hotels & Resorts, Radisson, Ritz Carlton, and Swissotel. Still, the majority of accommodations are hostels and affordable two- and three-star hotels.
On Europe’s 3-star Traveller Index 2018, Moscow ranks 21st among 56 European cities (lower rankings indicate lower costs for accommodations). Because the prices are affordable, the number of guests staying in hotels has increased over the past few years, from 4.2 million to 14 million.
“Over the past few years, Moscow has created a powerful infrastructure for developing tourism. One of its key elements is the hotel industry, which encompasses around 1,700 hotels and similar tourist accommodations establishments. The growing competition for tourists, over 12 million of whom stayed in Moscow’s hotels in 2018, gives hotels the opportunity to set affordable prices and boost Moscow’s tourism appeal. According to last year’s results, annual tourism consumption (that is, tourist expenses in the capital) reached a record high and amounted to 864 billion rubles. Tourism’s contribution to the budget has nearly quadruples from 31 to 118 billion rubles. In 2018, the hotel industry contributed almost 5 billion rubles in taxes to the Moscow budget” – said Deputy Mayor for Economic Policy and Property and Land Relations Vladimir Yefimov.
The number of hotels in Moscow grows every year. Moreover, hotels are offering new services that make tourist stays as comfortable as possible. For example, special quality standards are being implemented, along with the programs China Friendly, Judaism Friendly, India Friendly, Japan Friendly. The goal of these programs is to attract tourists from these countries by creating comfortable living conditions that take their traditions and mentality into account. The Halal Friendly program has been created for tourists for Muslim countries such as Iran, Malaysia and Oceania, and Southeast Asian and Middle Eastern countries. Aside from special cuisine, the program includes accommodations like Arabic menus in restaurants.
“Moscow’s hotels were at an average of 77% capacity in 2018 – a figure that keeps growing and is on par with the most-visited tourist centers in the world. During the World Cup, hotels were at over 90% capacity for the first time in several years. The same figure was posted during the winter holidays in 2018-2019, and four- and five-star hotels were at 95% capacity. During the May holidays in 2019, 80% of hotel rooms were booked. We’re interested in the balanced development of the city’s hotels, and therefore are monitoring the industry on a regular basis in order to obtain information about how full Moscow’s hotels are,” said Deputy Chairman of the Moscow Committee for Tourism Tatyana Sharshavitskaya.
Because prices are affordable, the number of people staying in hotels has grown from 4.2 million to 14 million over the past few years.
“Considering the potential for tourist volume growth and the increase in hotel occupancy rates, the Government of Moscow is stimulating investment into the development of the city’s hotel network. For example, there are property tax breaks for organizations that reduce the total payable amount to almost a third. Hotel profits have grown by 65% or 36 billion rubles since 2014, reaching 91 billion rubles in 2018,” added Minister of the Moscow Government, Head of the Department of Economic Policy and Urban Development Denis Tikhonov.
One of the drivers of tourism development in the capital is event tourism, which has grown over the past few years. Street festivals and shows have already become the capital’s calling card. Right now, the “Moscow Seasons” festivals, which are held with support from the Moscow government and the Mayor of Moscow Sergey Sobyanin, are very popular among tourists. These festivals have been visited by 65.8 million people since the beginning of 2019.
Foreign guests called “Journey to Christmas” the “best winter festival of 2019.” ALO Magazine listed it as their editor’s top choice. The festival, which takes place from December 1 to January 13, managed to convey the atmosphere of Christmas and the New Year. It hosts performances by musicians and plays from the best theatres. Guests can go sledding or ride the carousel, as well as take part in workshops and tours that are available in both English and Chinese. 8.3 million people visited “Journey to Christmas” over the course of two weeks.
In 2018, Moscow won the World Festival and Event City Award as one of the best cities for holding mass festivals and events. 30 festivals have been held in the capital since 2012.
Moreover, in 2018 Moscow was listed by The Daily Telegraph as one of the top-10 cities with the best Christmas markets. According to urbanists, no other capital in the world has so many holiday events and decorations. The city’s festival platforms feature plays by the best theatres and music concerts. There are also workshops and tours for Russian and foreign guests alike.
Two years ago, the international UITP Summit in Montreal recognized Moscow as the leading city in terms of comprehensive transportation system development. Moscow has a single navigation system that covers all types of city transport. It enables residents and guests to figure out where they currently are, select the best route, and plan transfers.
Tourists can arrive in Moscow via four international airports (Domodedovo, Sheremetyevo, Vnukovo, and Zhukovskiy), as well as 9 railways stations that are located practically in the city center. And this system is constantly developing.
Guests can also take taxis to the center. Their number has grown six times since 2010, and currently totals almost 50,000 cars. Meanwhile, wait times for cabs have been reduced to just 5-7 minutes. Over the past eight years, the industry has become more competitive, which has lowered ride prices.
If you arrive in Moscow during rush hour, there is the option to take the Aeroexpress train into the center from any airport. The terminals are located on the ring line of the metro.
It has also become more convenient to get around the city. The capital has over 250 metro stations and over 30 transport interchange hubs. In the nearest future, the capital plans to open two Moscow central diameter lines that will connect the capital with the city’s suburbs. People will be able to use the same Troika card that covers all forms of public transportation.
Gastronomic tourism is one of the fastest growing areas of the tourism industry. There are currently over 13,000 cafes and restaurants operating in Moscow, which can accommodate 565,000 people. In the past 10 years, the number of cafes and restaurants in the capital has nearly doubled (there were only 5,900 in 2009). The number of seasonal cafes, which have become an integral part of the capital in the spring and summer, has grown almost 2.5 times with support from the Moscow government and street improvement projects. There are 3,100 of them operating now, as opposed to 1,300 in 2011.
The city has developed culinary quarters – public spaces with a lot of cafes and restaurants at Kamergersky Lane, Pyatnitskaya Street, Kuznetskiy Most, Sretenka, and Bolshaya Dmitrovka.
Muscovites and tourists also enjoy modern culinary clusters and markets, including the Depo Food Mall, Danilovsky and Usachevsky Markets, as well as central markets. There are a total of 30 spaces like this, where visitors can try all the top culinary hits and the latest trends.
Gastronomic festivals are held every year as well. Many restaurants in Moscow also have representation abroad – in New York, London, Paris, Dubai, Baku, and other big cities. Two of the city’s restaurants are listed on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants in 2019 – Twins Garden (a flagship project from the Berezutski brothers) is in 19th place, while White Rabbit (chef: Vladimir Mukhin) is ranked 13th. The prestigious White Rabbit has made the list a total of 5 times, and was ranked 15th in 2018 – the best result for any Russian restaurant in the rating’s history. In 2019, the legendary White Rabbit outdid its own record.
Safety in the city
According to the research service Numbeo, Moscow ranks higher in terms of safety than cities like New York, Paris, London, Rome, and Barcelona. And according to the The Economist Intelligence Unit and The Economist, the Russian capital is on the Safe Cities Index in 2019.
Security is a priority for Moscow. A tourist police unit has been operating in the city since June 1, 2014. Tourist police patrol pedestrian areas in the center, along with the main tourist routes.
During the World Cup in 2018, tourist police maintained order and helped visitors find their way around the capital. Many foreigners are still impressed that, along with Russian, the officers speak English, German, and Chinese.
Navigation and convenient services
Moscow offers the full range of services that make tourist stays in the city as comfortable as possible. Over the past few years, the capital has started to develop special quality standards and programs for tourists from China, Japan, India, Israel, and other countries. Some Russian cities have introduced the Tax Free system, which foreigners can use to get VAT refunds on store purchases.
There is a convenient navigation system as well: Russian signs in the metro, airports, railways stations, and even some parks are translated into both English and Chinese.
There are new maps in Russian, English, and Chinese to help guests get around the city. Visitors can pick them up for free in hotels, museums, and parks.
In 2019, the short-code number 122 was introduced for tourists, which they can use to contact a 24/7 call center with any questions they may have. The number +7 (495) 122-01-11 is available for both Russian and international mobile and landline phones. Operators answer calls round the clock in Russian and English.
“One of the most popular types of phone calls were about navigating the city, obtaining information about museums and events in the city, as well as clarifying questions about migration policies and transportation,” the press service at the Moscow City Tourism Committee reported.
Three new travel guides have been developed for tourists – in Russian, English, and Chinese. They cover all of the key attractions in Moscow, cultural events, and places for leisure with the whole family.
“We continue to develop services for our city’s guests – accessible and relevant services for different categories of travelers. The new free travel guides contain all the information tourists need to create their own routes, whether they want to see the main attractions, relax with their families, or visit events and festivals. We are confident that these developments will make spending time in the capital even more special and interesting,” said Yekaterina Pronicheva, Chair of the Moscow City Tourism Committee.
There are also travel guides at Zaryadye Park, VDNKh, the Moskvarium Center of Oceanography and Marine Biology, the Panorama 360 observation platform, GUM, the Museum of Moscow, the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center, the Moscow cableway ticket stands, and other tourist facilities, as well as in some of the capital’s hotels.
The “Moscow: What to See” travel guide features popular city museums, monuments, parks, observation platforms, and art spaces. The capital’s guests can look at the map of the city’s historical center with the most interesting places to visit. The “Moscow With Children” brochure features interesting theatres with programs for kids, museums, and educational spaces for children. It has selections of cafes and restaurants with children’s menus, as well as athletic venues that you can bring the whole family to. There is a separate section about the Moscow zoo in the travel guide.
The “Moscow. Events and Culture” guide includes all of the most important annual festivals, exhibitions, and other cultural, athletic, and culinary events. It also has more information about the “Moscow Seasons” festivals. Moreover, all of the brochures contain emergency phone numbers and helpful information: how to get to the airport, use the city’s bike rental or car sharing service, or go on a river tour.
The guides are sorted into different colors. “Moscow: What to See” is red, “Moscow With Children” is light green, and “Moscow. Events and Culture” is blue.
The travel guides are also accessible online, and can be downloaded at the Tourism Committee’s website: https://www.mos.ru/tourism/documents/putevoditeli-i-karty-dlya-skachivaniya/.
Advice & How To’s (money, accommodation, telecom, outpatients clinics, Moscow public transport): https://www.mos.ru/en/services/advisor/cat/
Russpass: new digital platform for tourists
Russpass, the new digital platform for tourists, helps visitors set up unique adventures around the capital and make exploring the city convenient by bringing together city services and cultural attractions. A test version of the platform will be launched in the first quarter of 2020. Tourists will be able to use the platform to book hotels and airline tickets in the summer of 2020. Visa application services will also be available after the visa process is simplified and accessible in electronic form.
“To ensure that tourists feel more comfortable in Moscow, we are launching a specialized digital platform to provide various services for tourists, including building transportation and logistics routes, booking hotels, and so on. In the future, this platform will continue developing and people will be able to use it to apply for e-visas. This will further stimulate tourist flows,” said Mayor of Moscow Sergey Sobyanin.
The platform includes a website and a mobile app, which will both be available in six languages. Tourists will be able to use Russpass to buy airline tickets, book a hotel, apply for visas online, and plan their trip, including visits to cultural events. The tourist package will include a transportation card, and there will be a 24/7 support service available.
After arriving in Russia, tourists will be able to pick up an envelope with a Russpass, transportation card, a map of the city, and an information booklet at the airport and partner points.
When planning their time in Moscow, they will be able to get a pre-planned tourist package or put together their own route with a trip designer kit.
The pre-planned package will give guests free access to all museums in Moscow and a set of services that will make their stay in the capital a truly unique experience.
The trip designer kit is a tool for creating a personal daily plan that includes a package of basic services and access to a marketplace where the tourist can choose from different options. Personal routes and e-tickets will be saved in their Russpass dashboard, and nothing will have to be printed out.
If a tourist wants to go elsewhere in Russia, they will be able to use Russpass to plan a trip to Saint Petersburg or the Far East.
The Russpass platform will become a helpful service not only for the city’s guests, but also for Muscovites. It can be used as a source of information about events happening in the capital, and the option to purchase e-tickets will keep people from wasting time in lines.
Information from the official portal of the Moscow Mayor and Moscow Government mos.ru
A new tourism image program called “Ambassadors of Moscow” has been launched in the capital, which will help the city hold major tourist events. The project will facilitate the unlocking and realization of the capital’s potential in the sphere of tourism. Moscow’s first ambassador is Vyacheslav Fetisov – two-time Olympic champion, seven-time world champion, three-time winner of the Stanley Cup, and UNWTO tourism ambassador.
“The practice of engaging ambassadors is widespread throughout the world. It is used to promote the tourism potential of many cities. Just like us, our potential tourists – residents of different countries – trust people above anything else. They respect and value the people they know. Today, we are happy to announce the launch of the Moscow Ambassadors program. The goal of the program is to increase the capital’s attractiveness and strengthen its position as an international tourist center,” said Natalya Sergunina, Deputy Mayor and Head of the Mayor and Government Executive Office.
According to her, famous artists, entrepreneurs, doctors, and researchers who love Moscow and are known and respected all over the world will become the city’s ambassadors. They will talk about the Russian capital’s hospitality, its welcoming residents, and the capital’s attractions and potential.
“Big cities bring together the human, economic, and intellectual resources of our planet. Cities are becoming the foundation of our world’s stability. Establishing a dialogue and cooperation between cities, countries, people, and continents is becoming increasingly more important. As a native Muscovite, it is a great honor for me to represent my favorite city, a hero-city, all over the world,” said Moscow’s first ambassador Vyacheslav Fetisov.