Against the backdrop of difficulties in tourism, the most affected, as it turned out, they became tour operators for inbound tourism. Yury Tsurkan, Chairman of the Council of the Association for the Promotion of Russian-Chinese Tourism (ASRKT), tells in an interview with the TURPROM infogroup about why this happened and how the state can help preserve this industry.
“The exhibitions held in Moscow, where tour operators hoped to hear about plans for the industry to get out of the current critical situation, did not add optimism. General opinion: “the patient is more alive than dead, but not for long.” Optimists say the industry is dying fast, pessimists say it's slowly stagnating. It is well known that tourism is a business, first of all, of optimists and enthusiasts. But now the enthusiasm is no longer visible.
And yet, how did we come to such a life? Of course, the industry has been crippled by the pandemic and the numerous restrictions associated with it. But is the pandemic solely to blame? Some say that the industry is abandoned, nobody needs anything. Is it so? The inexorable logic of the fight against coronavirus dictates the need to reduce contacts and movement of people. But a significant part of our fellow citizens have already developed a stable way of spending time during the vacation period, and the majority is not going to give it up while sitting locked up. If the Russians have reduced opportunities to travel abroad, it does not matter to them, “… my native country is wide”, you can relax at home! And now we are indeed witnessing the “finest hour” of domestic tourism, which, by all accounts, is breaking records. Now hotels can breathe easy, as the holiday season is just around the corner, and it can already be said with confidence that with the “cashback” start and zero VAT, they are guaranteed to work with a profit, … unless, of course, they set exorbitant prices. In this case, the state, through management tools, indirectly supports a separate direction in the industry. You will say, these are hotels, they have a lot of money behind them, they have a powerful and influential “redneck”, so they have won preferences for themselves. Yes, it’s true, and it’s also true that the results of the cashback program seem very controversial, and the prospects for breaking the value chain, when hotels have zeroed VAT, but tour operators do not, threaten to turn into another blow for them, but this is not about that .
Experts agree that this year foreigners will not come to us and, as they say, our tour operators will again be the most affected. Not all, but very many. For example, companies that send our tourists abroad have a lot of problems with canceling and rescheduling flights and bookings, but they say that they at least have a certain perspective, because the demand among Russians for foreign trips is practically not falling, no matter what.
But – tour operators specializing in the reception of foreigners, have been sitting without work for two and a half years already. From the word “absolutely”! During the period of forced downtime, many enterprises have already closed, and those that have not yet closed are already, as they say, on the brink. All stocks and reserves have long been exhausted. Employees are mostly on unpaid leave or have already retrained and moved to other areas of activity not related to tourism. It is very difficult to say what the scale of this disaster is. There are no statistics on this issue, either by industry or by region. Officials, apparently, are not up to it. The register of tour operators in this case is not an indicator, it only records the presence of financial guarantees. It would seem, what is the question, what is it, well, there is no foreign tourist, because it's okay, there is ours, domestic. Common sense suggests that if there is a demand, then there will certainly be a supply, and it would seem that there are no problems for the industry to change from inbound to domestic tourism. But it was not there. Practice has shown that in 2 years only a few succeeded. The problem of the inbound, receiving segment is that it is not possible for tour operators to quickly reorganize, because Domestic and inbound tourism, with all the external similarity, are, in fact, completely different directions. The key issue here is the customer base. High-quality service for the flow of already formed groups of foreigners is one type of activity, while the consolidation and formation of tour groups is a completely different one. Therefore, the vast majority of host tour operators have not yet managed to rebuild, and according to industry participants, they will not succeed in the short term.
What does this threaten us with? The answer is obvious – if everything remains as it is, then in the short term the segment of receiving foreign tourists will completely leave the market. Tour operators and guides translators. And this, by the way, is the unique work experience of thousands of specialists, accumulated over decades of unceasing work, these are creative developments and unique programs, these are domestic language schools for guide-translators, on which, without exaggeration, this whole direction in the industry is based. We can say that the elite of our tourism is leaving.
What awaits us with the departure of the host tour operators – everything is simple, to paraphrase the apt statement, “those who do not want to feed their tour operators and guides will feed strangers”, as we already had and not so long ago. In short, we are waiting for “shadow tourism 2.0”, with the only difference being that this time there will be no one to even protest against the dominance of foreigners who form our “parallel shadow tourism industry”. Then one should not be surprised why in reporting on income to the budget from tourism we will have only zeros.
Consider our troubled time does not seem appropriate.
How can a temporary relief or reduction in taxation help tour operators and tourism industry enterprises when they have no client turnover at all? The answer is no. Let's be realistic, indirect support measures, by analogy with hotels, for inbound tourism tour operators, will not work in the absence of customers.
Experts agree that in this case we have only hope for the state. It is it that stimulates the creation of jobs that provide employment, maintains order in the industry through the regulatory system, and collects taxes. And, in the end, it is it that has the means. Accordingly, the state, after entrepreneurs, should be the first to be interested in preserving the host segment of the tourism industry, as a manufacturer of a complex, highly intelligent intangible product, which, without a doubt, is one of the main tools for preserving and spreading our cultural identity, the keepers of our cultural code. It is the host segment of the tour industry that has unique programs adapted to the particular perception of certain foreign guests. It is he who forms among foreigners a true perception of our historical and cultural values, a positive opinion and an unforgettable impression of our Great country and our Great people, what foreign guests will take with them and tell at home.
As a proposal for a way out of this situation, we would like to draw the attention of the authorities to the need to provide emergency direct targeted support to the affected tour operators. In what form it will be, in the form of a subsidy, subsidy or grant, this does not seem to be so important. The criterion for determining the provision of assistance may be the presence of an inbound tourism tour operator in the federal register for at least 5 years and the absence of income, or negligible income from activities over the past 2 years. The amount of assistance provided should be determined in each subject separately.
The imperfection of the legislative base has led to the fact that neither the federal nor the local authorities bear any responsibility for the training of guide-interpreters. At the same time, laid down in the law, obviously in the interests of the shadow business, a time bomb under the conditional name “self-regulation” played a disastrous role. The law does not provide for any other mechanism for regulating the personnel issue. It turns out that during the crisis period, people who want to be trained and certified as guide-interpreters simply will not have the funds for this. For this reason, the issues of training retraining and advanced training of personnel should be taken over by the state. And the local authorities should, in cooperation with the tour operator community, determine the need for personnel based on the specific situation.
Well, if you leave everything as it is, then you don’t have to wonder why we, at home, will have rules set by foreigners. Do we need this?”, the interlocutor concluded.
For those who value a healthy lifestyle, we recommend reading: “The Russians were told who should not eat rolls.”
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