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Sochi Risks Fumbling its Olympic Tourism Opportunity

Published: October 28, 2013 (Issue # 1783)



  • Sochi visitors are not expected to have any trouble finding a hotel room after the Olympic Games end.
    Photo: Courtesy of Rezidor Hotel Group

YAROSLAVL — With 100 days left until the Winter Olympic Games, tourism industry insiders fear that the country has missed its opportunity to capitalize on the event and promote the host city to domestic and international tourists.

Long a coveted holiday destination, Sochi has lost its prestige in the post-Soviet period as more Russians choose to travel abroad for the same amount of money. In this context, the Winter Olympics seemed to be the event that could erase the Soviet-era stereotypes and transform the resort town into a desirable playground for foreigners.

But speaking on the sidelines of the annual Visit Russia Forum, which took place from Oct. 24 to 25 in Yaroslavl, 150 kilometers northeast of Moscow, marketing and brand managers said Sochi has not been able to reverse its image ahead of the biggest tourism event in modern Russian history.

The government "is planning to use this opportunity only after people come to Sochi," said Miroslav Roncak, regional director for Eastern Europe at FVW Mediengruppe, which studies travel patterns among German tourists. "Athletes and fans will come to Sochi. The idea is that they will see what is there and tell others about it. But I have not seen any targeted promotion of the city."

Sochi's tourist numbers have declined or stagnated in recent years, in part due to extensive Olympics-related construction and traffic jams. The city hosted 900,000 tourists in the year to mid-July, according to the local administration. By comparison, 1.3 million tourists visited the city over the same period in 2012.

But while Russians can place Sochi on the map and, subsequently, consider going there, the lack of targeted marketing efforts has prevented the city from becoming a recognized destination for foreign travelers.

"The only thing people know about Sochi is that it will host the Olympics, but there are a lot of platforms that could have been used to say something else about it," Vasily Dubeikovsky, head of CityBranding agency said. "The games will pass and that is it. What next? Will we all go to Sochi because the Olympics have taken place there?"

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Saturday, Oct. 25


AVA Expo, the eighth edition of the event revolving around all things pop, returns to Lenexpo this weekend. Geeks, nerds, dweebs and dorks will have their chance to talk science fiction and explore a variety of international pop culture. Tickets for the event can be purchased on their website at avaexpo.ru.



Sunday, Oct. 26


Zenit St. Petersburg returns home for the first time in nearly a month as they host Mordovia Saransk in a Russian Premier League game. Currently at the top of the league thanks to their undefeated start to the season, the northern club hopes to extend the gap between them and second-place CSKA Moscow and win the title for the first time in three years. Tickets are available at the stadium box office or on the club’s website.



Monday, Oct. 27


Today marks the end of the art exhibit “Neophobia” at the Erarta Museum. Artists Alexey Semichov and Andrei Kuzmin took a neo-modernist approach to represent the array of fears that are ever-present throughout our lives. Tickets are 200 rubles ($4.90).



Tuesday, Oct. 28


The Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel plays host to SPIBA’s Marketing and Communications Committee’s round table discussion on “Government Relations Practices in Russia” this morning. The discussion starts at 9:30 a.m. and participation must be confirmed by Oct. 24.



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