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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

Friday, Oct. 31


Put your grammar and logical thinking to the test in a fun and friendly environment during the British Book Center’s Board Game Evening starting at 5 p.m. today. The event is free and all are welcome to attend.



Saturday, Nov. 1


The men and women who dedicate their lives to fitness get their chance to compete for the title of best body in Russia at today’s Grand Prix Fitness House PRO, the nation’s premier bodybuilding competition. Not only will men and women be competing for thousands of dollars in prizes and a trip to represent their nation at Mr. Olympia but sporting goods and nutritional supplements will also be available for sale. Learn more about the culture of the Indian subcontinent during Diwali, the annual festival of lights that will be celebrated in St. Petersburg this weekend at the Culture Palace on Tambovskaya Ul. For 100 rubles ($2.40), festival-goers listen to Indian music, try on traditional Indian outfits and sample dishes highlighting the culinary diversity of the billion-plus people in the South Asian superpower.



Sunday, Nov. 2


Check out the latest video and interactive games at the Gaming Festival at the Mayakovsky Library ending today. Meet with the developers of the popular and learn more about their work, or learn how to play one of their creations with the opportunity to ask the creators themselves about the exact rules.



Monday, Nov. 3


Non-athletes can get feed their need for competition without breaking a sweat at the Rock-Paper-Scissors tournament this evening at the Cube Bar at Lomonosova 1. Referees will judge the validity of each matchup award points to winners while the city’s elite fight for the chance to be called the best of the best. Those hoping to play must arrange a team beforehand and pay 200 rubles ($4.80) to enter.



Tuesday, Nov. 4


Attend the premiere of Canadian director Xavier Dolan’s latest film “Mommy” at the Avrora theater this evening. The fifth picture from the 25-year-old, it is the story of an unruly teenager but the most alluring (or unappealing) aspect is the way the film was shot: in a 1:1 format that is more reminiscent of Instagram videos than cinematic art. Tickets cost 400 rubles ($9.60) and snacks and drinks will be available.



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