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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

Thursday, Aug. 21


Time is running out to see the fantastic creations on display at the 2014 Sand Castle Festival on the beach at the Peter and Paul Fortress. Adhering to the theme of Treasure Island, visitors can wander amongst larger-than-life interpretations of pirate life or attend one of the workshops held to educate a future generation of sand artists. The castles will remain on the beach until Aug. 31.



Friday, Aug. 22


Get ready to pledge allegiance to the flag during National Flag Day, paying tribute to when, 23 years ago today, the iconic hammer-and-sickle was replaced with the tricolor that now flutters in the wind. Petersburgers will be treated to a free concert on Palace Square, a military parade and a culminating air show featuring Russias Russian Knights stunt pilots.



Saturday, Aug. 23


Uppsala Park plays host to Fairy Noon today, a performance of five separate fairy tales ranging from folk classics to more haunting selections. There will be three different renditions of the tales throughout the day and tickets start at 500 rubles ($13.80) for adults and 300 rubles ($8.30) for children.


Classic Finnish cartoon characters the Moomins expect to receive a warm welcome from Russian fans during todays Moomin Festival at the Pearl Plaza Shopping Center at 51 Petergofskoye Shosse. Become a kid again or introduce a new generation to the beloved creation of Finnish writer Tove Jansson.



Sunday, Aug. 24


The tortured genius of Dutch master Vincent van Gogh gets his day in the centers Konnushnaya Ploschad during Make Art Like Van Gogh, a daylong celebration of the artist that will allow amateur artists to try and replicate the work that made the famed painter world-renowned.


Experience a variety of dances highlighting the diversity of the world around as at the final day of the Ethno-Dance International Dance Festival that has been at the St. Petersburg Humanitarian University of Trade Unions this past week. Tonights performance will feature Egyptian dancers accompanied by local orchestras.



Monday, Aug. 25


Today kicks off the Elena Obraztsovoy International Competition for Young Vocalists in the large hall of the Shostakovich Philharmonic. Talented youngsters will showcase their range over the next six days before a winner is chosen on Aug. 30.



Tuesday, Aug. 26


Love movies but hate all those words? Then check out Rodina Cinema Centers Factor of Consensus film forum this evening. Silent movie classics from the beginning of the 20th century will be screened and accompanied by a pianist, who will provide the soundtrack for the ongoing action. The screenings begin at 7 p.m. Check Rodinas website for more details.



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