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Kremlin Leans On Business to Rescue Crimea Tourism

Published: June 17, 2014 (Issue # 1815)



  • Crimea's landscapes may be breathtaking, but its infrastructure has largely remained unchanged since the fall of the Soviet Union, making it a destination for travelers with very basic needs.
    Photo: Wikimedia Commons

When Russia annexed the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea earlier this year, it regained not only harbors for its navy and abandoned Ukrainian military bases but also long stretches of pebble beaches that were the summer destination of choice for millions of Soviet citizens. This summer, however, tourists need a push to go and some help in getting there.

For years, two-thirds of the 6 million tourists traveling to Crimea each summer came from Ukraine. But many Ukrainians are still bitter over Russia's seizure of the peninsula as well as over local residents' submission to Russian rule; as a result, few are planning to vacation there this year.

But Russians are not rushing to go to the newest part of their country either. Some may prefer more luxurious destinations or be deterred by the difficulties of getting to Crimea, with land routes across southeastern Ukraine effectively blocked because of fighting between government troops and pro-Russian separatists.

With Crimea's beaches eerily empty at the start of the summer season and the livelihood of many under threat, the Kremlin has come up with an ingenious way to attract tourists to the peninsula: It has asked state-controlled companies to get their employees to go there on vacation by paying for all or part of their trips.

In the Soviet era, many state enterprises provided a summer vacation, known as a putyovka, for their employees. Organized by trade unions, these were either free or heavily subsidized. They were more readily available for industrial workers, particularly those who worked in harsh conditions and climates. Major enterprises owned sanitariums, leaving a legacy of magnificent "palaces for the workers" in seaside resorts across the former Soviet Union.

Some companies have kept sanitariums on the Russian Black Sea coast and still provide free summer vacations for some employees. Others sold theirs long ago but still subsidize their employees' summer travel.

Rostourism, the federal tourism agency, sent out letters last week to the country's biggest state-controlled corporations with a "suggestion" to buy package tours to Crimea for tens of thousands of employees.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

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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