Recently appointed as Russia’s Head of the Federal Agency for Tourism, Zarina Doguzova is a dab hand at handling top international events. Instrumental in making the Winter Olympics and last year the FIFA Cup, grand successes, Doguzova is now keen to strengthen Russia’s tourism ties with India and the world, a sector she identifies as a far greater force than generally viewed for its socio-economic contribution. Tourism’s curative power and humanitarian potential, she says, have largely been ignored.
Let me begin by saying that tourism is a far greater force than just for its absolutely incredible contribution to the socio-economic growth of a destination or a country. Tourism’s curative powers in terms of uniting peoples, nations and countries and unifying the whole world as an inter-dependent of society of people across different caste, creed, colour or nationalities have largely been ignored. Tourism is also about peace and love.
As Russian Tourism, we believe tourism should not only be about economy but also about culture, about uniting people, about making them known each other’s culture better. I see great humanitarian potential in tourism for the contemporary world. So as the new head of Russian tourism agency, I would love to have lots and lots of people from all over the world to come to Russia to not only discover what a wonderful country this great nation is but also to discover our culture, people and great hospitality and fall in love with everything Russian.
We want to showcase Russia to the whole world, its culture, nature, its wonderful people and their great hospitality. We want to increase incoming tourism from all over the world. Nowadays it is about 24 million incoming tourists every year and we want to double the number by 2025.
What kind of role does Russia envisages of tourism for the country?
Tourism sector is enormous all over the world. We understand that today tourism’s role is critical in pushing the economic development of a country. And therefore, we want to make tourism one of the main spheres of our economy and we want to achieve this within the next five years. We want to double the export of tourism. At the moment it is about US $ 9 billion in tourism revenue. And by 2024, we should be able double it. We need to work hard with markets like China, Germany, USA, Finland, Arabic countries, India, Japan, South Korea etc. They are our priority markets.
What kind of impact did FIFA had on Russian tourism and its future?
FIFA World Cup was, to my mind, the best event for the Russian tourism ever. It was the best promotion of Russia and our very diverse destinations. It was the best promotion of our culture and most of all, it was the best promotion of our hospitality and what Russia truly is. There were some misconceptions about Russia but FIFA World Cup has successfully dispelled any misgivings about our great nation. And that’s why the World Cup was really a big event for Russia, for our vision in the world, as millions of people all over the world had the chance to see the real true face of Russia and that was really great.
People went back with probably their finest memories of visiting a destination during a FIFA World Cup, and virtually all of them ensuring to come back to Russia with friends and family and discover Russia’s unbeatable experiences and destinations. About 5 million additional tourists came to Russia during and aftermath of FIFA Cup.
Where does India stand in Russia’s tourism scheme of things?
Going forward, India is truly a priority tourism source market for us. It is one of the countries we want to work very aggressively in and develop as one of our strongest tourism source markets. That said, we haven’t had big promotion. Right now we are charting our marketing strategy that should be ready by the end of the year and I am sure India will be one of the top-priority markets in our future tourism plans for Russia. Beginning next year, we are planning to make big promotions in these top-priority markets that will include India too.
What is the current incoming tourists you have from India and your plans to increase Indian arrivals?
Russia and India have been tremendous friends over the last seven-eight decades. However, as travel destination, Russia is not really well known to Indians. I was very surprised to see that the amount of Indians coming to Russia is less than 100,000. There is an informational vacuum that we have to change. We have to work hard and I am sure we will manage to increase Indian arrivals. We will work with tourist operators, bloggers, journalists and others to overcome this lack of awareness about our destinations in the Indian market.
Also, connectivity is an area of concern. We will work with airlines to have more direct flights and frequency between Delhi and Moscow and St. Petersburg and also new direct flights to our other regions, such as Novosibirsk or to Vladivostok. We see great opportunity to promote (Russian) Far East, Siberia and other pristine undiscovered destinations in India.
I want plenty of Indians to come to Russia to enjoy their vacation, discover unspoiled wonderful beauties of our country and enjoy their time so that they want to return to Russia again and again. I also hope more and more Russians continue visiting India.
What are you doing on Visa front?
From January 1, 2021, visitors can apply for eVisa to visit any part of Russia. However, Indian travelers can still take advantage of eVisa facility to visit certain destinations in Russia, namely (Russian) Far East, Kaliningrad, Zabaykalsky Krai and to Ulan Ude (famous for Lake Baikal). And from the beginning of 2021 the eVisa will work all over the country.
On the other hand we are also ready for non-visa regime for group tourists. We have put forward this idea of no-visa regime for groups operated by tour operators with the (Indian) government, like we have it with the Chinese. If it happens, groups from India and Russia can travel to each other’s countries without Visa.