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09-06-2005 Reisen
Tourismus-Entwicklung in der Barentsregion
Im Rahmen der „Finnmark-Tage“ in Archangelsk fand ein Seminar über die existierende und zukünftige wirtschaftlichen Zusammenarbeit zwischen der norwegischen Provinz Finnmark und der Region Archangelsk statt. Der Herausgeber der norwegischen Ausgabe von russland.RU, Ulrich Kreuzenbeck, hielt ein ein Referat über die Möglichkeiten der Tourismusentwicklung im hohen Norden. Die grundsätzlichen Aussagen des Berichts sind auch auf andere Regionen übertragbar.

Wir veröffentlichen hier die englische Version des Vortrags, der breites Interesse und Zustimmung unter den norwegischen und russischen Teilnehmern fand.

“Which kind of tourism can we expect in the northern regions – and what do we have to do to catch the interest of the tourists?” Archangel, 31st of May 2005, © Ulrich Kreuzenbeck

We can observe an increasing interest for travels to Russia on the international markets. The country is one of the last travel destinations in Europe and Asia which so far are not touched by mass tourism. At the same time the picture of Russia in international media is changing to the better. Earlier reports with a negative contend were dominating the coverage of Russia in the media, nowadays we have more and more positive news about economical growth and stability which are published. The result of this is that an increasing number people will “dare” to travel to Russia, because it is considered to be more safe and “western-like” concerning the infrastructure.

The potential is large. Earlier we had mostly travels to Moscow (including the Golden Ring) and Saint Petersburg with a comparably big volume. Some enthusiasts were travelling with the “Transsib” or went on holidays at the Black Sea. Those trips were typically organised by specialists while the big tour operators did not dare to include Russia because of an assumed lack of reliability.

This is changing completely: Russia is developing into a product which is also interesting for the big operators which again will give us access to their huge distribution network of travel agencies they are working together with. The expectations for most of the important markets are good – not at least for the Norwegian. Earlier we had from Norway mostly short trips with one or two nights in Murmansk, which is located close to the Norwegian border city of Kirkenes. But for the future we can expect that the travel programme will be more varied and will include larger parts of Northwest Russia.

Concerning Northwest Russia we expect that the axis Saint Petersburg – Solovki – Murmansk – Finnmark will play a major role in a future travel pattern in northern Europe. In addition we consider roundtrips on the route Moscow-Archangel-Solovki-Karelia- Saint Petersburg (with connections via Murmansk to Finnmark) to become an interesting product with a considerable potential.

Which kind of travels can we expect?

What do we have to do to realise the large potential? There is of course no guarantee for the possible increase of the number of tourists coming to our area – and they will certainly not come automatically. We have to work with that matter.

In this connection I would like to focus on what our potential clients expect of us in the northern regions. If we know that, we also know which products we have to develop and what the regions can expect from the tourism industry, which surely will have a respectable growth, if it is the right steps.

I would like to have a look at the motives which are behind the decision for a destination or a certain kind of product. This alone is a subject for a whole seminar. But I will try to present some general features, try to profile some prototypes.

The biggest group of travellers follow simple basic instincts when they choose a travel destination. Their motives can be described with the 4 BIG S-words: Sun, Sea, Sex and Spirituous. Of course you can find all this also in the land of the white nights. But the Barents Euro Arctic Region is not the Mediterranean Sea and Solovki is not Ibiza. Our region is in principle no destination for this target group (if you consider the Barents Bar or similar places as being an exemption).

You will find those 4-S-motives in a large extend amongst the younger generations regardless their social demographic background. And you can find them also amongst the parts of the western societies of any age with a lower education and a lower income. The biggest share of the tourism industry is dealing with that big target group, which is closely connected to what we call mass tourism. They are not travelling around, but they choose a place where all there dreams can be fulfilled within a short distance. Usually they don’t use much money on their travels.

That kind of tourism is nothing for the Barents Region. In fact it is contra productive. Because of the existing vodka&sex-tourism a lot of people especially in Northern Norway and Finland don’t dare to travel to Russia - because they are afraid that other people will consider them as S&S-addicted.

Then you have the 4-A-group, which represents the other extreme end of the scale: The Addicted Adventure Adrenaline Activists. They are interested in using and challenging their own body and are getting their thrill out of this. Their fuel is not vodka and beer but rather some energy drink. For them a successful holiday means, cycling through the mountains or wilderness, participating in snow scooter safaris in the Artic Winter, doing hang gliding, paragliding, parachuting, diving in the sea, surfing on the biggest waves, sailing, canoeing, climbing in the mountains – with other words: blood, sweat and adrenaline.

For that group the activity is the main ingredient of their holiday, they want to get rid of their aggressions they have build up during their daily life, which in a larger and larger extend is characterised by a lack of physical challenges (but is becoming more and more stressing) and an increasing urbanisation. Persons belonging to this group can be of any age, and of any income category from the average and up. But when they get older and richer they tend to choose softer activities like golf, salmon fishing and leisure hunting. They also tend to stay in one area but move there within a larger range than the first group.

For the 4-A-people our Barents Region has without any doubts a lot to offer. So we should take with us elements of the activity menu when we build up a product basket for our region. Even if the 4-A-group itself is quite small compared to the 4-S-people, activities are an important profile builder and have a positive appeal also to those who are not so active. It gives simply a good feeling when you are having your holiday in an area which provides healthy and sportive activities.

Than we have the group, which I like to call the Triple-E’s - the experienced, educated Explorers. The hard and real core of it is the 4-E-group, the elderly, experienced, educated Explorers, the guys with the money. It is much smaller than the 4-S-group but very interesting for the development of tourism in the Barents Region.

We are talking about people who have seen the world and want to see more of it. They are well established and have an income above average (and don’t hesitate to use it). Those people are still interested in new experiences. They visit exotic places and unique destinations, famous highlights but also “hidden places” where they want to see and get a taste of typical things. Local or regional food, culture and tradition and a meeting with the locals and – if possible – with indigenous people (like the Sami) are for them an important part of the travel experiences.

The Explorers love to travel around and cover a quite large area on such a trip – a round trip with a day here, two days there and so on is the ideal form of travelling for them. Typical representatives of this group you will find on the Hurtigruten (the famous Norwegian Coastal Steamer), where the average age is significantly higher than the average of the population.

They don’t want to get too deep under the surface, but they are collecting typical impressions, the essence of the different locations they are visiting. Usually they spend a lot of money on such a trip, also for souvenirs. So they are interesting not only for the travel industry itself. And back home they can tell with proud about there “expeditions” to exiting destinations and act as ambassadors for destinations they are impressed of. This group is very important for tourism to the North.

Another group are the family folks, usually a couple with children. But it seems that our area is not the most perfect destination for them – our main target groups consist of people travelling without children.

Beside of this you have segments of different special interests, like people burning for history, churches, art, music, minerals, architecture, birds etc. Their special field of interest is the main subject of their travel. For a large number of these special interest groups Northwest-Russia can be an interesting destination both for a theme-oriented roundtrip or a stay at only one place (for example in connection with festivals or other big events).

What is the essence of this prototype motive classification?

I claim that the Barents Euro Arctic Region is an area which fits extremely well to the expectations and demands of some of the most valuable segments on the markets for travel products:
- The 4-A-segment of active people
- The 3 or 4-E-segment of explorers
- Some of the special interest groups

All we have to do is to develop the right products and product combinations and market them. If we are doing in the right way, the exotic uniqueness of our region creates a positive value. And we can in some extend even benefit from the weak and problematic elements, which make life sometimes difficult if you live here permanently.

That means, if the question is: ”What kind of travels can we expect for the northern regions”, my answer is:

- Roundtrip packages for the ”Explorers” and those who are interested in theme tours, developed as local elements which can be put together by a tour operator to a complete package (including mobile parts like cruises but also normal transport)
- Local activities for those who would like to have physical challenges
- Local products for those who are interested in special subjects (partly as local partial elements, partly as stand alone offers)

Let me now come to the other question the organizers of this seminar want me to find an answer for:

What do we have to do to catch the interest of the tourists?

My first answer is: we have to develop the right products which fit to the target groups we have identified earlier (this is the key in order to create a successful product, but it is very often ignored – with a consequently negative result)

The other is: We have to profile our area and our products in the right way, so they are considered as attractive for the tourists we want to catch

The third answer is: We have to improve the co-operation within the travel branch in our area

The forth and last answer is: we have to improve the conditions for the tourists visiting us – I am thinking about communication, the quality of infrastructure and services and not at least the formal rules for entering our area

Talking about product development I have earlier mentioned that I consider two new product combinations in Northwest-Russia as especially interesting:

- A new main route between the South and the North: Saint Petersburg – Solovki – Murmansk – Finnmark/Norway which will be an attractive supplement to the traditional routes through Finland and Sweden (and probably will take market shares from them)
- Roundtrips on the route Moscow – Archangel / Solovki – Karelia – Saint Petersburg (with a connected link via Murmansk to Finnmark)

In addition I believe that two other product fields will have a significant potential for growth:

- Local activity products
- Local products for special interest groups (but this demands real highlights)

If we take a short look at the subject of the right profiling and positioning of our area I would like to mention some aspects which I consider to be important, but also concerning this point we have only time for some main points.

Northwest Russia is an area which is:

- Exclusive: with travel products beside of the beaten tracks
- Unique: with experiences you can not achieve at other places
- Exotic: with elements which are unusual, surprising and different in a positive way
- Extreme: with a location in the High North with breathtaking contrasts, especially for those who come from outside (it’s often so that the “locals” don’t see what is interesting for people from outside)

The area has in addition a lot of exiting secondary attributes as activities, “multi culture”, the Soviet heritage (The East meets West in the North” story), the midnight sun, the polar light, ethnical minorities etc.)

Some major ingredients of a successful profiling and positioning of our tourist products have with other words a non-material character. They have much to do with psychology, and the communication of the right profile is almost as important as physical investments. A professional strategy for market communication and marketing is a success factor which should not be underestimated.

But never forget: The basic things, like accommodation, restaurants, transport and service, must work according to international standards. Exotic and uniqueness may not be used as an excuse for a poor performance; they shall only be used as a positive value.

If we manage to develop the right image or profile, in this case a high profile, we can put an extra value to the material parts of the product and get an extra benefit and profit out of it. Our target should be to get a maximum out of a limited number of well paying visitors. From an economical point of view it is more interesting to have 100.000 guests who spend 1.500 Euro each in the area than having 1 million who spend 400 Euro. The profit is much higher in the first case and the suppliers don’t have to fight for every single cent during their negations about prices with the highly price-oriented mass tourism operators.

To say it in a few words: Our region should be a destination not for everybody but for people with demands over the average.

Especially the first and from an economical point of view most important product field (round trips) demands a good and seamless co-operation between several destination areas and suppliers. An important aspect is – as I mentioned before – that members of the Explorer-group have a tendency to travel through a large area: one Oblast, Fylke, Lääni or Län is not enough.

If we want to conquer new market shares for the northern regions and especially for Northwest Russia we have no use for short term protection of own interests, misunderstood local patriotism or envy. If it is not possible to organize a co-operation and co-ordination with the neighbours, it will not be possible to attract tourist in a big number.

It is also important to stimulate tour operators to take the risk to develop tour packages take the responsibility for the package towards their clients – it would be contra productive to watch their work sceptical because one wish rather to support and protect the own operators. That would mean to limit the possibilities of development for the whole travel business and would make it impossible to realise the market potential.

My last answer to the question about what we have to do to catch the tourists’ interest is: we have to improve the conditions for tourists visiting us. Also concerning this point it will not be possible to have a broad presentation of the subject. Therefore I would like to focus on two aspects which I personally consider to have a special importance.

The first one is communications, which first of all means: transport.

When I did my first jobs in the Russian part of the Barents Region six, seven years ago, a lot of things were different. I don’t want to talk too much about “the good old days”, but I would like to focus on a paradox. Even if the grade of development of the region was much lower in those years, the transport facilities for persons between the region and the neighbour countries were much better. We had an almost daily flight connection between Helsinki, Joensuu and Petrozavodsk (operated by Finnair). I remember that their was a flight from Archangel via Petrozavodsk to Helsinki. SAS had flights between Archangel and Stockholm and it was possible to go by Braathens from Oslo via Tromsø to Murmansk. There was a flight connection between Kirkenes and Murmansk. And former Archangel Airlines operated the routes Archangel-Murmansk-Rovaniemi-Luleå and Archangel-Murmansk-Tromsø. Of all this only the latter is left.

- But if we want to develop roundtrips including Northwest Russia, we depend on better travel connections. I consider the following routes as being very important for a future roundtrip tourism:

- The connection between Archangel City and Solovki (by plane, but also by boat). This is a necessity if you want to organize roundtrips which include both places)

- The connection between Archangel and Petrozavodsk (by plane). Also this would be a route with importance for a roundtrip through the area

- The connection between Kirkenes and Murmansk (revival of the flight connections). If this route would be connected with the regular non-stop-flights from Oslo and the charter flights from Germany it would create new possibilities for our whole area. An extension to Archangel would be desirable (which would be of most interest also for business travellers)

- The connection between Saint Petersburg and Finnmark (charter flights during the tourist season). Such a flight would make it possible to benefit from the increasing importance of Saint Petersburg as an incoming destination for travels to Russia (with more and more flights from the developing Asian markets, Germany and other European countries). Such a route would also be of importance for the big market in the Saint Petersburg area. To connect Russia’s Northern Capital with Finnmark would create new possibilities for the northernmost county in Norway. A charter flight connection would also be an important part in the “From Fortress to Fortress”-project which connects Saint Petersburg, Archangel-region (Solovki) and Vardø / Eastern Finnmark.

One thing is for sure: without those connections (and without a good enough capacity and frequency) it will be almost impossible to develop roundtrip packages – the tourists have to be moved from one area to the other.

As a second point regarding the improvement of the conditions for our guests, which I want to mention here, is the question of the visa regime – it must be easier to pass the borders between East and West.

Ukraine has from the 1st of May 2005 stopped to ask for visas from – amongst others – citizens of the European Union. The first step on this road was to suspend the existing invitation system, which happened last year. This has been implemented as a unilateral act and Ukraine did not follow the diplomatic principal of reciprocity. The target of this improvement is easy to understand – Ukraine wants to attract more tourists.

Also Georgia has announced that it thinks in the same way. Prime minister Zurab Noghaideli and Kakha Sikharulidze, a representative of the Georgian Foreign Department, confirmed that on Georgian TV in April.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin underlined in an interview with the news agency RIA Novosti after the peak meeting between the European Union and Russia on the 10th of May 2005: “Visa-free travels are our final target”.

It`s a matter of fact the existing visa regime is a hurdle if we want to increase the number of visitors to our area significantly. Everybody who works with international travels can confirm this.

The Norwegian Barents Secretariat has carried out a research in Murmansk Oblast. One of the questions was about the consequences of the existing visa regime for travels to Norway – the answer was clear. The necessity of having a visa (including the costs and all the practical obstacles connected with this) has an significant importance for Russians who think about travelling to Norway and the result is that many stay at home or travel rather to Finland which has a much more pragmatic interpretation of the Schengen rules and make it easier to obtain a visa. This is surely also valid if we are talking about the other direction, that means regarding foreigners who are interested in visiting Russia.

Let’s try a short calculation. If the existing visa regime would be suspended, it’s not unrealistic to estimate that without any visa restrictions additional 50.000 foreign tourists would travel to Northwest Russia from or through Norway and Finland. Let’s calculate that each of them spend a modest 500 Euro. This would result in an extra turnover of 25 million Euro or 850 million roubles, which is quite impressive.

But something has to happen on both sides of the border. As long as some Scandinavian Schengen-countries make it especially difficult for Russians to cross the border we can not count on the Russians to make it easier.

Therefore we should demand from our politicians to engage themselves in the question of visa free travels. A Europe without physical borders would be the most efficient impulse for the travel industry I could think about.
[  Ulrich Kreuzenbeck / russland.RU – internettavisen ]

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