Challenges-solutions in river cruise business
The development of river cruises in Russia is hindered with insufficient number of berths, shallowing of rivers and deterioration of the fleet. Yet, these are not the key challenges. The main objective today is popularization of river routes and making the services comply with the international standards.
The development of cruises at inland water ways of Russia was discussed at the Water Tourism Forum held in Saint-Petersburg on 20 October 2016. According to Sergei Korneyev, deputy head of the Federal Tourism Agency, all types of water tourism are under development today.
“We have seen the payoff from tourism due to growing number of foreign and Russia tourists. This is possible now due to a stable demand we have managed to ensure”, he said.
In 2016, the number of foreign cruise tourists at Russia’s sea and river transport is expected to grow by 10-15%, year-on-year, to 800,000 persons (300,000 river tourists and 500,000 sea tourists), Sergei Korneyev said at the Forum. The number of Russian tourists at inland water transport is expected at the level of 200,000 persons. The year of 2017 is also expected to see a 10-15 percent growth.
Meanwhile, shallowing of rivers is among the problems hindering the development of cruises at inland water ways. There are bottlenecks on the Volga river (near Gorodets) and on the Don river (near Bagayevskaya station).
As Irina Orinicheva, Deputy Director of the Department of State Policy for Maritime and River Transport of Russia’s Transport Ministry, reminded the Forum participants, the State Council held in August 2016 under the chairmanship of RF President Vladimir Putin gave the green light for creation of the new hydrosystems, the Bagayevsky and Gorodetsky, at the inland water ways of Russia’s European part. The works are to be completed by 2020.
According to Irina Orinicheva, it is the first large scale hydraulic engineering project in today’s Russia. The designing of the Nizhny Novgorod system has already commenced with the tender announced for designing of the Bagayevsky system.
The Ministry of Transport expects that implementation of the above projects will allow for full scale cruises on the Volga and Lower Don.
It should be noted that after a long period Russia has started the construction of the first passenger ship of sea and river navigation. The ship is being built by an Arkhangelsk based shipyard Lotus. The second ship of the same class is to be laid down by the end of the year.
Aleksandr Sosnin, BoD Chairman at Infoflot LLC, said in his turn that insufficient number of berths, shallowing of rivers and deterioration of the fleet are not the key challenges.
The expert believes that the development of river cruises depends primarily on purchasing abilities of people and on their awareness of available river cruises as well as on their cruise experience.
Russia’s Federal Agency for Tourism has supported cruise companies having launched an ad-campaign “It’s time to spend vacation in Russia” in the framework of the Visit Russia programme. The campaign is focused first of all on providing information to potential tourists and support to firms operating in the sector of domestic tourism.
Shipping companies, in their turn, have focused on promotion of river cruises through improvement of services so that they comply with the international standards.
Launching of new routes and new tour programmes are also among the significant factors in promotion of river cruises. This year Infoflot has launched the cruises along the Vyatka river, Nika – along the Siberian rivers: Ob and Irtysh. Infoflot is also engaged in the development theme cruises. Besides, cruise companies join their hands to attract more passengers. Infoflot, Vodohod and Mosturflot jointly arranged the opening of navigation season in Moscow. There is a website presenting all the cruises of the companies. The cruise companies seem to struggle for the customers with other sectors of recreation rather than between themselves.