Yacht tourism in Russia hampered by infrastructure

Sergey Vladimirov, 13.06.2014 10:29
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Participants of the recently-concluded exhibition ‘Baltic Marine Festival’ observed the following: growth of the country’s inbound yacht tourism is stunted mainly due to the lack of quality and inexpensive infrastructure for foreign visitors.

It is enough to look at a few figures that characterize the state of this segment in the Baltic Sea region in order to understand its potential. According to international statistics, the annual number of foreign port calls to Tallinn is 6 thousand, to Turka – more than 10 thousand, to Stockholm – upwards of 20 thousand, and the fees foreign yachtsmen pay for using the port infrastructure bring in tens of millions of euros. At the same time, St. Petersburg, whose prospective potential experts deem to be no fewer than 10 thousand yacht port calls, had fewer than 1 thousand yachts call at its ports in 2013. Kaliningrad Oblast has also started developing this segment, and its indicators are even lower.

Foreign yachtsmen, who were granted the right to enter Russia’s inland waters in 2012, are reluctant to use this opportunity.
‘Despite having great capabilities for developing this kind of tourism, St. Petersburg currently makes very little use of them,’ says Chairman of the Tourism Development Committee Inna Shalyto. ‘That is why in the near future we will be backing any efficient measures for attracting yachtsmen to our city.’

Vladimir Lyubomirov, commodore of ‘St. Petersburg Yacht Club’, believes that, aside from documental formalities, there is another very serious reason preventing foreign yachtsmen from visiting Russia, and that is the lack of a developed and affordable infrastructure for servicing guest vessels.

According to him, about ten yacht clubs are currently functioning in St. Petersburg; however, not all of them are willing to service ‘alien’ small vessels.

‘These tours enjoy quite a bit of interest abroad, but once our colleagues learn of all the nuances associated with sailing a small-sized vessel to Russia, they usually forgo the idea,’ says Vladimir Lyubomirov. Considering the fact that, aside from Vyborg, this area of the Baltic (as well as the majority of the inland Russian waterways) all but lacks the facilities for servicing yachts, achieving any significant increase in the inbound yacht and motorboat tourism remains problematic.

For instance, according to experts Kaliningrad Oblast needs to have two federal class ‘A’ yacht ports, eight regional class ‘B’ ports and nine municipal class ‘C’ ports in order to develop this segment. Marina Ageeya, Tourism Minister of Kaliningrad Oblast, names infrastructure shortcomings among the main reasons for the weak growth of yacht tourism. Speaking at a conference, she said that ‘right now there are about a dozen places in the region that are fit to be yacht ports, but they often lack the simplest things like water supply.’

A program for developing water tourism up until 2020 has been drawn up in the region, which includes building and equipping yacht ports, harbors and quays for 4 thousand small vessels, as well as the necessary waterside infrastructure. However, right now only the checkpoint on the River Trostyanka is active, where a project for comprehensive servicing of foreign yachtsmen is being carried out.

What are the prospects of the 2014 season as regards foreign yacht traffic? The situation in St. Petersburg (which is still the absolute leader in Russia both in terms of sea cruise tourism and yacht tourism) is going to change for the better. According to the traffic service at the specialized checkpoint ‘Fort “Constantine”’, more than 1 thousand foreign yachts are expected to be serviced this year. ‘Constantine’ serviced more than 100 foreign vessels in May (about twice as many as the year before), which means that St. Petersburg can, indeed, expect to achieve 10 thousand yacht port calls a year.
 
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