Mr. Evgeny Kozlov, Deputy Head Mayor of Moscow Government and Chairman of the Moscow City Tourism Committee, who has come to the city to attain BLTM, the annual prestigious travel event at the Leela Ambience Convention Centre, Delhi spoke with TW Editor Anirban Dasgupta on his vision and goal with the all-new tourism initiatives in Moscow.
The bond between India and Russia has a long history of culture, literature, love, and of course politics. But recently, there has also been a lot of talk about Gastronomical tourism. Any personal experience with this?
My personal take on the bond between India and Russia stems from my recent experience of trying authentic Indian cuisine in Moscow. I thoroughly enjoyed the spicy flavours of the Curry dish I tried and it left a lasting impression on me. This made me appreciate the cultural exchange between our two countries even more. I believe that Moscow, being a culinary hub, is a great place for people from all over the world, including Indian visitors, to immerse themselves in our rich history and culture. It’s a unique experience that brings people together and showcases the diversity of the gastronomic universe. Moscow has a thriving food scene with various international cuisines to explore, from Chinese to South African and Latin American. This culinary diversity reflects the open-mindedness and curiosity of the Russian people when it comes to trying new types of food. Moscow truly has something for everyone, and I encourage Indian tourists to come and indulge in this gastronomic journey.
How optimistic are the post-pandemic recovery figures?
After the Covid-19 pandemic, we have witnessed a remarkable recovery in tourism in Moscow. In fact, we have been able to restore 90% of the pre-pandemic tourist flow. In the first half of 2023, almost a million foreign tourists visited Moscow, with over 600,000 of them arriving during the summer season. Among the non-CIS countries, China has led the way in terms of tourist traffic, followed by Iran, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, and India. Prior to the pandemic, India’s tourist flow was steadily growing at a rate of 12-15% annually. Although we faced challenges during the pandemic, we have now put in place all the necessary conditions for a successful recovery. Moscow is known for hosting numerous international exhibitions, forums, congresses, and conferences, attracting approximately 3.6 million business visitors in the past year alone. Among these visitors, India ranks third in terms of foreign business tourists in Moscow. To further promote tourism, we have initiated the MICE Ambassadors training program in India, which aims to assist Indian businesses in exploring opportunities and selecting relevant events in Moscow.
Can you please share your vision for future tourism development in Moscow?
Thank you for asking this question. I have a multi-faceted vision for the future tourism development in Moscow.
Firstly, I believe that tourism should provide a personal and authentic experience for each individual. Therefore, customization of experiences is crucial. For business tourists, we aim to offer special infrastructure facilities that cater to their specific needs and requirements. We are closely collaborating with infrastructure providers to ensure seamless experiences for those visiting Moscow for business purposes. On the other hand, when it comes to leisure or family tourists, we recognize the importance of providing a support system and guidelines for those traveling with their families, especially children. We are working with museums, theatres, and restaurants to customize their services and products to cater to tourists of all ages, including children. Furthermore, I envision rearranging tourism in Moscow to encourage visitors to delve into the history and heritage of our country. A significant part of my tourism goal is to motivate and inspire the youth and younger generations to travel to Russia. This involves providing affordable pricing for accommodations, entertainment, museums, and other attractions.
We are already constructing tailor-made infrastructure that specifically targets the young generation in Russia, and by next year, we plan to extend and promote these offerings to international young visitors as well. By rebranding the image of Moscow as a destination for longer stays, relaxation, and enjoying various facilities, we aim to change the perception that it is merely a transit or stop-over city. Lastly, the beautiful weather in Moscow during the summer months provides an opportunity to create delightful memories for tourists. I want every visitor to experience the sunshine, green landscapes, parks, cafes, restaurants, swimming pools, and sports facilities that Moscow has to offer during this time.
In summary, my vision for the future of tourism in Moscow revolves around creating customized travel experiences for every type of traveller.
How do you prioritize sustainability and responsible tourism practices in the development of business tourism?
Prioritizing sustainability and responsible tourism practices is integral to our approach in developing business tourism. Sustainability is a personal priority for me, not only in my daily life but also in my efforts to promote it to our partners in the tourism industry. We emphasize the importance of following sustainable practices across all sectors, from restaurants to hotels and beyond. The key principle is to use only what is necessary and minimize waste. We are actively involved in raising awareness about sustainability among young kids through various activities and competitions in schools. By instilling a sense of responsibility towards the environment at a young age, we hope to foster a culture of sustainability that extends to the tourism industry.
How easy or difficult is it to get a Visa for an Indian Tourist at present?
Acquiring a Visa for Indian tourists has become easier with the introduction of the e-visa system. Since its launch in August 2023, more than 30,000 tourists have already utilized this system. The e-visa offers several advantages over traditional visas, such as avoiding the need to visit consulates or embassies. The application process only requires a digital photograph and a scan of the passport data page. The e-visa has a validity period of 60 days from the date of issuance, with a maximum stay of 16 days in Russia. This convenient and streamlined process is available to citizens of 55 countries, including India. Indian tourists are currently ranked third in terms of business travellers from outside the CIS countries visiting Moscow.