The statistics of tourist reception in Moscow at the end of 2020 caused bewilderment among those who understand
Domestic tourism has allowed the tourism industry to contain the blow of the pandemic, Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said last week. He cites figures: in 2020, the city received 13.6 million tourists, including 12.8 million from other regions of Russia. Experts do not share the optimism of the mayor of the capital: instead of counting the number of tourists, they propose to focus on financial indicators and start increasing the profitability of tourism.
“Empty, as in the 1980 Olympics”
According to the Moscow City Hall, in 2020, Moscow was visited by 13.6 million tourists, 43% less than before. However, Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin is pleased: “This result could be a disaster. But in reality, Moscow’s tourism industry has withstood this blow. Predictably, there were practically no foreign travelers. About 800 thousand foreign tourists are people who managed to visit the city in January-February last year. But the stake on domestic tourism has fully justified the hopes placed on it. In 2020, the capital was visited by 12.8 million guests from other regions of the country. ”
Tourism specialists, discussing the news in the professional group “Travel Presidium”, do not share the optimism of the mayor and question the given figures.
First, according to the data FSB, in 2020, only 336 thousand people entered the Russian Federation from abroad for tourism purposes. How could 800 thousand be in Moscow?
Secondly, it is not clear who and how counted 12.8 million tourists from the regions in the capital – this is more than the population of the city (12.6 million – Ed.). “Throughout the spring and early summer, Moscow was as empty as in the 1980 Olympics. And you could leave the house only with a pass. What kind of tourists? ” – one of the participants in the discussion is perplexed.
The director of the tour operator company, who wished to remain anonymous, gave an example: since March last year, the company has not been able to accept a single group of schoolchildren, although earlier they were the ones who willingly came to Moscow for the holidays. Last summer, organized tourism did not recover, because the restrictions of Rospotrebnadzor on serving groups of tourists in museums were canceled only at the end of August. Then the second wave of coronavirus and related bans began. She buried her timid attempts to resume receiving tourists, even in spite of the cashback program in force at that time. In November, the authorities closed museums again, canceled New Year’s events, and imposed restrictions on the operation of restaurants and cafes. It was not possible to fight off losses due to the holiday decade.
“Organized tourism has stopped. We hoped that the Russians would come at least for the New Year, but there were few tourists. Only five-star hotels were more or less loaded. There was no mass tourist, that is, those who had previously come by tourist buses, in the city, ”she said. Marina Levchenko, general director “Tari Tour”…
The experts contacted by the editors agreed: “Under Sobyanin, Moscow began to turn into a serious tourist center and catch up with St. Petersburg. But this year broke all plans. ”
Relax in a rented apartment
The portrait of the average tourist described on the mayor’s website does not inspire confidence in professionals either: “A typical tourist in 2020 is a resident of the Russian region, aged 25–44, who came to Moscow alone or with family and friends. Many took their children with them. On average, tourists spent 5-6 days in the capital, staying with friends, acquaintances or in a rented apartment. About 30% stayed in hotels and hostels, usually choosing three or four star hotels. ”
Even if Moscow really received 12.8 million tourists from the regions, this figure can hardly be considered a source of pride: hotels in any case got crumbs. By December, Moscow was among the leaders in the absolute loss of revenue in the hotel business – minus RUB 58 billion, or a 61% decline to this indicator for three quarters. The average occupancy of the room stock for the year reached a historical minimum and amounted to only 35%. Meanwhile, it is hotels, and not the owners of rented apartments, who pay taxes to the budget on each ruble received and create jobs.
It can be assumed that the guests spent the money saved on staying in hotels on restaurants and cafes, but no – they did not earn either. Even in the relatively prosperous August of last year, catering revenue fell by 26% in Moscow compared to 2019. And by 50% over the year.
The mayor’s office does not explain the methodology for counting tourists. But the low percentage of guests who chose hotels suggests that the statistics include people who came to Moscow on personal matters, including to earn money. And they were considered, probably by analyzing traffic flows, taking into account entry-exit and the time spent in the capital. But this is absurd. Moscow is the largest transport and business hub in Russia, it is obvious that most passengers come to the metropolis not at all for recreation.
However, an expert who is familiar with the practice of counting tourists in Moscow says that there is nothing surprising in the millions of tourists flow: “All objects of visit and all events, except for municipal ones, are taken into account. Therefore, visitors to museums and festivals are considered tourists, in addition, overnight stays in hotels are added. ” As for foreigners, all those who came for any purpose other than work are taken into account. At the same time, data from hotels are taken as a basis, and not from the border service of the FSB, so the indicators differ.
What dreams lead to
The lack of a clear system for registering tourists in Russia is an old problem. Rosstat in all seriousness considers Abkhazia and Finland to be the leader of outbound tourism, and according to official data, 50-60 million people travel across Russia annually. That is, every third out of 145 million citizens, including babies and very old people, are registered as tourists.
The available statistics a few years ago at the level of the leadership of the ministries was called “lying”. Association of entrepreneurs “Support of Russia” repeatedly pointed out the problem and asked Rostourism explain the counting methodology to the regions. In January 2020, Prime Minister Mishustin even instructed to introduce the concept of a tourist flow into the law, but as of the end of the year, this was not done.
There is still no unified accounting methodology, officials do not stop juggling with fantastic numbers and, most importantly, make incorrect conclusions based on them.
If everything is okay with tourism in Moscow, then why support the affected entrepreneurs, hotels and restaurants, museums, tourist business? Withstood the same. If our capital, even in a pandemic, received more tourists than residents, then why attract even more – not rubber.
In this regard, Moscow sets a dubious example for other regions, where they are also used to counting tourists on their heads and reporting on the growth of indicators.
Meanwhile, this practice can play a cruel joke with officials, warns the head of the investment company. “Indigo Development” Roman Yeremyan: “As soon as the governor of any region asks for money for the construction of infrastructure, the Ministry of Finance will answer:“ Why do you need it? You have millions of tourists every year. Better collect your taxes! ”” But the trouble is that the business of pseudo-tourist apartment tourists does not earn anything, they can only generate income for shops. By the way, this is reflected in the publication on the website of the mayor’s office: shopping has become the most popular occupation of city guests in 2020.
It also proudly states: “The hospitality industry remained an important item in the city budget and brought Moscow 77.7 billion rubles. – 2.5 times more than in 2010 “(in 2019 they counted 120 billion – Ed.). However, it should be borne in mind that in Russia, when calculating income from tourism, the OKVED of companies from a number of other related areas is taken into account. The grouping of industries “Tourism” includes indicators not only of travel companies, hotels and restaurants, but also of enterprises engaged in transportation, including taxis and buses, air and water transport. There is also a lot more counting: the sale of sporting goods, bicycles, fishing gear and even leather goods. Obviously, all this in Moscow is used not only by tourists, but also by the townspeople themselves and just visitors.
If you look at the financial situation, for example, in the hotel industry, you will see a bleak picture. According to CBRE, revenue per room (RevPAR) in Moscow hotels in 2020 decreased by 63%, in the luxury segment – by 67%. In the capital, this indicator is on average 2,000 rubles, in St. Petersburg – 1,400. Roman Yeremyan converts it into currency and compares it with other countries: the average RevPAR in Russia in 2019 was $ 20, and in the world – $ 75. The ratio is simply indecent.
How to arrange tourism for us
Experts emphasize that the crafty figures of the official statistics should not be confusing. It must be admitted that hotels and restaurants in Moscow, museums, tour operators that receive tourists have suffered from the pandemic – it walked over them with an asphalt roller. It is necessary to stop self-deception, count not the number of tourists, but the money they bring. Raising income should be the goal of government policy.
And in this, professional market participants could be useful to the capital’s officials. In fact, business is not invited to dialogue. And this is noted with regret by many, especially in comparison with St. Petersburg, where it was possible to find a common language.
“We have tourist buses waiting and waiting. We actually froze the activity. What we manage to do is crumbs. Even participation in an exhibition is a big problem for us. If the authorities say that tourism in Moscow has survived, let them help with promotion and promotion. We are not Sochi, we cannot sell many tours for cashback, ”says Marina Levchenko.