Russian market ‘bright prospect’

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Wednesday, February 19, 2014


WHILE the Russian market presents brighter prospects for Cebu’s tourism industry, a speaker during the Meet Russia forum held yesterday said Cebu needs to come up with more tourism activities for this long-staying and high-spending tourism market.

Pelagos Tours director Nikita Osharov said that unlike Koreans and Japanese who stay in Cebu for two to three days, Russian tourists spend at least a month when on vacation, the reason why Cebu needs to add more tour activities to keep them entertained.

“It’s quite a challenge because we have to provide them tour activities during day and night, but we don’t have enough activities here,” said Osharov, whose firm handles two chartered Russian flights.

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Osharov suggested that Cebu consider putting up night markets, entertainment facilities like a theater and circus, building more European restaurants, particularly in Mactan, offering more family tour activities, improving tourist boats, and putting up themed parks.

Russians are known to be staunch supporters of the environment, Osharov said, and it will be a plus factor if Cebu will strongly implement policies on cleanliness and orderliness.

Improvements

“I have seen positive developments in Cebu. I can say there are improvements but I believe it shouldn’t stop there. There is more work to be done,” said Osharov, who has been living in Cebu for seven years.

The Meet Russia forum held at the Marco Polo Plaza Cebu is aimed at introducing the Russian market to Philippine tourism industry workers and re-acquaint them with Russian culture.

Russian Federation Honorary Consul Armi L. Garcia said the country is expecting a bigger influx of Russian tourists this year. She said all tourism stakeholders should prepare for their arrival.

“These Russian tourists would love to be pampered, especially because they have learned about our world-renowned hospitable traits from their fellow countrymen who previously visited Cebu,” she said.

Based on the records of Department of Tourism (DOT), arrivals from the Russian market grew 25.2 percent in 2013, logging 35,404 arrivals from the 28,270 recorded in 2012.

Maria Rica Bueno, DOT director for tourism standards and regulation said the Russian market is an “opportunity market” for the Philippines, given the market’s huge potential contribution to the economy.

“We need to understand this market, lure more Russians to come here as this will be our entry point for trade and development,” said Garcia.

She said that free visa extension granted by the Philippine government to Russian tourists is an indication of how important the Russian market is for the country, not only for tourism but also for trade promotions. The 21-day visa free policy for Russians was extended to 30 days.

During the forum, Alexey Illuviev, third secretary of the Russian Embassy, discussed with tourism players of Cebu and Bohol the history and culture of Russia. Russian teacher and author Zinaida Potapurchenko, on the other hand, introduced Russian cities to participants.

Potapurchenko said the Philippines has a competitive edge as a vacation destination because of its warm climate. She said that during the winter, Russians opt to travel to countries like China. She said more Russian tourists are now looking for new destinations to explore and the Philippines is one of the countries in their list.

“China has a strong civilization but there are areas where they have ecological problems. Their seas are dirty, which is impossible for tourists to swim,” she said.

“Philippines, on the other hand, has a strong potential, provided it will continue with its aggressive tourism promotions. Filipinos are friendly. They like to greet people, they love fellowship. Filipinos are rich in soul,” Potapurchenko said.

Liloan Mayor Duke Frasco, who recently visited Moscow to represent a Philippine delegation, said the Russian market is a “huge market with a lot of promise.”

Frasco said Russia is one of the largest and fastest growing markets in world travel with 40 million Russians travelling abroad in 2013 from just eight million in 2006.

He also quoted a CNN report that said Russians are the fifth highest spenders, spending $43 billion in travels abroad.

Language course

After the “Meet Russia” assembly, Garcia announced that the Russian consulate, together with the Philippine Russian Business Assembly (PRBA ) and in partnership with the DOT, will be holding a Russian Language and Culture Course for tourism and hospitality industry workers in Cebu.

“We are at a critical time when we need to improve our competence level in entertaining Russian tourists, whose number will likely balloon as word about our hospitality and our beaches and weather have spread in Russia,” Garcia said in a statement.

She encouraged tour guides and hotel/resort staff to learn the Russian language, know its culture and its people. The language crash course will be conducted by an expert hired by the PRBA.

Classes will start on Feb. 25 at the Rizal Hall of the University of Southern Philippines Foundation in Lahug.

Garcia said they can offer a 12-day intensive learning sessions from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. For those working, they can enroll in the evening session from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. The 60-hour basic course is priced at P12,000.

Garcia said the DOT has about 20 scholars for the program.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on February 20, 2014.

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