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21 Sep, 2009 06:55

Sochi looks to position itself for beyond the Olympics

Sochi plans to attract $2.5 billion investment, for the Winter Olympics in 2014. If it meets its goal to be known as the 'Hospitable City', investors say the resort could become a cash machine, for years after the Games.

This is mobile bicycle-toilet. Vladimir Moksunov and his partners from Russia’s Toilet Association are ready to invest up to $5 million dollars – to saturate the future Olympic city with lavatories.

An innovative approach to an everyday need – Vladimir is sure his waste-to-fertilizers business will benefit the city before and after the Games.

“We have come as investors – we are asking the governors for places where we can install the toilets. Next year we are sure we will manage to launch several pilot projects.”

Around 5 million tourists visit Sochi every year – spending on average $50 a day at the seaside. The value they get for that expenditure is an issue that needs to be addressed. Wine at $30 per glass in one restaurant retails at loss for a whole bottle in a nearby shop. Oleg Panichev, Vice President at Rosinter Restaurants, says that mark ups and prices such as these, while unsurprising for Russians, could provide a shock for westerners.

”I hope it will change by the Olympics. The quicker both Russian and foreign restaurant chains come to Sochi, the more sensible the pricing will be. Now all the seaside places to eat are all the same, and want just to make as much money as possible during the season.”

Leading Tourism and Hospitality experts such as Professor Keith Johnson of Leeds Metropolitan University, say that after the Olympics, the city will become a year-round resort attracting sophisticated players from the hospitality market. But he notes that pricing will need to change in a range of areas – particularly hotels and taxis.

”There are things here in Sochi that have all the ingredients to make this a really great place. At the moment I think it’s a really nice place. But it just needs some of the kind of rough edges, some of the kind of added value, embellishing, making it better rather than as it is at the moment. Because, as I say, its turning people away probably, because of the high prices in terms of the quality you get for these prices.”

The mayor of Sochi says 80% of the total Olympic financing will go to develop the city as a world class tourist destination. However, it will clearly need a modern service culture – as well as cash – if Sochi is to persuade Olympic guests to come again.