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Interview with Marina Levchenko

Marina Levchenko, director of a tourist agency in Moscow, joined RT to talk about the progress and problems of tourism in Russia.

Russia Today: Now we all know that Russia is a beautiful country and Moscow a beautiful city. But sometimes it feels that only the wealthy can afford to stay in the capital. There are very few easily available mid-range hotels. When will the gap be filled?

Marina Levchenko: You are right. It is still a very big problem in Moscow. But I think the situation will improve in the next couple of years. There is a secret here. For example, if you want to avoid big prices, you need to choose the week-ends. While planning your trip to Moscow, remember that that best day to arrive is Friday and on Monday you may fly to St. Petersburg. Indeed, the prices in Moscow’s five-star hotels are quite attractive on the week-ends. Now we offer the week-end rates for tourists. Besides, next year new four- and three-star hotels will be opened and the situation will improve.  

RT: But even before you get into the country the lengthy and confusing visa and registration process is putting some visitors off.  How do you make arriving in the country less stressful than it currently is?

M.L.: First of all, you need to seek assistance in a travel agency in your country. They will help to make the visa-getting process easier. Of course, there were some problems with registration in Russia. But if the problem can’t be solved in a month’s time, the hotels, which need to register a person, settle the issue. I don’t see the problem here.  

RT: There have been reports about attacks on foreigners in some Russian cities. And also allegations of harassment by police?  Should tourists feel safe here?

M.L.: To tell the truth, I don’t think it is a big problem really. We have a lot of tourists every year and I can just remember very few such cases. I think, unfortunately, it is normal for the big cities in the world. We monitor the situation and if that that happens we immediately contact police and the city’s authorities. But it’s not as frequent as it could be. 

RT: Now of course the big cities – Moscow and Saint Petersburg -are already popular with tourists.  But this is an enormous country with 11 time zones. What other cities can tourists explore?

M.L.: There are lots of tourists who like Novgorod, a town half-way between Moscow and St. Petersburg. We have more and more tourists coming to the Baikal Lake, a fantastic place in  Eastern Siberia. There are many more interesting tours, for instance, the Golden Ring in central Russia and other tours.  

RT: And of course Sochi that will host the 2014 Winter Olympics. Can we expect the Black Sea resort to become a new Mecca for tourists from around the world?

M.L.: Yes. The area will develop greatly. There will be more hotels built and I know it will be a fantastic resort.