“Sochi will be the face of Russia”
Sochi’s newly-elected mayor Anatoly Pakhomov says the city will be ready for the 2014 Olympics no matter what. He added that with the election over, he would put his efforts into campaigns to promote the resort.
RT: How did the election campaign go? Did you feel the support of your party?
Anatoly Pakhomov: The election campaign was not easy. There was a lot of noise and dirt around it. But I am satisfied with the results.
Sochi residents chose the candidate with a realistic program, a program suggested by the United Russia party, supported by the Russian government, the President, and the governor of Krasnodar region Anatoly Tkachev. As far as my opponents are concerned, Sochi residents rejected their programs, their public addresses, which didn't go with Russian interests. They also spoke against the Olympics. It did not go. Now I am convinced that Sochi residents support the Olympics, they want Sochi to become an Olympic city. Sochi residents want their city to become a friendly environment for living and the best resort city in the world. And these were the objectives they wanted me to have. As far as the support of the United Russia party goes, the very fact that I was their candidate already meant a lot. The most important thing for me was not to fail them.
RT: Your first steps as the mayor…
A.P.: Now the most important thing is to get ready for the summer vacations season. We did not forget about it during the election campaign, we paid constant attention to it. Now when the election is over, I will put my efforts into advertising campaigns, promoting the resort. Because the resort is not just the center of Sochi, it is other areas as well. It is natural that all our residents make money only in the summer. It is very important that we clean the beaches for tourists. So when we advertise, we also support our claims with real deeds. Total safety is also very important. For that we have the Safe City program in place. We expand our police forces, and also we have created volunteer patrol troops. There are other things we will do as well. I would like to say that beaches and embankments will be very clean, comfortable. Tourists will have a nice surprise. We are looking forward to welcoming them.
RT: It is a common opinion in Russia that Sochi is a very expensive city. Might this reputation scare away foreign tourists? What do you do during the financial crisis in order to keep the flow of tourists steady?
A.P.: It is a myth that Sochi is an expensive city, it is all made up. Sochi is a people's resort. The city of Sochi does not belong only to its residents, but it also belongs to all of Russia. So every Russian wants to come here, and we will have choices for every Russian. There are opportunities in Magra, Dagomys and many other places to find accommodation for as low as 300 rubles a day. And that is the price that many tourists pay. Hotel facilities offer lower prices than last year. Air fares were a serious problem. For some reason, the airlines decided that they could fix their business at the expense of our summer resort. That way they damaged the resort's economy. That is why this idea came up, because it was expensive to even get there. It was true. In order to solve the problem, there was a meeting in the Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Tour operators, transportation companies, those who coordinated accommodation got together in order to create one tourist product. Why? Because you can get those tours to go abroad, and they are cheaper – you have charter flights, everything is controlled from one place, but for some reason we don't have it in our internal tourism industry. We did not see any serious reasons for that. But at least we all got together.
Secondly, we listened to the air-lines – they were not telling the whole truth. But I think we are going to monitor the prices now. We already started the so-called intervention, putting cheap airlines on the air market. For example, the Sky Express airline has an offer for tour operators – round-trip from Moscow to Sochi is only 7000 roubles – a very good price! Now the price for individuals is 8000 rubles, but if people are going to stay at our hotels, they would get a 15% discount. We are working on that. We also had these talks with the Russian Train Company. So that they would stop doing what they have done in the past. Everywhere in the world prices are lower when the vacation season starts. We had it the other way around, train tickets would go up during vacation seasons.
RT: Is there support from the federal government and your colleagues, mayors of other Russian cities?
A.P.: The city of Sochi has support at all levels – from the Russian government, from different cities. We are desired guests in this respect, we just need to make sure we do our part.
RT: You were elected as the mayor of the Olympic city… what will the administration do to ensure timely preparation for the Olympics?
A.P.: This is the main objective, and it is not only is the mayor of the Olympic capital working on that, but also Dmitry Kozak, deputy chairman of the Russian government, is in charge of this preparation. He is a very capable manager and leader. All the works in the city are done in accordance with the timetable. And there is going to be no deviation from the timeline. The city will be ready for the Olympics no matter what. And it really will be the face of Russia.
RT: In Imereti valley there has been a number of problems which were dealt with. Do you have any contact with its residents and what is happening on that territory?
A.P.: Whenever people have to move, even if it is to much better conditions, it is like a fire, and that is how we should look at it. So the mayor's job is to protect the interests of our residents. The work that we have already done had good results. We finished our work with the ‘old believers’. A new village – Nekrasovka – is being built for them on the same territory. All their traditions will be kept. And I want to say that their living conditions will be greatly improved. They used to live on territories that would flood, with bad roads, no gas. Now they will have new accommodation, better roads, all the network and so forth. Two thirds of the population of the Imereti valley has a full agreement with us. We continue to work with those who have not resolved their problems yet. We will find a solution. No Sochi resident will suffer from having to move. The country's prime minister gave us this task. He said, we are building a sports celebration for the whole world, and no Sochi resident should suffer from it. And we will fullfill this task.