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Tourism issues
30.09.2005 00:00

Russia-IC comes up with an interview with Grigory Antyufeyev, head of the Moscow Tourism Committee.
      
       Grigory, how did you chance to take up tourism? Was it a calling or just fate?
       I am an official, a clerk of the state. I've been working at the Moscow municipal government on various positions since 1991. I have always done what has to be done, the jobs the government assigned to me. In 1998, when it was set up, I headed the Moscow Tourism Committee. It was not a calling sentiments had nothing to do with it. Business is top priority here. I have specific tasks on my plate and ought to do as people expect me to. The chief objective is to make the capital's tourism industry booming. An important job tourism is part and parcel of our economy today as is, but expectations are higher.
       Tourism and holidaymaking have always been thought as light-minded areas, not worth attention. Back in the Soviet times, heavy industry, defence projects, space technologies, railways, metallurgy, aircraft construction and other big industries and enterprises were deemed paramount for macroeconomics. The tide has turned, though, to favour resource-intensive industries. So where does tourism stand? Could this sector successfully compete in profit with the economic giants mentioned?
       Society is now engaged in charged debates on how to fight the oil addiction. The paradox is that though the revenues are high we do not feel happy. And tourism is one of responses. It a complex segment involving many industries and spheres hotels, transportation, public catering, culture, sports events and shows, rail- and highways, souvenirs, crafts, trade, etc. The benefits are numerous firstly, the funds do not come out of the blue, rather, they are earned by earnest means, and secondly, new jobs are set up, which is crucial for economic and social sectors. Leave alone the fact that it boosts Russia's image abroad as the foreigners leave the country feeling they have been to a state with enormous historical, cultural and spiritual potential.
       Everyone ought to do what is best for him. May it so happen that tourism is not our business? Russia has always been good at heavy industry rather than at tourism and services. What is the situation in other countries?
       People get more and more aware tourism plays a key role as a humanitarian and lucrative venture, both in the private and public sectors. It is one of the few businesses that, on the one hand, is quite interesting and, on the other, it pays well. The growth pace of the sector is really impressive. Paris alone amasses $10-20bn yearly, which is, apropos, a fifth of the federal budget. The World Trade Organization reports the US revenues from tourism at $67bn, which is almost equal to Russia's budget. Just imagine you actually have nothing to do you do not deal in oil, gas, power, metals, and live off tourists. I do not urge anyone to rest on the laurels. My message is that we could double the country's budget if we closely address the tourism issue. The implications are obvious higher pensions, bigger pay for public sector workers, more jobs, better purchasing capacity. By and large, it is a challenging but realistic task for the authorities to work on day and night, isn't it?
       What is the situation with tourism in Moscow today? Is it the leader of Russian tourism?
       Definitely. Our president underscored it by dubbing Moscow as the locomotive of all economic trends. It is 100% true for tourism. Just compare 900,000 visitors in 1999 with some 3 million people in 2004. It is roughly $3bn, with $1bn going into the budget in revenues and taxes. I'd say, it is quite good income.


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