Agenda: Prospects for tourism recovery.
Excerpt from the transcript:
Dmitry Chernyshenko: Dear colleagues, good afternoon. Today, the situation with the coronavirus has reached a stable and controlled level. The number of new cases is declining, already totaling fewer than 9,000 people a day throughout the country. On some days, the number of recovered patients exceeds the number of new cases. This indicates the effectiveness and timeliness of the measures taken by the Government. This was achieved thanks to the heroic work of the doctors, first, and by the restrictions. For two months the country has been in isolation. We even had to postpone the Victory Parade to protect our veterans. The economy is in a difficult situation. According to a preliminary assessment by the Ministry of Economic Development, Russia's GDP in Q2 could decline by 9.5 percent compared with the same period last year.
Every day we monitor the situation with the coronavirus in the country. So, for example, over the last 10 days, the basic reproduction number of the infection has been steadily below one. We also recorded that the load on the healthcare system and the number of actual occupied beds has declined from 63 to 56 percent over the past 10 days. This decrease has been recorded in 16 Russian regions. Already 23 regions are prepared to relax the restrictive measures and are in line with the first stage that Rospotrebnadzor has determined.
The number of coronavirus tests remains unprecedented – over 250,000 daily. In total, over 9 million tests have been completed. But work on a vaccine has not yet been completed, although there are very encouraging reports. There is no other way or choice. Therefore, we must continue to comply with security measures, tight control, including border crossings and protection against the spread of the coronavirus.
We know that there is a danger of a second wave; doctors and specialists tell us that this risk remains high. We know that the first wave came to Russia from outside. We managed to stop it with some tough measures like restrictions on entry to the country. The Government has created a national protective barrier, and it must be maintained. This means that entry rules will remain tough, including a mandatory two-week isolation at a visitor’s own expense. And the Federal Agency for Tourism’ recommendations to refrain from travelling outside Russia, if possible, will remain in force. Of course, we understand that our people need to rest. We are tired of waiting for a permission to travel – this is a basic need today. That said, it is clear that conditions are simply not right yet for restoring outbound tourism today because according to the WHO, the number of countries with restrictions on tourism due to the coronavirus has reached 100 percent, including 83 percent that have maintained these restrictions for over four weeks now. The WHO still considers the risks of the pandemic continuing to be very high and has not recommended the lifting of restrictions on international travel.
We know that the coronavirus has dealt a heavy blow to the economy. Domestic tourism is one of the industries that has been the hardest hit. It has sustained enormous damage. Sales have fallen by 95-100 percent, and, according to Rostourism, the shortfall in revenue has reached 1.3 trillion roubles.
The industry directly employs 2.5 million people that are now threatened with the loss of their jobs. Including related industries, this could exceed 7 million.
That said, we know that the development of this industry has been very dynamic in the past few years. It was on a path of sustainable growth, so to speak. It not only competed with global tourist products, but it even won the competition on many occasions. We know that it is very difficult to get to the bigger resorts, such as Sochi or Krasnaya Polyana during the high season.
The Government is focusing its concern on the lives and health of our people and its financial and managerial efforts on creating conditions for a safe holiday at home. Rospotrebnadzor will monitor compliance with these rules. Of course, our priority is to launch safe domestic tourism in the first half of summer and to monitor this.
Starting 1 June, the Government will systematically and carefully begin to lift the restrictions. Resorts with a medical licence will be opened in the first stage. In parallel, the Government is working on the rules for the further opening of the tourist industry: hotels, resorts, beaches, and cruises, to name a few.
Rospotrebnadzor and Rostourism recommendations will be published before 1 June. This will allow the industry to understand the rules for activities in this new reality and the schedule for the next steps. Of course, the regions have much responsibility for this and we are urging everyone to get ready for this opening so when the epidemiological situation permits, you can open and start offering services to our people without any delay.
We have also drafted proposals for a national plan of economic recovery for reformatting and further developing inbound tourism. The primary goals will be to create an affordable high quality tourist product for Russian citizens, to support investors, to grant subsidised loans, to digitise the industry and upgrade the skills of its personnel, in short, do everything we can to enhance Russia’s appeal as a travel destination.
An opportunity for the step-by-step opening of tourism has been made possible by the measures that are preventing the spread of the new coronavirus infection. Strict observance guarantees both health safety and rest. I have already said that the WHO does not recommend the opening of the tourist economy in the current epidemiological situation. This is understandable considering that in late March the share of imported infection cases in Russia was about 80 percent. Now that the air borders have been closed, the number of imported cases is almost approaching zero. The Government cannot allow a repetition of the situation, a second wave of the epidemic, but we also realise that people need to go on holiday and fortunately we have the conditions for this. Now it is necessary to help the tourist industry receive Russian tourists here at home. Conditions in the regions must meet the requirements of Rospotrebnadzor so they can start receiving tourists literally on the next day after they meet them. I am addressing the regions and tourist business representatives: please, as soon as the Government announces additional support measures and rules, start preparing your infrastructure without any delay.
We hope that together we will be able to do everything we can to provide our people with quality, safe recreation, as the launch of domestic tourism will be a step forward towards restoring normal life. Let’s discover Russia for ourselves, let’s discover this country.
We have less than a week left before the summer which is special time for us – the time of impressions, new emotions, travel, and holiday-making. It is particularly significant today as we are in an exceptional situation. The lockdown is definitely a hard thing. We all need at least a little reset, a breath of fresh air and just a good holiday.
We continue to monitor the global situation and maintain permanent contact with our foreign colleagues. Everyone in the world is discussing ways and steps to relax the stay-at-home restrictions. We see that the process is moving with great caution everywhere; restrictions are being lifted in the world by allowing short travel inside the country. This is why, regretfully, we are not seeing conditions for the fast recovery of international tourism in the world since the situation remains rather complicated in a number of countries. We hear many statements but they are generally made for effect.
Mr Chernyshenko mentioned this, but let me reiterate that indeed Rostourism agency issued recommendations on March 19 cautioning Russian nationals against trips outside the Russian Federation until the epidemiological situation returns to normal. These recommendations remain in effect for now.
Our efforts today, like in most countries, are aimed at making it possible for our citizens to have a safe holiday inside the country this summer. To ensure this, we are working on a daily and even hourly basis with Anna Popova and her colleagues so as to work out guidelines for the industry to resume work and approve steps to relax these quarantine conditions. These guidelines, on one hand, must ensure safe holidays for our citizens which is the overriding priority. On the other hand, they must not be excessive for the industry so that businesses can resume their operations. It is crucial here to strike a balance between people’s safety, which is an overriding priority, and a possibility for people to have a comfortable and interesting holiday. A holiday must still remain a holiday.
Just last week, along with Anna Popova (a special thank you to her personally), we managed to finalise and approve recommendations, balanced in view of the current situation, for resort centres, primarily those with a medical licence. They can reopen starting 1 June.
The situation in the regions and respective decisions taken by the regional authorities must certainly be taken into account. We remain in communication with regions and their leaders. If needed, we can increase this work at any time.
Today, our major operative task, jointly with Rospotrebnadzor, is to finalise and give the final approval to recommendations and steps for relaxing the restrictions for all tourism related facilities starting 1 June. We must do it this week since the first of the next month is just around the corner. This concerns all accommodation facilities, cruises, beaches, tourist and recreation areas and many other things. People need to know and have some ideas about dates in order to plan their holidays, and we must give them these ideas shortly.
Our overall proposals have been prepared to a certain degree and we are now engaged in an active dialogue with Rospotrebnadzor. After that, we will have to coordinate and approve our actions with the Ministry of Transport and other concerned agencies which are directly connected with the tourism industry, including the Ministry of Culture.
On a separate note, I would like to say a few things about the millions of people employed in the industry. I recall that during the high season the number of workers grows by 1.5-2 times to about 5 million. So it’s not just the people who are missing their holiday and are looking forward to the summer but also those who work in the hospitality industry and the dozens of associated industries. We are confident that tourism as the biggest multiplier of jobs can become one of the drivers for regional economy recovery.
For many of the Russian regions, tourism is already a backbone industry. Employment, people’s incomes, taxes and the work of numerous enterprises directly depend on it.
We understand the economic and social role of tourism and know about its problems. There is much to work on. We are going to do this work and to make a breakthrough in tourism. We definitely need new quality resorts and travel destinations. We need to develop new kinds of recreation that will be accessible, diverse and suit any taste and budget.
Therefore, jointly with the Ministry of Economic Development and with the support of the Government we have prepared and submitted proposals for tourism to the national plan to restore the economy; the proposals are devoted to the emergency measures to support the industry, and the further comprehensive development of tourism.
I am speaking about easing the tax burden, supporting investors, expanding human resources, digitalisation and, of course, improving the safety of tourism, because this is something that will play a key role in the future.
At the same time, together with the regions we are preparing the launch of various and accessible tourist destinations which should be good for any taste and budget. There will be new car and railway routes and also new charter destinations. We are working with the Transport Ministry to expand the geography and offers in the regions. Our work is both for tourists who are used to travelling with package tours, and for independent tourists who prefer to plan their trips by themselves.
Thus, in addition to the traditional places like the south of Russia, popular destinations like Crimea, the Krasnodar and Stavropol territories, we would like to offer a series of new destinations.
For instance, there will be tours to the Russian Baltics: the Kaliningrad and Leningrad regions and St Petersburg. Yes, we all love the sea, but there can be many other good recreation activities by the water, since Russia is a country that has both rivers and lakes. We understand that people want to get to the water, to swim and sunbathe. So we are ready to offer destinations along the Volga River: these are the Tver, Nizhny Novgorod, Yaroslavl regions, the Republic of Tatarstan and the Astrakhan Region.
Those who love primeval nature, traditional cuisine, architecture and culture will like the tours to the Russian North. These are the wonderful Karelia, the Arkhangelsk Region, the Republic of Komi and the Murmansk Region. These areas offer recreation by the water or in the forest. Tourists will get a chance to immerse themselves into the unforgettable atmosphere of the Russian North.
We are also working on travel destinations to Siberia. In addition to the popular Altai Territory and the Republic of Altai, these are Khakassia and the Krasnoyarsk Territory. Affordable tours to these areas, I am sure, will tempt those who have always wanted to visit these places.
And, of course, we are also considering the Far East because it is an affordable travel destination for those who live beyond the Urals. The sea there is quite warm between July and September, the food is good, cultural recreation is interesting and many other things.
We can go on and on about our wonderful country, and I am sure that I will have the opportunity to do it again. Overall, we have something to offer and will do our very best to give our citizens a fun time this summer.
Anna Popova: The epidemiological situation in the Russian Federation is stabilising, and this is an absolutely undisputed fact. Everyday fewer new coronavirus cases are being recorded. The Russian Federation has accomplished a lot and is doing its best to help people stay healthy and save their lives. This is now our top priority.
The Russian Federation faced an epidemic of the new coronavirus infection two and a half months after it flared up in other countries. But I would like to note that fewer new cases are being registered in the world, although this trend is not manifested everywhere. The European continent, North America and some Asian countries are recording fewer new cases each day. At the same time, South America is now facing a substantial increase in the incidence of this disease, and local authorities there are so far unable to stop this trend. We are receiving extremely alarming statistics from the African continent and a number of Asian countries. New cases are recorded even in those regions where their overall number is decreasing. Over 1,100 new cases were recorded in Turkey yesterday, and India has recorded over 7,000 cases. Spain, Italy, France and some other European countries are posting 500 to 600 new cases daily. Unfortunately, not a single country can say at this stage that the infection has vanished completely, and that no new cases are being recorded. Consequently, we will have to co-exist with the virus for a long time. People should now take this persisting risk into account while making their plans for the next three months when the holiday season starts for many of us.
It is highly important to note that we are planning to organise leisure and recreation opportunities for children this summer in line with special rules and requirements, but children need to relax, no matter what happens.
Naturally, people are also planning family holidays. A new stage would begin after the epidemiological situation stabilises to an extent when it becomes possible to travel across the country and to relocate from one region to another for tourism and leisure and recreation purposes.
With this in mind, we have drafted a lot of rules and recommendations on how this can and should be accomplished. First of all, this calls for accommodating people and providing transport systems (vehicles) under special rules that have already been compiled and approved together with the transport business community and companies working in this area. All these feasible requirements can be implemented and will guarantee people’s safety as they travel about the country and their accommodation for tourism purposes.
We continue to do this for various companies, large and small alike, for seaside facilities and those high up in the mountains, because there will be certain requirements in each particular case, and we will heed them while organising safe leisure and recreation. Most importantly, we should remember that it will be necessary to fulfil requirements in any case. It appears that we will have to continue wearing face masks during the next one or two months. We will have to wash our hands, properties, use special surface-treatment methods, decontaminate tableware and fulfil a number of other requirements that should not be overlooked. We will have to keep an eye on children who should also keep washing their hands and who should not consume any contaminated food or partake of anything that could be detrimental to their health.
We have already noted that we live in a new reality, and that we need to become used to it and learn to live in these new conditions. It is completely obvious that the virus has no intention of leaving us, but we can already do a lot, and we have learned many new things. During this period, we have learned to co-exist with this virus, while preserving our health and fulfilling all safety requirements. The virus is also learning to live among humans. This interaction should help us compile new rules, and we are doing this all the time. These rules will make our life simpler and easier; but the virus will, certainly, continue to circulate. We must learn to live in such a way so as not to impair the quality of our life and the quality of our leisure and recreation time. Today, it is obvious that the virus will stay with us.
It goes without saying that Russia has accomplished a lot to make sure people stay healthy. We have a tremendous number of beds and medical personnel who are ready to treat and save large numbers of people. We have stockpiled medicine and additional supplies that we are ready to share. It is highly undesirable to go abroad today.
Today, the world is recording about 100,000 new cases on a daily basis. This implies registered cases alone because testing levels are different in various countries. Some countries conduct virtually no tests, but some people, nonetheless, have the disease there.
It is important to understand that, if you take your chances and go abroad, you should be prepared to spend two weeks in isolation at your own expense, so as not to harm other people, including your friends and family.
It is therefore necessary to remember the current global conditions, while planning your journeys and trips. And these new conditions necessitate new rules whose violation is fraught with very high health risks.
From the bottom of my heart, I wish you good health, and I would like you to find the strength, courage and patience to display discipline and not to violate any of the rules.