By Nikita Savoyarov
Special to The St. Petersburg Times
St. Petersburg was duly present at the world’s biggest travel fair, the 41st ITB, that took place in Berlin from Mar. 7 through Mar. 11. Yet rather than consolidating itself as a recognizable brand on the international tourism market, the city left visitors confused and unimpressed.
The ITB is recognized as the main forum for the evaluation of trends affecting the whole tourism industry as well as the showcasing of new travel-related innovations. This year the fair again saw record attendances with almost 11,000 exhibitors and 177,000 visitors, of which foreign visitors made up 42 percent.
Francesco Frangialli, Secretary General of the UN World Tourism Organization, told delegates that during 2006 the worldwide tourism sector maintained the path of recovery it has been on for the last few years. The total figure of international arrivals rose to 842 million last year from 808 million in 2005, an increase of more than 20 per cent on 2003.
Frangialli also called on the international travel and tourism industry to “go green” and do more to reduce its environmental impact. His comments followed a controversial debate in the German tabloid press about the impact tourism is making on global warming. Frangialli said the travel industry contributes to climate change and the reduction of biodiversity “due to its own development and, to a certain extent, its own excesses.” “Our sector has to reduce its emissions,” Frangialli said.
St. Petersburg’s exhibition this year was split into two separate parts, which testified to a lack of organization and experience. One stand was organized by City Hall’s Committee for Investments and Strategic Projects and presented by the City Tourist Information Center, adjoined with the different travel companies and hotels including the Dostoevsky and Ambassador, and the tour operators Comintour, Versa, Fremad Russia, Red October, Going Russia and Amiko Travel.
A second St. Petersburg stand similar in size to the first was set up by an exhibition operator, St. Petersburg-Express. Among its exhibitors were the hotels Kolomyazhsky visit, The Holiday Club, Petro Palace Hotel and Petro Sport Hotel.
In the form of the Arkhangelsk and Murmansk tourism boards, this stand also represented the Northwest’s new brand, ‘New Windows on Russia,’ developed within the EU project “Tourism Development in Northwest Russia,” in 2006.
According to Julia Rybakova, executive director of the Northwest branch of the Russian Travel Industry Union (RTIU) the region is faced with a critical shortage in EU funds, which is threatening to curtail all activities connected with the new brand.
The splitting of the St. Petersburg brand into two independent stands betrayed a lack of unity in the promotion of city and regional tourism and will have only confused visitors and weakened any positive impression.
Re-branding problems have also been faced by the airline Rossiya. According to Alexei Kutuzov, an airline representative in Germany, the recent merging of two Russian companies Pulkovo and Rossiya under the Rossiya brand has damaged Pulkovo’s good reputation in the German market. However, he vowed to fight to restore the airline’s former reputation under its new name.
Photo:For The St. Petersburg Times
City Hall’s stand at the ITB travel fair that took place in Berlin from 7-11 March.
News source: times.spb.ru
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