We must have low cost airlines, unique routes, and authentic recreation to attract the glutted western tourists to Belarus.
On January 9, the head of state signed the decree № 8, which establishes a visa-free entry to Belarus for a period of no more than five days through the national Minsk airport for the citizens of 80 countries. The decree comes to force starting February 12.
The Sports and Tourism Ministry predicts an increase in the tourist flow by 20%. "First of all we focus on Europe, North America and the Persian Gulf states, as we have trade and economic cooperation with these countries" - BelTA quoted Vitali Gritsevich, the deputy director of the Tourism Department of Sports and Tourism Ministry.
Aleksander Varikish, director of the "Land of Castles" Foundation and Valeria Klitsunova, the chairman of the public association "Rest in the countryside" believe that the decree itself will not cause a tourism boom.
"I see this step of the Belarusian authorities as a very positive one, - said Aleksander Varikish in his interview with the "EuroBelarus" Information Service. – It’s hard to talk numbers, but no visa should play its role in the growth of tourist flow, because visa for Europeans is already quite an incomprehensible thing. A person who has half the world open to them, all of a sudden has to submit their passport, pay big amount of money, fill in documents, wait… This clearly will not make people want to visit Belarus".
The majority of tourists in Belarus are from Russia now, "we hope that these few steps will foster the development of the western direction as well."
According to the expert, the decree is just one of the logical steps, "next – marketing, because anything can be advertised."
Valeria Klitsunova is convinced, "there will be no tourism boom, but the decree is good news at any rate, this is our statement to the world that the country is open. It doesn’t matter what political reasons were behind it, but it is a delight for us, people working in tourism and all the Belarusian citizens in general". "We need to go further: what will lure foreigners? We have to create an interesting tourist product,"- believes Valeria Klitsunova.
The expert pointed out that if a person can fly from Warsaw or Berlin to Rome or Barcelona for 30-40 euros, they are unlikely to prefer flying to Minsk for 200-250 euros via "Belavia" or some expensive European airlines. "We have no low cost airlines yet. And what can we offer to people so that they prefer Belarus over Rome, Amsterdam etc.? We need authenticity. This is a global trend, moreover, unique province tours will cost less than any hotel. Europeans will not be surprised by "Hilton" or "Marriot". Event tourism can work too, for the Hockey World Championship in Minsk has actually attracted a lot of tourists, - explains Valeria Klitsunova. - So the decree is, once again, a positive step, but it is only the first step towards the Western tourists."