Russian tourism is experiencing a sudden death

Russian tourism is experiencing a sudden death
Russian tourism is experiencing a sudden death
18 April 2020, 15:40
The tourism industry was most affected by restrictions imposed in connection with the spread of coronavirus in the capital and regions. Unlike many other segments of the economy, where it is possible to somehow establish remote services, hoteliers and travel agencies lost their customers overnight.

Nikolay Protsenko

The tourist industry in the Krasnodar Territory faces a particularly critical situation, where the authorities introduced extremely strict measures of self-isolation - it is possible that the holiday season in the Kuban will be a failure, even if the hotels open by June 1.

Catastrophe collapse

According to experts of the Center for Macroeconomic Analysis and Short-Range Forecasting (CMAAC), the “instant effect” from the country's transition to self-isolation for the activities of hotels and catering facilities can be estimated at 716 billion rubles in lost value added in 2018 prices. Compared to other sectors of the Russian economy, this is still not the most significant damage (for example, TsMAKP analysts estimate it at 3.4 trillion rubles for trade), but hotels and restaurants were in first place by the negative potential effect on the labor market. The coronavirus crisis, according to the estimates of CICAC, could potentially affect 1.4 million employees of the industry - the situation is worse only in the already mentioned trade (4.2 million people) and the segment of transportation and storage of products (1.5 million employees).

All listed industries are interconnected. The multiplier effect that tourism has on adjacent segments of the economy is now working in the opposite direction. Closing hotels and canceling flights negatively affect land carriers serving tourists, agriculture and the food industry, losing orders from hotels and restaurants, trade enterprises, etc.

According to the vice-president of the Federation of restaurateurs and hoteliers of Russia, a member of the Public Council under Rostourism Vadim Prasov, in Moscow and St. Petersburg the situation began to deteriorate from mid-March, and by the end of the month it became catastrophic: “If in the center of Moscow the load at hotels is at a level of 2 up to 5%, then this is called the word "collapse." We went through a variety of crises and difficulties, but the situation when enterprises in the industry were actually prohibited from working was not the case. In fact, all activity was stopped - business, tourist, event. Some airbags in part of the market were and are, but they will not allow you to easily and calmly survive even before May 1. "

Since early April, the situation with the support of the hotel and restaurant industry has not changed much, despite the fact that several times the measures of assistance from the government have been voiced, the expert adds. As practice has shown, preferential credit instruments are inaccessible, and initially it was difficult to talk about them as decisive measures. The state support for small and medium-sized businesses in the form of compensation for part of the salary fund in the amount of minimum wages will only help part of the hotels.

“In Russia,” notes Prasov, “about 50% of the number of rooms does not fit the relevant criteria. In addition, the beginning of payments in the amount of the minimum wage is expected only on May 18, and this amount itself will not solve the problems of business survival. In Europe, 60-90% of wages are compensated for companies in the affected sectors, and this is not even close to us. In general, the situation looks sad and catastrophic, market representatives are either at a loss or in despair, but in any case, the announced current measures demonstrate a misunderstanding of the full scale of the disasters. Even for those few hotels that continue to operate, the load is minimal, and until what point this will continue, no one can predict. ”

The situation is similar in the segment of renting private apartments for tourists, which theoretically can still serve a few clients in a situation where hotels are officially ordered to close. “Some demand has remained, but prices have to be drastically reduced,” says one of the operators of this market in St. Petersburg. “Those apartments, which are usually rented out at this time for 4-5 thousand rubles per day, are now being given away for a thousand rubles - just to keep at least some turnover.”

Kuban hotel anomaly

The picture in the Krasnodar Territory looks absolutely critical, where the contribution of tourism to the GRP is at least 15%. In March, when the coronavirus panic increased every day, many residents of Moscow and St. Petersburg decided to wait out the impending quarantine in the south and began to actively book hotels and apartments on the Black Sea coast, especially in Sochi and Krasnaya Polyana.

But already on March 27, the day after the president’s first appeal to the country on the situation with coronavirus, the governor of the Krasnodar Territory Veniamin Kondratyev signed a decree on the temporary suspension of reservations and check-in at hotels in the region, as well as on restricting transportation. Initially, this measure was announced until April 5, but now it has been extended for another week.

“To say that the tourism business has taken a hit, it will not be entirely correct, not quite right, because this is the off-season. Making money on the weekend week, on two, on three, which the president announced, is wrong, because this is not a weekend, this is an opportunity for self-isolation. Business did not initially earn in this period of the year, I mean the end of March, even April and the first half of May, ”Veniamin Kondratyev commented on his decision (quote from TASS).

This statement caused a sharply negative reaction among representatives of the tourist industry.

“The authorities could meet the needs of hoteliers by allowing those who feel comfortable for some reason to isolate themselves in a hotel for some reason,” believes, in particular, Krasnodar hotelier Evgeny Bromberg. - In this case, we could count on a significant influx of guests, highlighting the hotels that could serve it and not only ensure self-isolation under the control of the authorities, but also provide at least some income to hoteliers and carriers, and at the same time relieve Moscow and St. Petersburg, ensuring the transfer of part of their inhabitants to a less risky climate zone. But as soon as the authorities saw a big jump in bookings in the Krasnodar Territory, primarily from Muscovites, they grabbed their heads - now the coronavirus will come to us! It was a deliberate choice of power, which did not consult with business, and there is a feeling that she feels sadistic pleasure from it. A sense of hopelessness is now overwhelming many, including because the authorities say that nothing bad is happening - all for the benefit of man. ”

Now, according to Bromberg, the Krasnodar Territory continues to be in strict quarantine, plus quarantine has been introduced upon arrival in the region - as a result, there has been no flow for the hotel business for several weeks. If at the beginning of April someone was trying to get out of this situation, now everyone is forced to stop.

Moreover, the assertion that April is a low season, and by the summer the situation is normal, is completely untenable, if we proceed from the realities of the tourism business. For Krasnodar hotels, the hotelier explains, April is the peak season of business events, and in Sochi this is a period of rather high demand. Travel agencies in April used to sell foreign tours for the summer quite actively, which gave them income at the end of the low winter season. Now, these sales have completely stopped, and it is impossible to sell tours in Russia either, because no one moves and it is not known when the restrictions will end. As a result of travel agencies just sit idle, they are almost paralyzed.

“It was amazing to hear the statement of Governor Veniamin Kondratiev, who said that nothing terrible happened for the hotel and sanatorium business,” says Vadim Prasov. - Was it really impossible to just figure it out before making such statements? We had to meet with entrepreneurs, find out the "average temperature in the hospital", find out how they are experiencing a crisis, because for the Krasnodar Territory this is a fairly large industry, in which a huge number of residents were involved. A logical solution would be to first find out how to help her. Therefore, all the entrepreneurs involved in this business, such a statement by the head of the Krasnodar Territory caused bewilderment. "

Crimean officials showed a much more adequate reaction to the situation, where more than 40 thousand people work in the tourism industry in Crimea, and its contribution to the GRP of the republic, together with related industries, is at least 25%. This is a system-forming industry, and how adequate and timely the measures to preserve it will turn out, the more prepared the hotels and resorts will approach the still possible summer season, depends on how favorable the overall economic forecast for the region will be, ”said at the beginning March, the head of the Crimean Ministry of Tourism Vadim Volchenko.

Initially, in Crimea, at the regional level, it was proposed to introduce property and land tax payments, reduce the single tax rate for the simplified taxation system, adjust the system of relations with resource-supplying organizations and establish a moratorium on leasing state property. On April 16, the head of the Crimea, Sergei Aksyonov, also said that in the case of a favorable epidemiological situation, the authorities in the region are considering the possibility of sending about 500 thousand of its inhabitants of the Crimeans at the expense of the budget for rest in the sanatorium.

Waiting for a “low” summer

If until recently the tourist industry was counting on a natural way out of the crisis - the lifting of restrictive measures by April 30, now every day there is hope for it: when it will enter the summer season and whether it will be “high”, it is not known.

“At least a month is already guaranteed to fall, and“ half-season ”is not a bad option, especially for sanatoriums or year-round facilities,” says Eugene Bromberg. - Seasonal projects may be able to open later, but they will have problems with the staff, because the demand for personnel will be very large right away, and it is not clear how this will affect the labor market. In any case, the summer season will be short and extremely nervous - it is unclear whether the objects will be able to earn anything. ”

The Krasnodar hotelier adds that the possibility of non-return of funds to tourists becomes even more important, and many hotels and tour operators are already on this path - either deposit funds or tell guests that we will return someday. This introduces additional uncertainty - most likely, many will appeal to the courts when they open. Distrust of the market is growing, and the state leaves all problems to the responsibility of business.

Entrepreneurs have very few ways out of the situation. According to Bromberg, in the Krasnodar Territory for hotels and enterprises of other affected sectors there is the possibility of soft loans from the regional Microfinance Fund. These are small amounts of about 1 million rubles at 1% per annum; at their expense, small hotel facilities can close utility bills for 2-3 months.

But in practice, getting this money is not easy. “We submitted an application for such a loan, but we received the answer that since we have a license to sell alcohol, we do not have a loan, this is the decision of the government. Although, as a small business, they were able to get a loan with a zero salary rate through SME Bank. Starting May 1, applications for compensation of salaries in the amount of the minimum wage will be submitted, but there is no corresponding mechanism yet, and what it will result in is not clear. Such compensation is more than nothing, but it is about half what is needed for an average hotel, and besides, it will not be possible to transfer all employees to the minimum wage. If we take these tough measures, the picture will be sad - many will look for alternatives where they pay more, better people can leave the industry. ”

“In the eyes of many entrepreneurs, business is collapsing, they are left face to face with their problems, and even if they do their best to keep staff and not dismiss employees, enterprises simply do not have money to pay them salaries. It’s a pain for any normal employer, because for many years he has invested strength, soul, money and resources, ”adds Vadim Prasov.

One can only guess how the recovery of the domestic travel market will take place, but one of the basic hypotheses is that at first low-cost and short-term tours will be in high demand, primarily within the same region. “So far, complete uncertainty reigns over the future, but it is obvious that inexpensive domestic tourism and trips will be the first to come to life in small groups or individually - for example, excursions to the wineries will be relevant for the southern regions,” said the head of the City-Park urban events agency from Rostov-on-Don Alexey Matveenko.

According to him, such formats until recently flourished in social networks, and now is the time to introduce lightweight permits for legal activities for such amateur tourism organizers. A mistake, the expert emphasizes, will go in their direction along the path of tight control: “Even if they can earn a thousand rubles per person for an excursion without spending the night, this is more than nothing, moreover, such short trips will be very relevant when restoring the market. One way or another, the winner is one who does not rest his forehead on the price, and at first will work even slightly below cost to gain his market share. ”

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