The purpose of the study is to investigate the development of tourism in Belarus. The main question of my project is: to identify the problems of tourism development in Belarus. While doing this research, I identified on which stage of development tourism industry is in the Republic of Belarus. Mostly, I looked at the most developed areas of Belarus, such as North- East and South- West, as culturally and economically they are more developed then other areas. All the evidences in my research show the lack of development in tourism in the Republic of Belarus. At current development stage, there are still policies and recommendations to be implemented to attract more foreign tourists. In order to improve it, the basic thing that should be done by the government is to increase the tourist attractiveness of the region and all the products they can offer to the travelers. The main implementation of the tourism development in Belarus is to create such a beautiful country Belarus as a tourist area, accessible to all tourists from all over the world and to make for them special and unforgettable experience.
Tourism plays one of the main roles in the world’s economy providing one tenth of the world’s gross national product. This sector of the economy is developing at a rapid pace and in the next few years will be the most important industry. “Over the past six decades, tourism has experienced continued growth and diversification to become one of the largest and fastest growing economic sectors in the world.” (UNWTO, 2012) This project is a small research on the development of tourism in the Republic of Belarus and on which stage of development this country is now, and how it affects social and cultural environment and ecology.
I have tried to focus my attention on such question as: to identify the problems of tourism development in Belarus and does the operating model of involvement in tourism in Belarus have reason to be realized. The main conclusion which will be done in my research is that the stage, where the Belarusian tourism is now, need to involve long term plan. The government should have an action plan of how to attract the tourists and how to make them come back to the country for holidays and provide the most hospitable experience. As well as government should ensure not only how to create a positive image of the country, but how to make tourism as a main source of the revenue.
The research is to examine and investigate developments of tourism in Belarus. I will focus on past and present stages of tourism developments in this country. However, the main research question is what are the problems the Belarusian tourism is facing.
– To examine current tourism development in Belarus 2012.
– To identify the problems of the tourism developments in Belarus and make suggestions to their establishment and operations.
– To identify impacts of tourism developments on tourism superstructure (e.g. hotels, travel agencies, tour operators and etc.) of Belarus.
This chapter discusses published information on the topic of the research- Tourism Development. A literature review is a simple summary of the sources. A literature review is an account of what has been published on a topic by accredited scholars and researchers. The purpose is to convey what knowledge and ideas have been established on a topic, and what their strengths and weaknesses are. There are several benefits of writing a literature review for this research: the author shows that she is aware of what is going on in the field of tourism, to show the knowledge of the theory, the research is based on and to show that this work lead to new knowledge. (Hofstee 2006)
Tourism from a Global Perspective
There are many studies on tourism industry. And most of these studies show that for the last decade tourism industry is one of the most fast growing industries in the world. According to World Tourism Organization (2012), in 2011 there were 980 million international tourists recorded and $1,03 billion was generated by tourists. These numbers made tourism industry fastest growing economic sectors in the world (UNWTO 2012). International tourism has grown substantially in recent decades, with technological improvements, rising living standards and broader processes of globalization leading to rapid increases in visitor numbers. Receipts from international tourism rose from US$2.1 billion in 1950 to US$445 billion in 1998 (Aimn & Thrift 2000).
Republic of Belarus as Tourism Destination
Belarus is beautiful young country, which is located in the European continent. The advantages of the country’s favorable geographical location have been used for thousands of years. The borders of Belarus (Poland to the west, Lithuania and Latvia to the north-west and north, Russia to the east and Ukraine to the south) because of its central location should not perform the functions of transit barrier, and instead perform connection functions, including the development of tourism (Agapova 2007). In recent years, there has been significant improvements in the tourism industry in Belarus. According to the Ministry of Foreign affairs of the Republic of Belarus (2011) “profits of the tourism industry of Belarus in 2003 increased by 3% in comparison with 2002 and made 919,7mln roubles”.
Moreover, due to the fact that Belarus will host Ice Hockey Championship in 2014, the government is implementing new projects on development Belarusian travel and tourism industry. New hotels, reconstruction of already excising accommodations and hospitality facilities- this all the project includes (Euromonitor 2011). Foreign investors are attracted to the development of the tourism in Belarus. According to Euromonitor (2011), “during 2011, Latvia-based RBSSKALS announced its intention to invest US$100 million in the construction of a Hyatt Regency Hotel in Minsk”, Iranian- based company Kayson announced that they will “invest €250 million in the construction of the Magnit multifunctional business and hotel complex in Minsk”.
“Creative management, whether in public administration or private industry, depends on methods of inquiry that maintain objectivity, clarity, accuracy and consistency” (Raj. Univ. EAFM., M. Phil. Exam., 1978) This research study was conducted based on the methodology. This methodology plays an important role in implementing this research study accordingly. The details of the methodology are explained in detail in this chapter. For the research, the author can use primary and secondary data. Both types of data are important for a research Primary data can be gathered with the help of interviews, questioners or authors own observations on the situation. It is a very good way to find out reliable information the author is looking for. Observational research is the gathering of primary data by observing relevant people, actions, and situations (Kotler 2006). Observational research can yield information that people are normally unwilling or unable to provide. Secondary data consist of information already in existence somewhere, having been collected for some purpose (Kotler, 2006).
“Secondary data consists of sources of data and other information collected by other people.” (Stewart 1993). This includes not only journals and books in the library, but government research, industry studies, information online. Secondary research offers quick in a way and “inexpensive answers” to many questions, which later on leads to the point, when the author can start his primary data collection. (Stewart, 1993). For the primary data to be relevant, it should be collected in a proper way. To achieve that one must provide primary data collection planning (research approaches, contact methods, sampling plan). Data collected casually can be useless or, even worse, misleading (Lameka 2012) This project will be based on secondary data only. The author is not using any primary data collection due to the lack of time.
The reason for it is that the topic is on tourism development of Belarus, and 10 weeks was not enough to arrange and go for the interviews to the Republic of Belarus. Secondary data will mainly contain information about current tourism development in the Republic of Belarus, it`s potential and problems, that tourism is facing. It will also give statistical data on Belarusian tourism industry as a whole. The data will be taken from the related articles, research papers, and reports. Some data from the website of the President of the Republic of Belarus, as well as Government websites for Ministry of Sport and Tourisms have been used. Locate is one of the examples of up to date information about Travel and Tourism in Belarus (Euromonitor International, 2011). Information has been gathered from a very wide variety of academic books and journals for example: Sustainable approach in managing tourism practices of Belarusian national parks (Klimchuk 2007).
Despite the fact that there is a lot of information on the topic “Tourism development in Belarus”, secondary research has its limitations. Because the research is about one of the Eastern Europe countries, a lot of valuable and reliable information the author could find only in Russian language, while research should be done in English language. Moreover, while doing research, the author had to be caution when using the information from the past, as such industry as tourism requires the latest updates, and out-of-date articles have no relevance to the current tourism situation.
1. Tourism Development in Belarus.
Tourism is one of the most dynamic and fast growing economic sectors in the modern world. Recently, it has gained the growth and the scale effect on the level of development of the world community as a whole. It is employing more than 700 million people and bringing in turnover of nearly 7 trillion dollars annually (Lakshman 2008). “Besides promoting recreational facilities for those who travel, cultural exposure and increased people-to-people contact cutting across different nations, peoples and social milieus tourism” , also it serves as an economically generator sector that generates employment opportunities and brings a lot of revenue for the country (Lakshman 2008).
The development of inbound tourism in the Republic of Belarus is currently not very high; however, there are trends and conditions for its growth. As an example in 2011, arrivals by purpose of visit to Belarus were 4,809.9 trips and by 2017, arrivals are expected to increase up to 6.3 million trips (Euromonitor 2011, Refer to table 1). More and more travel agencies appear in the country, which offer wide ranges of different services for the customers. There are no doubts, that the Republic of Belarus has a strong potential for the tourism development: in Belarus, there are 56 thousand hectares of preserves; it is on 25th place in the world in the number of natural monuments and 39th place in the world in the number of cultural monuments (Gorbyleva 2004).
Source: Euromonitor International from trade associations, trade press, company research, trade interviews, trade sources.
2. Current Tourism Conditions and Infrastructure in the Republic of Belarus The Belarusian government understands the importance of domestic travel and tourism as well as attraction of inbound travellers. In 2011 a new state programme for “the development of travel and tourism in Belarus for the period 2011-2015 was approved by the Council of Ministers” (Euromonitor 2011). This program includes the development of tourism infrastructure and the construction of already existing tourism facilities, for example hotels, hunting lodges, sanatoriums, cultural heritages (Euromonitor 2011). Tourism development depends on many factors and conditions. And beside the fact, that Belarus does not have seaside and mountains, it has a great potential for tourism development. Belarus has such advantages, that other countries do not have. For example: ancient and rich history, distinctive culture (15 thousand objects of historical, cultural and architectural significance) (Belarus 2012), rich natural potential, the world’s oldest forest – Belovezhskaya Pushcha, proximity to Western Europe. In recent years, there have been significant changes in the field of tourism infrastructure in the Republic of Belarus.
The number of new comfortable hotel complexes has increased. A great deal of work on reconstruction and renovation of existing hotel stock of the Republic is being done to bring it to the generally accepted international standards (Slonimskiy 2009). By 2011 in the Republic of Belarus 258 hotels operate, which mean 92% of all accommodation facilities. And 25% of all accommodation sector is privately owned. (Strepetova, 2011). Today the capital of Belarus, Minsk, can accommodate about 5 000 people. There are two 5-star hotels: Crowne Plaza Hotel and Hotel Europe, as well as they are the largest hotels in Minsk. Moreover, there is a significant improvement in tourism development of Belarus coming for 2014. “On May 8, 2009 in Swiss Bern the International Hockey Federation (IHF) Congress took place, where the decision was made to hold the World Championship of 2014 in Belarus” (Belarustourism 2010). This Championship will be help in May 2014. There will be two main venues where games will take place: Minsk-Arena and Chizhovka-Arena, with more than 15,000 seats.
The Ministry of Sport and Tourism has promised to increase the numbers of accommodation available for the tourists by 2014 (Euromonitor 2011). And in the nearest 2 years seven new international hotels will be available for the guests, including Hayat Regency and Kempinski Hotels. The total number of the guests, that hotels will be able to accommodate is 10 000 guests (Belarustourism 2010). Moreover, 2014 World Championship in Minsk will bring the development of the transport infrastructure, such as an additional runway will be built at the Nation Airport Minsk-2, “additional metro stations will be built and the city commuter train service will be introduced” (Belarus 2011). One more sector in tourism industry in Belarus attracts the travelers from the neighborhood countries- it is a religious tourism. For centuries, in Belarus representatives of different religions were living together: Christians, Muslims, Jewish.
But most of the population of Belarus are Christians, among them 80% of Orthodox, 14% of Catholics and 2% of Protestants (Belarustourism 2011). Today there are 983 Orthodox churches and 347 Catholic churches which are open for Belarusians and the tourist in the Republic of Belarus. Travel operators are working now on developing more and more tours to the religious sites of the Republic of Belarus (Ministry of Sport and Tourism 2012). Pilgrims are coming to Belarus to cleanse the soul, to touch wonderworking icons.
“Belarus is proud of such architectural masterpieces as St. Sophia Orthodox Cathedral in Polotsk, Boris and Gleb Orthodox Church in Grodno, Catholic Churches in Minsk, Glubokoye, Nesvizh, Kamai, the synagogue in Grodno, mosques in Novogrudok and Ivie.” (Belarustourism 2011). In Minsk in St. Helen Simeon and Alyona Catholic Church tourist can see and touch the sixth in the world copy of Shroud of Turin. Moreover, for those tourists, who want to become and feel the real pilgrim, can go on sacred pilgrimage with prayers and fasting, they can enjoy talks and religious discussions with spiritual priests.
3. Belarus National tourism Strategy for Agro-tourism
As the author of the research mentioned before, the Belarusian government understand the importance of tourism development in the country and all the impacts on its economy. Besides sport and religious tourism, agro and eco- tourism is still given the highest priority by the Belarusian government. The government is concentrating on attraction of people living in the borders of Belarus` neighbouring countries, such as Ukraine, Lithuania, Poland and Russia (Euromonitor 2011). And as we can see from the table 1 in year 2011 the highest arrival number was from neighboured Ukraine.( Refer to table 2). Table 2 Arrivals by Country of Origin: 2009-2011
Source: Euromonitor International from official statistics, trade associations, trade press, company research, trade interviews, trade sources Development of agro tourism is not only a revenue increase in tourism industry, but as well as agro-tourism provides a wide range of valuable social and cultural benefits to the population as a whole: people can have a nice relaxation and enjoyment of fresh air, they can benefit by simply walking and being aware that they need to preserve all aspects of environment through wildlife study.
In order to improve development of agro-tourism, Belarusian government has a certain direction to work on. Creation of tourist villages on the basis of existing rural settlements with traditional folk wooden architecture, located in the scenic area, creation of new rural tours which will include accommodation and all the meals (traditional food) during the day in the village houses, creating agro-tourist complexes based on agricultural production cooperatives (Homakov,2008)
4. Problems the Belarusian tourism is facing.
4.1. Visa regime
In addition to the lack of tourism development and infrastructure in the Republic of Belarus, the Ministry of Sport and Tourism identified certain issues that facing county`s travel and tourism development. One of these issues is strict visa requirements. Indeed, it is very important to control the number of tourists coming to the country, however the price for Belarusian visas can make tourists to consider going to another destinations. According to Matt Stabille (2010) United Kingdom travelers were the third most travelling nation in 2010.
And as an example, for UK citizens the fee entrance (long-term) costs £235, while for the USA citizens long-term visa costs $270 (Ministry of Foreign Affairs 2011). As a result, it can be seen that the visa regime is a big issue in the development of inbound tourism. However, “the Belarusian authorities have ruled to make the entry to Belarus during the 2014 IIHF World Championship (a three-week period) visa-free” (Prime Tour, 2009)
4.2. Luck of information about Belarus as a destination
The second issue that the Ministry of Sport and Tourism identified is lack of sufficient information about Belarus as an international travel and tourism destination as being one of the most urgent problems facing the country’s travel and tourism industry. (Euromonitor 2011). Potential tourists have no clue, which facilities Belarus can offer to its tourists; moreover, some people from Western Europe still believe that the Republic of Belarus is a part of Russian Federation. As a conclusion, the author believes that special emphasis on marketing and promoting Belarus as a tourist destination should be placed. Potential inbound tourist should have a positive image of the Republic of Belarus in order to be attracted to go and visit the country.
4.3. Difference between the number of outbound and inbound tourists.
Another issue that Belarusian tourism is facing is that the number of outbound tourists is higher them inbound. The amount of money, that was brought into the country by foreigners is twice less then exported (Vernikovskaya 2010). The author identified the possible reasons for it. Small number of tourist class hotels (2-3 stars) with modern comfort and a set of services and the slow development of road service such a road shops, motels, and road cafes; insufficient information and luck advertising of Belarus abroad as a tourist destination; low level of trainings and poor quality service in the field of tourism. (Vernikovskaya 2010).
4.4. Luck of English signs and maps within the country
In May 2011, Belarus introduced “the national travel and tourism online booking system Kali-laska.by.” (Euromonitor 2011). With the help of this portal all the tourists can book hotels, hostels, excursion tours and even the online booking of car rental. This portal available both in Russian and English languages and guests of the portal can use all the types of payment, as well the online chat with the managers available for the tourists online (Kali-laska 2012). However, the Ministry if Sport and Tourism should consider the fact, that even in the capital of Belarus, Minsk, it is not enough boards and signs which are in English language. So, for development of tourism the government should think how they can help foreign tourists easier find their way around the city, to publish maps in English language.
4.5. Economic recession 2011
In 2011 Belarus was strongly hit by the recession. There was no more stability of the Belarusian rouble. On 24th of May, government officially announced currency devaluation by over 50% (Euromonitor 2011). The lack of foreign currency appeared in the Republic of Belarus. And already by the end of October 2011, it was announced that the Belarusian currency declined by 189% over the year 2011 (Euromonitor 2011). The prices all around the country have started to significantly increase and it lead Belarusian population to cut down their spending on such things as entertainment, travel and tourism. And due to the fact that it was very expensive for Belarusians to go for summer holidays abroad, the Belarusian government supported domestic tourism and prohibited to sell any of sanatorium vouchers to foreigners (Euromonitor 2011). As a result, during summer 2011 domestic tourism was on its pick time. Moreover, foreign citizens arrivals to Belarus between January and June 2011 was almost 2 million people, which means that it was an increase of foreign tourists by 7%, compared to the same period in 2010 (Euromonitor 2011)
5. Conclusions and Recommendations
The main aim of the research is to identify the problems that Belarusian tourism is facing. The author has described the current development of Belarusian tourism and its contribution to the economy of the government as well. All this evidence in the research shows lack of development of the business relationships in tourism. However, Belarusian government is trying to make a positive steps in order to develop the inbound tourism. Most of these tourists are from neighborhood countries: arrivals from Ukraine were 23% and Lithuania- 21% in 2011 (Euromonitor 2011). The main issue why the Republic of Belarus does not have many tourists from EU countries is a strict visa regime in Belarus. The visa fee is too high for the tourists and most of these tourists are not even aware of all the facilities the country is offering.
Another crucial conclusion to be made is the ease of access for foreign tourist to Belarus. It is a fact that many Belarusian citizens have their own houses in the village; there are many picnic areas with no fee for use. That is preventing domestic tourists from using the services of agro-tourism accommodation. This fact means that more foreigners should be attracted to the agro-tourism business. One can achieve that by simplifying the visa and immigration process for foreign tourists. The visa prices should be crucially reduced. Belarus is lacking positive international image, coordinated promotion program and marketing program. In order to achieve a positive and attractive image of Belarus on the global tourist market, the author believes that advertising of the Republic of Belarus in foreign mass media should be done on a regular basis.
Belarus has great potential to become one of the major tourism destinations both for country residents and foreign guests. To achieve this some of the barriers should be taking into account and some issues should be resolved by the Belarusian government. As the author mentioned above, is the visa regime, Ministry of sport and Tourism should introduce more charter flights to the country, a substantial number of road signs directing to the main tourists` attractions should be maintained and the last but not least recommendation is that the publishment of maps, advertising materials, leaflets, and brochures should contain sufficient information about the country and should be not only in Russian language, but in English as well.
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