Canada Association of Tourism Employees

Inbound Tourism in St. Petersburg Anticipated to Revive

The Covid-19 pandemic affects the tourism industry worldwide without exception. Even the most popular travel destinations failed to weather this unprecedented crisis. One of the best examples of this is St. Petersburg.

The fairytale Russian city, usually filled with tourists 365 days a year, suddenly calmed down in March 2020. Nevsky Prospect became empty, the Hermitage and the Russian Museum closed their doors, the Mariinsky and Alexandrinsky theaters canceled performances, and parishioners were no longer allowed to attend church services in the Kazan Cathedral.

Unprecedented acceptance

In 2020, the decline in inbound tourism in St. Petersburg reached 73%. A total of 2.9 million people visited the northern capital of Russia. In 2019, however, there were 10.4 million. The number of domestic tourists decreased by 60% while the number of international visitors decreased by 90%.

Last spring, the industry hoped to ease the restrictions. Some relief came in May. Contrary to expectations, however, it was not the tourists from other countries that became more active, but the citizens of St. Petersburg themselves.

Logically, the Leningrad region in particular benefited from the increase in travel. Last May and early summer, room occupancy in the accommodations in the region reached 95-98%. Inbound tourism in St. Petersburg itself saw only a modest increase.

Not all survived

Tour operators, hoteliers and restaurateurs suffered losses. Not everyone managed to survive the pandemic. Some hotels even had to close forever. The biggest losses were seen by large hotels with an emphasis on international and business tourism, as corporate profits can reach 40%.

It was not easy for the owners of five-star luxury hotels. They couldn’t cut prices to attract more customers. Hotels tailored to Chinese tourists are also in trouble, as their reputation did not allow them to orientate themselves to a new contingent.

Forced transformation

In the wake of the pandemic, new trends emerged in the tourism industry in St. Petersburg. During excursions, the focus shifted to digitization: online lectures and courses, virtual walks in the city and much more.

Due to the critical situation, the hoteliers have reconsidered their approach to service. Many have switched to the so-called Moscow working format. If breakfast and VAT were standard on most hotels’ price tags before the pandemic, it now had to be paid for separately.

A number of hotels in the city began renting rooms for offices. The places are booked for several hours a day. The service is especially popular with Moscow businessmen who come to St. Petersburg for negotiations and rent a room without staying overnight.

Inbound tourism in St. Petersburg has emerged as possibly the most vulnerable to the epidemic. According to experts, recovery can take up to 5 years. However, this is only the case if no new restrictions are introduced. All in all, the future of the St. Petersburg tourism industry seems like a big question mark.

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