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[b]State programmes to raise country’s attractiveness to foreign tourists [/b]About 200km separate Belarus’ northern-western border from the Baltic Sea, bringing Vitebsk region’s Braslav district a milder climate than that seen in the country’s centre. Local forests abound with animals while almost 300 lakes are full of fish. The area is also known for its wonderful architectural treasures — such as Vidzy’s Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which is among the tallest in Belarus. Meanwhile, Slobodka’s Jesus’ Heart Cathedral is painted with unique frescoes. These attractions make Braslav among the most popular destinations for Belarusians and foreigners.
State programmes to raise country’s attractiveness to foreign tourists

About 200km separate Belarus’ northern-western border from the Baltic Sea, bringing Vitebsk region’s Braslav district a milder climate than that seen in the country’s centre. Local forests abound with animals while almost 300 lakes are full of fish. The area is also known for its wonderful architectural treasures — such as Vidzy’s Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which is among the tallest in Belarus. Meanwhile, Slobodka’s Jesus’ Heart Cathedral is painted with unique frescoes. These attractions make Braslav among the most popular destinations for Belarusians and foreigners.
Now, a state programme is being developed (to run until 2015) to raise the attractiveness of the region to tourists, turning the district centre (home to 10,000) into a modern European city. The local tourist industry is to enter a whole new level.
In late 2010, a working group involved in developing the programme gathered in Braslav, stressing that much attention is being attached to international co-operation — via investments and a worthy welcome to foreign tourists. At present, there are five tourist bases and two hotels — situated in Braslav and near the town; these can sleep about 300 guests each night, with modernisation planned to raise the number further. New facilities are to be added to ensure every comfort.
Drivyaty tourist base within the Braslav Lakes National Park, which occupies 70,000 hectares, is among the most modern and popular destinations. It’s soon to be expanded, with new hotels, a spa centre, a cafй and an indoor aqua park. A folk village is being considered, allowing tourists to experience traditional crafts, see cheese making in action, visit a bakery, eat smoked-dried eel and drink the national drink of medovukha (a honey-based alcoholic beverage). There are also plans to develop amateur fishing and a safari park.
Owing to the Braslav Sheet Lightning Festival, Braslav region has established close cultural ties with Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Latvia and Lithuania, which always send participants. The Festival was first organised in 1953, focusing on the revival, development and popularisation of the best traditions and achievements of national culture and art. In the past, it was organised on Zamkovaya (Castle) Hill, in the centre of the town. In the early 16th century, Duchess Yelena, who was married to Grand Duke Alexander (who ruled over Lithuania and Russia) and actually owned Braslav, founded a monastery on the site. Fragments of this ancient settlement are due to be restored as part of the Braslav district’s tourism development programme.
The ancient Belarusian town has many interesting sporting traditions, including an international fishing contest, which has been gathering hundreds of fishermen from Belarus, Russia and Latvia for the past few years. European champions are among them, competing for the ‘Largest Fish’ and ‘Heaviest Catch’. A culinary contest, with fish dishes cooked, completes the event.
Last November, the final round of the Belarusian Rally Championship was held in Braslav district, featuring 27 teams from Belarus, Lithuania, Russia and Ukraine. They traversed over 80km of difficult roads, with Lithuanians Vytautas ¦vedas and Tomas Balёekas winning. Braslav may host three rallies this year, including a round of the Russian Championship (as part of the Slavonic Cup International Rally).
Sports lovers and those who enjoy the outdoor life are sure to be delighted by the town’s new rowing channel, ski-roller track and ski slope (with cable), in addition to a sports complex with an ice rink. The local cinema is to be fully moder-nised, with new halls opened, while an entertainment complex is to be built, offering billiards and bowling. A new shopping centre, featuring a cafй for children, is also planned, alongside a lake-river museum, with an aquarium. The facilities will be priced to cater for visitors of all levels of income.
This wonderful resort town should please tourists with its modernised infrastructure and Braslav district could soon become an international tourist destination. Economic conditions are being created to ensure the area’s independent development. Private, including foreign, investments are sought, with privileged terms offered. One potential investor is to start construction of a new sanatorium very soon.
State programmes to ensure regional development are already operational in the Polesie and Naroch Lake areas.

By Sergey Golesnik
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