By Irina Dobrynina
Tourism is becoming viewed as a catalyst for regional development, with about 700m people travelling annually worldwide. In fact, 12-30 percent prefer rural holidaying, for which Belarus boasts huge potential. It could easily offer an alternative to coastal holidaying yet currently occupies less than one percent of the total share of global tourist turnover.
Meanwhile, the number of attractive tourist sites is growing countrywide, much owing to the efforts of patriots, who know its history and value its cultural-historical heritage and unique culture. Studies of the tourist attractiveness of rural areas show that people are most attracted by landscapes, villagers’ subsistence farming, historical monuments and open air recreation.
Oksana and Valery Salkovsky are true pioneers of agro-tourism in the Grodno Region. Their Nad Nemanom guesthouse, situated in an oak forest, is well known far beyond Belarus. Their creativity, hard work, enthusiasm and skilful use of their natural wealth resulted in their homestead being named the best in the Republic in 2008 and 2009.
The number of guesthouses has risen from 4 (in 2007) to 26 (in 2011) in the Lida District — recently chosen to host a sitting of the Council for Co-operation of Local Self-Governing Bodies. All are members of the Belarusian Association of Rural and Ecotourism — Country Escape. The village of Dokudovo deserves special attention, having five guesthouses. A tourist village is likely to be one day established there.
In 2010, Belarus was visited by 4m foreigners, with exports of services bringing in revenue of $147m (almost 7-fold more than five years ago).