Polotsk is very attractive to tourists, having a wealth of historical and cultural treasures. It astounds even those familiar with the Vitebsk Region. A couple of weeks ago, frescoes were discovered in Salvation and Transfiguration Church, during reconstruction. Belarusian and Russian restorers are removing layers of oil paint from these frescoes. The old Upper Castle, adjacent to Sofia Cathedral, may yet open to tourists, with buildings restored and converted into museums.
View of Sofia Cathedral
‘Centre of Europe’
Polotsk, like many other Belarusian towns, has huge potential for tourism. However, implementation leaves much to be desired, notes the Deputy Prime Minister, Natalia Kochanova. Visiting Polotsk during an offsite meeting of the Inter-Institutional Expert and Co-ordination Council for Tourism, she stated, “Even here, several sites haven’t been operational for a long time. Polotsk has historical roots and sacred places; next year marks the 500th anniversary of the printing of Frantsisk Skorina’s Bible, and the town will host Belarusian Written Language Day. We’ve gathered here to study how the town’s infrastructure can be developed, to see its sights and understand how we can grow our tourist services, to appreciate our potential.”
Of course, many towns have sights and histories. She adds, “Export of services is a priority for the country’s development over the next five years. We must provide tourist services not only to foreigners but to our citizens, many of whom haven’t seen our historical and cultural treasures. The potential for tourist development is immense.”
Tourist infrastructure created so far in our country is quite good but it needs to do more. The hospitality industry should be enhanced, so that from border officers to waiters, everyone welcomes guests. Efforts should be systemic but, so far, to tell the truth, tourist industry agents lack unity. A management system should be created, while visa issues, foreigner registration and service quality should be solved. All have been discussed in Polotsk.
By Tatiana Litvinenko