Exciting weekend in the Pushcha

Belarusian tourism operators hope to see more Russian tourists this summer, offering new tours at reduced prices
Belarusian tourism operators hope to see more Russian tourists this summer, offering new tours at reduced prices

Nanosy-Novoselie agro-tourist facility in the Myadel District

The National Tourism Agency and the Ministry for Sports and Tourism recently presented Belarus’ tourist possibilities at the Business and Cultural Complex of the Belarusian Embassy to Moscow. Organisers were overwhelmed by the huge response, having a hall full of guests. Such popularity is easily explained, since no other European state boasts such ancient and unique natural sites. Moreover, our country is situated close to Russia; around 60-70 percent of all tourists to Belarus come from this state.

According to statistics, in 2015, Belarus was visited by 70,390 Russians on package tours, plus a great many more travelling independently: at least 4.5m in total. Many stay at agro-mansions, to enjoy traditional cuisine and pastimes, such as fishing, hunting, walking and mushroom gathering.

The Belarusian Government is doing its best to develop tourism, exempting homesteads from some taxes, to allow them to keep prices modest. Last year alone, several hundred such places registered for business, giving a total of around 2,300.

Russians also tend to come to Belarus for medical treatment and recuperation, since our sanatoriums are of high quality, and charge less than those in Russia (while offering discounts to pensioners outside of the high season).

“We almost always offer Russian tourists the same price as we do to Belarusians,” comments the Deputy Director for Tourism, at the Ministry for Sports and Tourism, Natalia Yeliseeva. “We’re working on levelling tariffs for Belarusians and Russians at every sanatorium.”

In comparison to 2015, prices for tourist products have remained almost unchanged, while some have reduced. “We recently visited Lithuania to study its experience,” adds Ms. Yeliseeva. “The country has chosen an interesting path, by reducing VAT at places offering accommodation and food. We’re looking at this option: reducing the price of tourist vouchers by reducing VAT. In addition, we’re offering discounts to groups and those on event-related tours. Many Belarusian regions host themed events, such as the Cherry Festival in Glubokoe and the Apple Festival in Sharkovshchina. We’re asking our President to allow special rates for such major events.”

Belarusian tourist companies are keen to invent new products. This year, an international knights’ tournament is being hosted for the first time and, from May 7th-10th, there will be a camping and caravanning festival at Lake Selyava, in the Minsk Region. Foreign tourists are invited, with a visa free regime applied (Russians have no need for a visa at any time). Belarus offers many opportunities for sports holidaying — including at Silichi Ski Resort. We offer training across all Olympic disciplines too.

This year, joint Russian-Belarusian routes are being launched, notes Ms. Yeliseeva, commenting that trans-border routes are being developed on historical, military-patriotic and educational themes.

Where Belarusians holiday

The Ministry for Sports and Tourism tells us that, last year, 533,800 Belarusians travelled abroad with tour groups, heading most often to Russia, Bulgaria, Greece, Egypt, Spain, Italy, Poland, Turkey, Montenegro and the Czech Republic (hosting 83.7 percent of all organised Belarusian tourists). In Russia, our countrymen prefer to stay in St. Petersburg, Moscow, Smolensk, Veliky Novgorod and other large cities.

By Tatiana Smolyakova
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