Guests are always welcome

Belarus this year heralds the Year of Hospitality, bringing to the fore our national character and in line with the expected arrival of a great many tourists for the Ice Hockey World Championship, as well as for events marking the 70th anniversary of Belarus’ liberation from Fascist invaders and the centenary of the beginning of the First World War
By Anton Kostyukevich

The Deputy Minister for Sports and Tourism, Cheslav Shulga, notes that military-historical tourism is to become a focus, being of interest to around 8 percent of Western Europeans. Of course, Belarus was twice the arena of military conflict last century. In addition, Belarus has been supporting the growth of rural and agro-tourism, as well as sports tourism. For the Ice Hockey World Championship, TsentrKurort tour operator has developed more than 40 new excursions with wide appeal.

In advance of the main sporting event in Minsk, more than 1,300 guides and translators have been trained, with several hundred guides also improving their knowledge of foreign languages — including Chinese and Arabic. The Ministry for Sports and Tourism’s Attitudes to Tourists campaign has a long-term objective of changing public feeling towards visitors. Mr. Shulga is keen for people to stop viewing them as something extra-ordinary. Rather, he would like citizens to realise that in offering a warm welcome, the country, and individuals, can gain considerable material benefit. The initiative includes teaching owners of agro-estates foreign languages, and an advertising campaign aimed at popularising tourism.

The campaign also aims to encourage restaurateurs to offer national dishes on their menus, so that visitors gain a true flavour of our cuisine. Meanwhile, waiters and waitresses would naturally benefit from being able to understand colloquial English. Another step forward would be the translation of menus into English. Ever more shops are offering tax-free shopping for foreign guests: over 150 shops should be doing so by the end of 2014.

Various cultural events are to take place during the Ice World Hockey Championship. Jazz Saturdays are already proving popular with Minsk residents, and ‘a town of craftsmanship’ fair is organised regularly, attracting craftsmen from across the whole country. The Vyasnovy Buket (Spring Bouquet) festival-fair is also proving a great hit.
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