Posted: 03.05.2024 15:44:00

The best place is where we are

Each of the Belarusian domestic tourism directions has a chance to become successful this season

Thirteen types of tourism are developing in Belarus in accordance with a single classification system adopted last year. This is quite a lot for a country that is not large by world standards. The major focus is on ramping up domestic tourism as one of the factors of economic growth, primarily in the context of regions. However, not everything is measured by money — travelling around our beautiful and fascinating country helps to learn more about its history and potential, as well as to strengthen patriotic feelings. And the latter is no less significant.

The Mukhovets river, Brest            Pavel Bogush   

                                The President of Belarus,
                             Aleksandr Lukashenko,

“Every corner of our Homeland has its own unique cultural and natural flavour… We are a family of seven: six regions and the capital. This is our slogan. The advantages inherent in every region must become the source of their prosperity.”

From the Address to the Belarusian people 
and the National Assembly, on March 31st, 2023


Farmsted Zvezhye, Rudnya village, Rosony District, Vitebsk Region             Ilya Shvedko 

Agro-ecotourism has become one of Belarus’ most recognisable brands in two decades. It was rebooted last year — the requirements for farmsteads were changed, the possibility of running a hotel and restaurant business under the guise of agrotourism was suppressed. According to the National Statistical Committee of Belarus (Belstat), about 450 thousand people became guests of Belarusian farmsteads in 2023.
“The farmsteads that are currently operating on our market are able to offer an interesting and high-quality vacation,” noted Dmitry Morozov, Director of the National Tourism Agency. “We also see increased consumer interest — stays at farmsteads are booked in advance, just like in health resorts.” 
Lovers of rural recreation will soon get a chance to assess the current trends of the coming season — the National Tourism Agency of Belarus has announced May as a month dedicated to agro-ecotourism.

Active tourism

Kayaking at Mankovichi village, Postavy District, Vitebsk Region      Anton Stepanishchev 

“Camping, kayaking, cycling trips are in high demand during the summer season,” Irina Voronovich, Director of Tourism Department of Belarus’ Ministry of Sports and Tourism, revealed the trends of recent years.Hiking is easily available to one’s heart content due to the abundance of routes. There are plenty of cycling routes, too. Water tourism is also on the rise. However, the Republican Union of Tourism Industry (RUTI) has pointed out the flip side of the coin — the infrastructure is not keeping up with the growing interest. According to RUTI Chairman of the Board Filipp Guly, a conceptual master plan is needed applicable to each region of Belarus, “It is necessary to understand what recreational resources we have and what kind of infrastructure they can be filled with, as well as who will provide certain paid services in certain places. What kind of tourist flow can a particular location count on? Thus, a thorough district-wise analysis is required.”  

Business tourism

High-level international conference at President Hotel, Minsk         Darya Titova 

Conferences, symposia, forums and other face-to-face business meetings are gaining a second life after the coronavirus pandemic. The business tourism enhancement roadmap includes three sections — organisational and marketing campaigns, as well as the creation of a tourist product. According to Irina Voronovich, hotels are involved in this direction since such events are often held on the premises of hotels, “As of the beginning of 2024, there were 600 hotels and similar accommodation facilities in Belarus. Many large complexes position themselves in the hospitality industry as business hotels and cater to business travellers. Thus, Belarus has all the capacities for hosting high-profile business events, and they are held in our country.”

Educational tourism

Khatyn Memorial Complex, Minsk Region       Aleksandr Kulevsky

A list of sightseeing sites recommended for visiting by students has been formed. Contests of photographs, videos, and publications about these sites are held. Intensive work to create a register of educational routes is ongoing across the regions of the country. Guide books are published in aid of teachers. Thanks to the joint efforts of the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Culture, unified days have been established for students to visit museums free of charge. The results have been amazing so far — in the first half of the 2023/24 academic year alone, more than 230 thousand schoolchildren visited historical tourist sites dedicated to the events of the Great Patriotic War and the post-war period. The work in this direction continues. The main thrust is on military and patriotic themes, as well as iconic sites — Mir, Nesvizh, Polotsk, national parks and nature reserves, industrial enterprises.

Gastronomic tourism

Belarusian Style Barbecue Culinary Contest        Aleksey Vyazmitinov

Specialised gourmet trips are still a rarity in our country. Yet, routes with elements of gastronomic tourism increasingly appear every season. These may include small industrial enterprises — a winery, a cheese factory, a bakery, a sausage workshop, and so on. In addition, farmsteads can offer master classes on cooking national cuisine.
As for state support for this direction, a designated working group was set up a few years ago within the framework of the Interdepartmental Expert Co-ordination Council on Tourism under the Council of Ministers. The roadmap it has created provides for measures to popularise Belarusian cuisine, promote national manufacturers, inform tourists about culinary events, culinary-themed festivals and more.
By the way, now everyone who wishes to take part in one of the most popular gastronomic events in the country can do so — the republican Gastrofest festival welcomes all participants. It takes place from April 18th to May 20th in Minsk, where 20 food outlets have prepared sets at a single attractive price.

Medical tourism

Republican Scientific and Practical Centre of Pulmonology and Physiology, Minsk         Elizaveta Kobetskaya

This direction boasts popularity with foreign visitors. There are even travel agencies in Belarus that specialise precisely in this area of inbound tourism. About 20 thousand surgical operations requiring a long stay in our country are performed for foreign guests per year. Our medical services are beneficial for foreigners in terms of the quality/price ratio. Belarus’ Ministry of Healthcare has called transplantation, as well as oncology, neurology, neurosurgery and dentistry services the most in-demand areas in the field of medical tourism.

Spa and wellness tourism

Priozerny health resort, Naroch, Myadel District, Minsk Region       Aleksandr Kulevsky

According to the last year’s data, Belarusian health resorts surpassed the economic results of not only 2022, but also the pre-pandemic 2019. The average occupancy rate last year reached 84.1 percent! Significant amounts were invested in the development of facilities, equipment and infrastructure in 2023 — 1.6 times more than a year earlier. This, in turn, allowed expanding the list of services. 
Another important recent trend is that there are more families with children in sanatoriums. This indicates the relevance of the proposed programmes, including spa treatments. Experts draw attention to the fact that high demand for Belarusian health resorts is expected this season again. In total, the Belarusian network of health resorts and wellness organisations included 287 facilities 
for more than 60 thousand places as of the beginning of the year. This includes 100 sanatorium and health resort organisations for 27.9 thousand places, and 187 wellness organisations for 32.2 thousand places.

Industrial tourism

Kamvol JSC, textile production, Minsk         ALEKSEY VYAZMITINOV

The interest in visiting enterprises is not fading and is clearly far from its peak. About 200 thousand people visited these facilities last year alone. The enterprise leaders are BELAZ, Minsk Tractor Works (MTZ trademark) and Minsk Automobile Works (MAZ trademark). The Ministry of Industry enterprises hosted 93.5 thousand tourists, Bellegprom [Belarusian light industry concern] — 11.7 thousand, Belgospishcheprom [Belarusian state food industry concern] — 40 thousand, the Ministry of Architecture and Construction — almost 45 thousand people. More than 130 enterprises and organisations are currently developing this direction. The list is posted on the website of the National Tourism Agency.

Historical and cultural tourism

Puslovsky Palace and Park Ensemble in Kossovo, Ivatsevichi District, Brest Region                 Pavel Bogush  

Castles, palace and park ensembles, family estates, iconic engineering structures, museums, ethnographic villages, and more have ensured a marked surge in historical and cultural tourism. In the year of the celebration of the 80th anniversary of Belarus’ liberation from Nazi invaders, heightened attention is paid to this direction. Events dedicated to this landmark date have been planned in every region and locality of the country. Local historians are planning expeditions and unique excursions to the places of military glory. All details can be found on the websites of executive committees, museums and regional tourist centres. Belarus has carefully preserved nearly 9 thousand monuments and graves from the Great Patriotic War — most of them are also included in military historical routes and guided tours.    

Event tourism

Slavianski Bazaar International Festival of Arts, Vitebsk          ANTON STEPANISHCHEV 

Various events and activities are an important factor in encouraging people to travel to a specific region on a specific date. The National Tourism Agency publishes the calendar of the most interesting events with confirmed dates on its website — Contacts of event organisers and brief information about them are also posted there. The event calendar is available on the website in an interactive form. The website allows filtered search, by region or date. “Festivals, holidays, exhibitions, fairs, sports and cultural events are increasingly in demand among our travellers,” emphasised Dmitry Morozov, Director of the National Tourism Agency. 

Religious tourism

Spaso-Euphrosyne Monastery, Polotsk                Ilya Shvedko 

There are about 690 religious tourism sites in Belarus. “We see demand both within the country and from foreigners,” stated Sergei Gerasimenya, Deputy Commissioner for Religious and Ethnic Affairs. “The most popular sites are considered to be St. Elisabeth Convent in Minsk, the Holy Dormition Stavropegic Monastery in Zhirovichi, the Polotsk Epiphany Monastery, the Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Budslav, the Archcathedral Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Minsk that are known far beyond the borders of Belarus. The tourist flow to these religious shrines is growing.”

Environmental tourism

Eco trail Sevastopolskaya, Minsk             ALEKSANDR KULEVSKY    

Forests make up almost 40 percent of Belarus’ territory, swamps — up to 15 percent. There are 4 national parks and 2 nature reserves in Belarus. In total, about 1.8 million hectares are specially protected natural areas in the country. The Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park alone was visited by about 521 thousand tourists in 2023. Every year, dozens of new eco-routes appear in the regions, designed for different categories of visitors. Thus, an ecological and historical route The Heart of Lipichanskaya Pushcha has been recently introduced on the territory of Mosty District, Grodno Region. It offers an ecological trail equipped with signs and information stands with QR codes, while the programme features, in addition to kayaking on the Shchara River, an exciting off-road safari around the Lipichanskaya Pushcha and an ecological and educational excursion with the herbal tea tasting.

Hunting tourism

Pripyatsky National Park, Gomel Region           Stepan Bambiza

Nowadays hunters are interested in getting not only prey, but also high-quality service. Therefore, guests of designated hunting areas are provided with recreation in specialised complexes, trophy hunting, weekend hunting, family trips with accommodation in comfortable tourist bases with well-developed infrastructure and catering. Currently, over 93 thousand people, including almost 1,300 women, can boast of a state hunting licence in Belarus. The appearance of the National Trophy Book, which will record the best achievements of hunters, has become this year’s novelty. In addition, special hunting nominations The Great Belarusian Seven for men and The Great Belarusian Five for women have been introduced recently. Those who have obtained the specified trophies will be awarded with special badges worn on the breast.
The number of the Belarusian Society of Hunters and Fishermen members at the beginning of 2024 amounted to 64.1 thousand people, including 33.9 thousand having a hunter and a fisherman ticket, 29 thousand having an amateur fisherman ticket, and 1.2 thousand young hunters and fishermen.