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10:53 | May 21 | 2014

Welcome to the Land of Olonkho!

 Ekaterina Kormilitsyna, Minister on Entrepreneurship and Tourism of the Sakha Republic (Yakutia), on Yakut  brands and what impedes bringing out the full potential of this largest and not quite typical Russian region 

- Ekaterina Ivanovna, why do you believe Yakutia is worth visiting?

- Yakutia is worth visiting to see how special it is. It has the lowest extreme temperatures, down to – 70 C in winter, purest nature, ethnic tourism. One can enjoy the Pole of Cold, the Lena Pillar Nature Park, the Olonkho epic, clearest rivers and lakes.

- The tourist season in Yakutia must be quite short, and most people come in summer …

- To make it all-the-year-round, we create events. There are four of them now – one for each season. In summer, it is the traditional summer festival of Ysyakh on the summer solstice day. Autumn witnesses the Diamond Week, a new brand we have been selling for two years.

In Russia people traditionally see the winter off at the Maslenitsa festival in spring; here we see in in on December 1, on the same large scale. The republic has been long associated with the Yakut winter. Father Frost from VelikyUstug comes here to go on the tour of other cities afterwards. The festival also features Chyskhaan, our own spirit of winter and the personified Yakut Winter character.

March is marked with the Pole of Cold tour. This route through several regions of the republic to Oymyakon area has become possible due to the infrastructure being created, by now we have a all-the-year-round road. Tourists see the reindeer herders festival, the life in Yakutsk, Tatta, Tompo, treating themselves to traditional cuisine. This year a group of tourists from Europe attended this event coming by bikes, which is quite extreme.

The fifth event is the Children of Asia International Sports Games held every four years. This year we will witness them for the sixth time. The Games are popular in Russia and Asian Pacific; moreover, some European countries take part as well, bringing the total number of participating countries to 40. Naturally, all the events are developed to a different degree. We are working on this now.

- The Diamond Week sort of stands out of the row of cultural events. Is it a purely commercial project?

- The Intermarket 2014 exhibition presented the Eastern Ring of Russia interregional project. Theproject scheduled for late summer spreads over four regions in the Russian Far East – Buryatia, Khabarovsk Krai, Kamchatka and Yakutia. The ring is closed in the cities of Yakutsk and Mirny with the Diamond Week in early September. Tourists will witness the entire way rough diamonds make from being mined to polished, thus transforming into sophisticated jewelry item, and they will attend the Diamond Ball. We expect this project to attract more tourists to Yakutia.

Last year the Diamond Week cost the republic's budget RUB 146 thousand only, spent for advertisement, as it is a commercial project. Business circles need it. During the Diamond Week ALROSA Company holds an international auction on selling large rough diamonds attracting a certain target group. Our diamond cutters and jewelers sell their productswell. They sell them well anyway, but here they get exclusive offers.

- How do these large-scale projects increase the tourist flow into Yakutia?

- Well, Yakutia has other sources on income, and tourism is not among the top. Anyway, according to statistics, over the past three years the tourist flow into the republic has been growing by 6-7% annually. The data are based on the information from hotels. Last year they reported 158 thousand guests.

The majority of them are Russian citizens. As for foreign tourists, people come from China, Asian Pacific, North Korea, from Europe – Germans and Frenchmen. Most of them come for special tours, like the Lena Pillars river cruise, research field trips, or on business.

As for Russian regions, Yakutia attracts people form St. Petersburg, Moscow, Novosibirsk, Tomsk, Irkutsk. I would like to emphasize, business tourism is common in the republic, with people coming to various international conventions. When we talk about tourism as it is, people come mostly from Moscow, since, unfortunately, Yakutia holidays are quite expensive.

- Well, the brand have been developed. However, to make them work, you must not only stir up interest but to solve problems, as well…

- Branding the exclusiveness, we solve a range of tasks on transport logistics and expenditures through adjusting legislation, through participating in the state program on the Strategy of Tourism Industry Development till 2020, through participating in the Strategy of the Social and Economic development of the Russian Far East and Baikal Area till 2025. This has resulted in launching an international air terminal in Yakutia, the Kolyma federal motorway. Development of tourism is interesting not only for the Ministry on Entrepreneurship and Tourism, but for the local authorities and business circles, as well. Power industry, transport infrastructure, natural resources exploration – all these together create the basis for developing the tourist potential. Otherwise, tourism is impossible.

- Don't you worry the rapid infrastructure development is going to destroy the uniqueness of Yakutia?

- The territory of our republic totals to 3 million 100 thousand square kilometers, which is five times as big as France is. Anyway, the question is reasonable. The exploration of natural resources – oil, gas, coal, gold, diamonds – is conducted with theenvironmental monitoring and taking into account the interests and life styles of people who live there. The same applies to tourism. The republic has closed huge territories for tourists because they serve as our environmental reserve.


Marina Galkina, EastRussia.Ru