MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti commentator Gleb Sorokin) - Domestic and foreign travel may become a key way to diversify Russia's economy.
Currently, the number of foreign tourists is considerably smaller (2.3 million) than the number of Russians spending holidays abroad (11.3 million). However, the Russian authorities believe that the number of foreign tourists will grow with the development of the tourist infrastructure, making Russia one of the most popular tourist destinations in the next few years.
One of the reasons for that is Russia's huge territory. The country has an area of 17 million square kilometres and is located between the Baltic Sea in the West and the Sea of Japan in the Far East, with 11 time and a large number of climate zones, a diversity of weather conditions and landscapes, wild life preserves and national parks, and historical and cultural sights.
Russia may not be the best country for seaside holidays, but this does not detract from its diversity and attractions. It has several large rivers such as the Volga, the Yenisei and the Lena, which are perfect for river cruises, fishing, rafting, and catamaran and boat sailing.
Its lakes are picturesque and have clear water. In some of them, namely the Baikal and the Karelian lakes, the water is drinkable.
Fans of mountain and cave climbing, walking, rafting and kayaking, downhill skiing, biking and hang gliding should go to the North Caucasus, but the lovers of less active types of tourism, such as mineral water and mud spas, will not be disappointed either.
Many travel agencies are benefiting from this natural and cultural diversity of Russia. They have been promoting environmental, sport, extreme, mountain skiing, fishing and hunting tourism, as well as event tours and exotic cooking and adventure tourism.
The tourist companies hire instructors to ensure that everything goes well and the tourists stay happy and healthy, as well as provide special equipment and communications and have the experience of organising such routs.
Since the bulk of Russian territory is covered in snow several months a year, skiing is one of the largest attractions. Skiing tours are organised with the best comforts in mind, including accompanying snowmobiles laying the trail and carrying luggage and equipment.
Agrotourism and ethnographic tourism, which encourage visitors to experience agricultural life at first hand, are widely practiced in scantily populated areas. The visitors have the pleasure - questionable to some - of living in wooden village houses or special log cabins, watching local craftsmen at work, and taking part in folk holidays.
Apart from natural, historical and cultural attractions, foreign tourism in Russia is burgeoning thanks to such social factors as the high solvency of foreign currency and the freedom of movement in the larger part of Russia, in particular such promising tourist destinations as the Far East, Sakhalin, the Kuril Islands, the Urals and Northern Russia, as well as Nizhni Novgorod and Samara, which had previously been closed to foreigners.
The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.