'There's Potential': Hotelier Positive on Russian Far East Tourism Amid Vladivostok Economic Forum

© Sputnik / Alexander Kryazhev / Go to the photo bankView of the campus of the Far Eastern Federal University (FEFU) on the shores of the Ajax Bay in Vladivostok, Russia where the Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) will be held between 2 and 4 September 2021.
View of the campus of the Far Eastern Federal University (FEFU) on the shores of the Ajax Bay in Vladivostok, Russia where the Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) will be held between 2 and 4 September 2021. - Sputnik International, 1920, 02.09.2021
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Alexis Delaroff, General Manager of multinational hospitality company Accor in Russia, Ukraine, Georgia and the CIS region, boasts of the expanding hospitality business in the Russian Far East and shares his take on the overall atmosphere at the Economic Forum taking place in Vladivostok.
Alexis Delaroff: My feeling is that [Forum] was very dynamic, very positive. And people were looking forward to getting rid of this COVID mood, I would say because all the projects that were discussed were really proactive projects. Tourism is a very actively developing thing in this part of the world. And this is probably the first time over the past two years when we have such a high level and quality panel with relation to the development of tourism; it was more specifically directed to the Far East, the Russian Far East. But really, it's the first time I participate in such a quality panel for the past years. So it seems to me [that it is a] very good, positive, and good-mood forum.
Sputnik: You mentioned the touristic potential of this region. How is your company involved in the projects here in this area, in the Far East? What can we expect from your company?
Alexis Delaroff: You can expect only good from our company. Listen, we're the first international European hotel company, not an Asian hotel company, that has opened a hotel in the Far East. We opened Mercure Hotel in Blagoveshchensk, I think it was in November or December 2020. And with the parenthesis of the COVID crisis, the hotel is a very successful one, it is doing very well. And then we opened this year, I think it was May, we opened a hotel in Vladivostok and we will be opening in Vladivostok probably November. We are expecting the signature of another project, which will be in Vladivostok in the Ibis Styles. And as you might know, we also signed for a Novotel resort on Russky Island. This signature also took place, I think it was in... it was this year, I don't remember which month.
© Sputnik / Grigory Sysoev / Go to the photo bankparticipants of Russia-India Business Dialogue plennary session at the sixth Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok
participants of Russia-India Business Dialogue plennary session at the sixth Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok - Sputnik International, 1920, 07.09.2021
participants of Russia-India Business Dialogue plennary session at the sixth Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok
So Vladivostok will become our stronghold. And we also have a very active development in Kamchatka. We will be building two hotels within the project, which is in the valley of the three volcanoes. And there will be a fantastic ski resort there. And we also are discussing with the local authorities plans for two hotels in the city of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky. We are willing to develop further. We have been discussing this for several years and unfortunately, it has not materialised yet. We are discussing our hotel in Yakutsk and we'll be looking forward to developing four more hotels in the region because the potential, based on our analysis, is big and as far as we are number one, we need to keep pace and keep pace of the number one hotel company there.
Sputnik: Were all these projects that you just mentioned the result of many years of planning, or is it part of the recent bounce-back? Can we talk about a bounce-back in the hotel industry for your chain in particular after COVID?
Alexis Delaroff: Listen, I mean, there is a combination of several factors. First of all, I mean, up to 2019, the tourist attraction of the Far East had been growing every year, really in the double digits; people from Asia were flocking to Vladivostok, which was the first European city close to them. Listen, my first personal trip to the Far East was in 2004. So we see the changes. We see how the infrastructure is developing and we see that there's potential.
Sputnik: Was it all planned, all these projects that are in development right now? Was it all planned years and years before, maybe in 2004, like you mentioned, or is it part of the recent bounce-back after COVID?
Alexis Delaroff: No, no, it was initiated before. The Novotel in Vladivostok was initiated, I think, in 2018, and in 2019 at the Vladivostok Economic Forum, we signed in the presence of the governor of the region for this hotel. So this is a hotel that we initiated before. But there're a lot of new projects coming in that are [being] initiated because there's a very good programme of subsidising the loan from the bank that was initiated by Rostourism. And this is a very effective tool to push forward for the owners and the investors in this direction. So there is a combination of these two factors.
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For ourselves, for our core, indeed, and for all of us, 2020 was a difficult year; it seems that our owners and the partners have been heavily impacted as well as us as a management company. But I can tell you that 2021 has been quite a good year and we've been continuously above the budget and we've done much better, at least until August, than most of our European colleagues. I am in a region that is called Northern Europe that goes from the UK to Russia, and I can say that until August, Russia and the CIS, my region, has been above the result of such countries as Germany, where we have 500 hotels, and we've been involved in the UK where we have over 400 hotels. So, it shows how well we've been able to survive and to develop further in our region. And just keep in mind that we have 78 hotels today in the region. Even when we are counting in Europe, this is a great achievement for the region.
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