Strengthening the world globalization has become the stimulus for international tourism development. The demand for travel services is growing 7 per cent a year all over the world. The highest growing rate of exit tourism is demonstrated0 by Asian countries (5-30 per cent a year), China being the country with the greatest exit tourism (30 per cent a year). The average duration of trips is reducing, whereas their quantity is growing (from 2 in the 1990’s to 4 in the 2020’s).
As the society is developing industrially, we can suppose that the necessity of people’s communication with natural landscapes will grow. Previously unknown tourism resources and territories will be involved into travel circulation. The greatest amount of them is in Asia (its share in exit tourism amount will grow from 14 per cent in 1995 to 25 per cent in 2020). The most growing segments of the market are business tourism (its 5 times growth is predicted until 2020), adventure tourism (10 per cent a year) and sports tourism, SPA and ecological tourism (5 per cent a year).
Specially guarding nature objects which have been declared the World Nature and Culture Heritage sites by the UNESCO are growing more and more attractive for tourists. In Russia such nominates are “The Virgin Forests of Komi”, “The Altai Golden Mountains”, “The Kamchatka Geysers Valley” and “Lake Baikal”.
It is necessary to mention that Lake Baikal is one of a few nominates which responds all the criteria of the World Nature Heritage site, i.e. it can be considered as a geological, biological and aesthetic natural object at the same time, and it is also a united single ecosystem.
A particular competitive feature of Lake Baikal region is its geopolitical situation, as well as other peculiarities:
· favourable situation for transport links of the countries of Europe and the Asian-Pacific region (APR);
· a great number of recreation resources including cultural, historical and ethnographic ones;
· powerful industrial centres, administrative, finance and scientific centres. Great projects of oil and gas complex being developed on the territory of the region situated next the countries of the Asian-Pacific region, are able to provide growing amount of business tourism.
Organizing the tourism and recreation special economic zone on the territory of the Baikal region will be in the streamline of the world political trends connected with world growing significance of the Asian-Pacific region, and will let increase the tourists’ inflow, as well as make the lake territory the venue of important political and economic summits of the APR countries’ leaders and elite.
But reaching the final objective, besides financial investments, will inevitably need solving many strategic problems, looking for their own “niche” in the great world of the modern travel services market. During the development of mass tourism social conflicts between the community interests and environment preservation problems will inevitably arise. Serious problems are caused by severe climatic conditions, remoteness from the central parts of the country and lack of professional specialists.
They are only a part of objective reasons which prevent the tourism market by Lake Baikal from its development. That’s why, following the well-known saying “Not to be disappointed, one shouldn’t be enchanted”, we should carefully consider all the possible obstacles from the very beginning.
The analysis of the Russian travel market shows that the majority of the Russian Europe population prefers having their holidays in the places adjacent to the Mediterranean, because of the prices. As a rule, it is traditionally summer recreation needing no expensive equipment or warm clothing. In the same way residents of the Far East have already got accustomed to cheap resorts at the seaside of China and South-Eastern Asia.
Now more than 5-hours-long flight from Moscow to Ulan Ude, with the tickets at $400-700, limits the opportunities of prospective tourists from European countries and America. Meanwhile both tourism and recreation special economic zones plan to accept more than 1 mln. tourists by 2026. That’s why now there is a problem of developing the transport infrastructure answering modern international standards (airports, rail- and automobile roads).
Together with growing income of Russian citizens home tourism will also grow. Here target work is important, simulating the demand for the Baikal tourism product in the cities of federal significance and most developed centres of Siberian and Far East regions, the residents of which can be considered to be potential tourists.
There is an interesting and useful experience of organizing a specific zone of commercial tourism in the Chinese cities of Manchuria and Heihe situated opposite the Russian towns of Zabaikalsk (the Chita region) and Blagoveshchensk (the Amur region).
It is evident nowadays that in connection with Lake Baikal protection the development of all the kinds of industry is limited in Buryatia and perhaps will be limited even more, that’s why unlike the majority of other regions of Russia, the development of tourism in Buryatia is vital for its economic development. But consideration of ecological problems is the most serious and important task during the construction and functioning of a modern resort of international class, it is necessary to have a preliminary ecological expert testing of big economic objects in accordance with the Russian Federation City Planning Code. The Russian Federation Law “On Lake Baikal Protection” and other legal acts limit strictly any economic activity in the coastal zone of Lake Baikal, including laying out new roads, using forests in the water protection zone, building power industry objects etc. It is necessary to mention that it is written in the Russian Federation Government Resolution of February 3, 2007 # 68 “On Organizing a Special Economic Zone of Tourism and Recreation Type on the Territory of the Pribaikalsky District, the Republic of Buryatia”, Art. 2 that any kind of activity can be carried out on the territory of the SEZ with the exception of the activities prohibited by the Federal Law “On Special Economic Zones”.
It could be useful to study the experience of organizing travel industry in Mongolia, which takes an important place in replenishment of the country’s budget. More than 200 thousand foreign tourists visited Mongolia in 2003, which is 40 per cent more than in 2002, its own population being a little over two million people. 78.9 per cent of the tourists are citizens of East Asia and the Pacific region, and 17.6 per cent are from Europe.
Compared with Mongolia, Buryatia was visited only by 19 thousand foreign tourists in 2005. 26 per cent of them represent Mongolia, 25 per cent are from China, and Germany and the USA 14 per cent each, which is considerably more than in previous years.
Mongolia attracts tourists with the classical exotic Buddhism, the nature of Inner Asia with its boundless steppes and deserts, nomadic agricultural traditions, natural foods and comparatively cheap services. The cult of Chinghis-Khan, who created the world biggest empire, is also used by travel industry.
In spite of similarity of nature conditions and national traditions, ethno-cultural tourism in Buryatia is in an embryonic state. That’s why it is possible to intensify the recreation potential of the Baikal region with Asian exotica and attracting a number of tourists visiting Mongolia, to Lake Baikal, and vice versa. Any tourist who finds himself or herself in the centre of the Asian continent will be interested in visiting unique natural and historical objects on the territories of Russia and Mongolia.
Organizing joint transborder nature protection structures oriented to international tourism can be especially interesting for the development of Russian-Mongolian tourism. An example can be organizing such transnational parks as “Tunka-Khubsugul”, “The Altai”, “Ubsunur”, “Dauria”, opening modern additional customs points for the citizens of third countries and simplification of visa regime.
From this point of view, the brands of Buddhism and Lake Baikal create synergetic effect considerably enhancing the region’s recreation potential. An example of this can be the phenomenon of the “undecaying” body of Khambo-Lama (a high priestly rank in the Buddhist hierarchy) Iteghilov attracting the tourists’ attention. The Buddhist datsans (monasteries) have also traditionally been clinical institutions where they successfully use the methods and prescriptions of the traditional Tibetan medicine. To use their experience the “Centre of Oriental Medicine” state clinic, well-known outside the region, was opened in Buryatia.
Balneological properties of numerous cold and warm springs of the Pribaikalye and Zabaikalye are used insufficiently. It is known that these places are visited to keep people healthy, and positive effect can be reached after many visits. Moreover, unlike once-only tourist excursions, resort vouchers are much more expensive.
One of the key problems of creating modern travel industry is preparing qualified specialists with the experience of international tourism. The matter in question is not only specialists with appropriate education, but also forming specific culture of travel industry service and creating appropriate mentality of the local people.
Sociological research shows that most negative impressions are connected with the low level of material and technical infrastructure and service culture. Whereas it is not so difficult to build new hotels and roads, nobody could improve service with directives only.
We can remember a well-known quotation by one of our classics: “The state is strong with the masses’ awareness, when the masses know everything, can judge about everything and are ready to do anything consciously”. The population of the region should have real interest in solving the problems and regard tourism as a source of profit, but not as a burden for them and the environment. Unfortunately, practically nothing is done in this direction.
Another obstacle for the development of tourism in Russia is the all-Russian system of excessive prices for all services in comparison with their quality. Anyone who has been to Mongolia or China paid attention to reasonable prices for taxis, accommodation, mobile connection, catering, and other services.
Another example of Russian unpredictability is the renewed Russian Federation law “On the Basics of Travel Business” coming into force since June 1, 2007 and establishing economic responsibility of the tour operators as a bank guarantee or the tour operator’s responsibility insurance contract. The amount of financial security for international tour operators is 10 mln. roubles, and for the companies working at the home market it is 500 thousand roubles. At the same time the state has been lenient with international tour operators having established 5 mln. roubles financial security for the transition period until June 1, 2008. At first sight, the law is aimed at protecting the customers from unconscientious companies. But another consequence may be bankruptcy and closing of small and medium companies engaged in mass inexpensive tourism. We can predict monopolization of that market with big Moscow companies, and, as a consequence, vouchers cost growth. This document can “bury” hopes of all small regional tour operators, including private ones, developing travel business of “B&B” type.
The processes of democratization proclaimed by the power combine strangely with new directives on border zones restoration. Since the end of the last year the order # 452 of the Russian Federation Federal Security Service of September 28, 2006, has been in force; it establishes the regulations of border regime and restricts access of the Russian Federation and foreign citizens to the border zone. Such zones are established in the Oka, Tunka, Dzhida and Kyakhta districts on the territory of Buryatia. So, the restriction will influence the so called “unorganized” tourists, whereas travel agencies will have more work organizing access to the districts with attractive travel resources.
To sum it up it is necessary to note that Russian tourism, and the Baikal tourism in particular, is an integral part of geopolitical and economic relations in the world, and first of all in the east of the Asian continent. In the nearest years there will be preparation activities to organize the summit of the countries of the Asian-Pacific economic cooperation, in Russian Far East. The significance and the quantity of the countries making up the Shanghai cooperation organization is growing as a counterbalance to NATO spreading eastwards, to the borders of Russia. In January 2007 the Russian Federation President signed the decree on organizing the state commission on the problems of the social and economic development of the Far East, the Republic of Buryatia, the Irkutsk and Chita regions; the duties of that group are working out and carrying out the plan of social and economic development of the country’s eastern regions. That’s why deep analysis and systematic approach to the Baikal tourism are necessary in the context of global, Russian and regional geopolitical and economic processes.