Russia's Sochi moves to attract more Chinese tourists

Updated: 2015-01-24 17:22


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MOSCOW - Sochi, a Russian city on the coast of the Black Sea, boasts its charming seaside resorts and marvelous mountain skiing landscape. And more, it hosted the 2014 Winter Olympics.

Before the 2014 Winter Olympics kicked off in February, the city urged its residents to study English to create a friendly environment for the games. But today, almost one year after the Winter Olympics, it called on them to study Chinese, ready to attract more tourists from China.

Sochi Mayor Anatoly Pakhomov recently told a Chinese business delegation that hotel managers in Sochi who are expecting Chinese tourists would need their working staff to speak Chinese.

China has been more and more important to Russia on cooperation in the air transportation sector, said Leonid Sergeev, chief executive officer (CEO) of Russia's Bazel Aero airline.

China Southern Airlines, Air China and many other Chinese airlines are currently considering opening direct flights to Sochi, said Sergeev.

Chinese tourists turned their eyes to Sochi because the city has effectively reinvented itself during preparation for the Olympic games. Thanks to the Olympics, Sochi improved or built infrastructure like children playgrounds, swimming pools, tennis courts and, what is the most important, modern residential buildings.

The full transformation of Sochi from an Olympic host city to a "normal" resort city will take about five to seven years, said Andrei Elinson, the managing director of the "Imereti Valley" resort project in Sochi.

In 2014, over 3 million people visited the city, a 28 percent increase year one year, said Lilia Burangulova, a representative of Sochi International Airport. The city was considering giving permission to foreign visitors for a three-day visa-free stay if they choose the city as a port of entry.

Last year, the sharp depreciation of the Russian rouble has played a positive role for the development of the country's tourism industry, since services like hotel accommodations became more affordable for foreign visitors.

"We hope to attract more Chinese tourists, especially when Russian tourism has more price advantages considering the depreciation of the rouble," said Shevchenko Ruslan, a project manager of the "Imereti Valley", where the Olympic village was once located.

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