Domestic tourism in Russia could benefit from a state-backed online booking portal, although two Russian OTAs have different views about whether this is the best way to persuade Russians to holiday at home.

News broke last month about plans for a tourism portal run by the Federal Tourism Agency, with other state-owned businesses – telecoms provider Rostelecom and hi-tech specialist Rostec – also involved. Reports said that an outline of the project would be released early next year.

Tnooz asked two leading Russian booking sites – Ostrovok and Oktogo –  to comment.

Felix Schpilman, COO of Ostrovok, says:

“We are aware of the efforts. The government  wants to support hotels, some of which are government affiliated, and vacation rentals.  But it hasn’t been decided yet whether it will run the site itself or partner with someone.

“We definitely see this development as an opportunity for us because it is about promoting domestic tourism and bringing hotels which are currently offline online.

“People don’t travel domestically because many hotels cannot be booked online. But also if hotels are not online it is hard for people to find out about them.”

Marina Kolesnik, CEO of Oktogo, notes:

“The booking site is still more of an idea than an actionable plan but there are other issues for the government to be looking at.

“Specifically about hotels, the focus should be on converting customer behaviour from offline to online. The government should be doing more in terms of payments, and also the certification of hotels.

“Hotels are already becoming more aware about online. We have 6,000 bookable hotels on our site and we think this represents about 60% of comparable properties. But overall less than 10% of hotel bookings in Russia are made online, so there is a lot of growth to come.”

Both Ostrovok and Oktogo have received significant funding recently but neither seem concerned about the financial impact of a state-backed portal on their prospects.

Schpilman is convinced that “the government is focused on domestic tourism” while Kolesnik added that domestic tourism was on the up in Russia, driven by improved hotel and air capacity and the collapse of a number of outbound tour operators.

NB: Russia image via Shutterstock

Original author: Martin Cowen