The Ministry of Sports and Tourism of Belarus thinks of an ambitious plan to attract foreign tourists to the country. According to a new state plan, the export of tourist services in Belarus will be increased by 3.5 times by 2015.
Belarus is extremely difficult to be considered as a tourist Mecca and an attractive European destination for the travelers. For Belarus it is difficult to compete with such world-famous tourist brands as the Czech Republic, with its authentic, refined spirit of Eastern Europe, with sophisticated Mediterranean resorts and delicious gourmet regions of France. In Belarus it is hard to find examples of such an incredible cultural and historical heritage as in Rome, London or Barcelona. However, we should recognize that this country certainly has great potential for tourism development.
Unfortunately, despite the considerable efforts of the Ministry of Sports and Tourism, Belarus still has not a well-developed tourist infrastructure and well-coordinated system of interaction between tourist organizations. Prices for national airline’s tickets in comparison with the budget carriers in Europe are too high. Attractions, hotels, restaurants and recreational facilities for tourists in Belarus are poorly represented or hardly represented on the Internet. Such difficulties as visas for most foreigners, who had long forgotten about such atavisms, seem to be very scaring.
Nevertheless, despite all disadvantages and shortcomings of the tourist sector in Belarus, the country is annually visited by more than 100,000 foreigners. According to statistics, last year Belarus was visited by 120 000 organized tourists (instead of the planned 200 000), who gave the country more than $150 million.
However, despite the unfulfilled predictions, according to the Deputy Minister of the Sports and Tourism ministry Czeslav Shulga, past year figures were by 20% higher than the figures of 2009. Also, Belarus has a significant untapped resource - visa-free border zone with Lithuania, which in the near future can be used by about 800 000 citizens of Lithuania. Such an exchange will also be organized with Poland.
Tourist market agents in Belarus are concerned not only by weakly developed tourist infrastructure, but also significant shortage of 3-star hotels and cheap student hostels, which are especially needed for the upcoming World Hockey Championship in 2014, which will be held in the Belarusian capital, Minsk.
To change the situation by the autumn 2011 it is planned to develop the draft presidential decree for the support of the hotel business. Presumably the project will include provision of significant benefits and special conditions for companies wishing to have hotel business in Belarus. Businessmen will be offered concessional credits, significant concessions in terms of land lease, as well as the reduction or elimination of income tax.
Among other things, significant attention will be paid to posting the information about hotels in Belarus on the Internet. Also will be created special portals that enable foreign tourists to book hotels, apartments, cottages and farmhouses in Belarus online.
According to Mr. Shulga, a number of measures to be taken within the next five years, will help Belarus to more actively export tourist services, adding to the country's budget half a billion dollars annually.