President of Russian Railways Oleg Belozerov: "By offering passengers a comfortable atmosphere and new services, we are creating a favorable environment for the development of railway tourism"
Kazan Station in Moscow hosted the "Passenger Forum 2017" on 19 April, which is dedicated to the development of transport services in the field of long-distance and suburban passenger transportation, as well as modern passenger services.
Taking part in the Forum were Oleg Belozerov, President of Russian Railways, Nikolay Asaul, Deputy Minister of Transport of the Russian Federation, Oleg Safonov, Head of Russia's Federal Tourist Agency, senior managers at Russian Railways and representatives from public organisations, R&D from the rail sector and the tourist business.
During the plenary discussion, the participants of the "Passenger Forum 2017" discussed the prospects for railway tourism in Russia, the mechanisms for building an effective model of interaction between the "carrier-tour operator" and steps to attract foreign tourists to the country.
According to Mikhail Akulov, Vice-President of Russian Railways, it is impossible to create the conditions for railway tourism without a comprehensive improvement in the quality of passenger services.
Akulov says that a passenger's choice for a particular type of transport is influenced, among other things, by the availability of information, convenience and the simplicity of electronic services.
The Vice-President stressed that every second passenger is already obtaining her ticket for long-distance trains on the Internet. On the Sapsan and Strizh trains, the proportion of electronic sales is almost 80%, while on double-decker trains, the figure is more than 55%.
Passengers are of course also able to buy tickets using mobile applications. A new version of ticket purchasing in "three steps" is now available on the Russian Railways website.
In addition, Mikhail Akulov said that in the second half of 2017, Russian Railways plans to implement the project "Innovative Mobility," which combines payment & transportation, communication, entertainment and information services.
Speaking about the prospects for rail tourism, Akulov said that tourist products in new formats are becoming increasingly popular, such as weekend tours, steam train retro-tours and railway cruises. In cooperation with the regions, Russian Railways is actively developing new directions in different price segments. As a result, during the last five years the number of tourists on the railways has increased tenfold and this year will reach one million people.
According to Oleg Safonov, travelling by rail is one of the unique advantages of the Russian tourist market. In cooperation with Rostourism, a special Coordinating Council has been established to develop the project the "Great Tea Route."
In 2017, it is planned to increase the flow to 2,500 tourists from the People's Republic of China. Cruise trains under the brands "Golden Eagle" and "Tsar's Gold" ply the Trans-Siberian Railway and the Great Silk Route from Moscow to Central Asia via Volgograd.
Oleg Belozerov, President of Russian Railways, summed up the results of the Forum's plenary discussion, saying that "the development of tourism is an important area for us. The most important thing is to see railway users not just as passengers who need to be transported from point A to point B, but as customers who have very different needs and requirements. The modern world is changing rapidly and the pace of life is accelerating, so we have to give people the opportunity to spend their time travelling on the railways usefully. By offering our customers a comfortable atmosphere and new services, we are creating a environment which is not only favorable for travelling, but also for the development of railway tourism in Russia."
The Russian Railways holding and representatives of the tourism business regularly interact within the working group to develop good conditions for renting rolling stock and organising charter trains and the like.
Together with partners from Europe, Asia and South America, Russian Railways also participates in TopRail, a project to develop global tourism on the railways. TopRail's goal is not just to increase the popularity of railway tourism, but also to create a unified system for the exchange of information on the platform of the International Union of Railways.