Main Article Content
Because of its long history and vast territory, Russia has become a rich mix of different ethnic groups, nationalities, and cultures. However, the concentration of political power in Moscow and St. Petersburg has led to an imbalance in the development of other regions. Russian government recently began to see the sustainable tourism development as one of the possible scenarios for improving the socio-economic situation in rural areas. Having a status of a "tourist donor" country, Russia faces even larger challenge to develop sustainable tourism in remote regions.
Currently Russia is at the initial stages of tourism development, including first timid steps in legislative consolidation of sustainable tourism and ecotourism concepts. Although the Russian government declared tourism as an instrument for improving non-capital regions development, there is a need to address a plethora of challenges in advance. Similar to governmental approach, the academic literature published on tourism in Russia is mostly focused on the analysis of tourism industry growth indicators and quantitative economic evaluations which leaves a little space for the discussion of problems in sustainable and ecotourism development in the country. This research aims to examine the current situation of sustainable tourism and ecotourism development in remote regions of Russia with an accent on governmental programs.
Research design and methods
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated difficulties, the study adhered to an expanding online research methodology. Initial secondary data was collected from documents, reports and research papers, and analysed in order to gather basic information about the state of the industry and indicators of its development. Further primarily data was collected from five email interviews with local government officials of Primorsky Territory responsible for tourism development and local practitioners from the Land of the Leopard National Park managers.
The results of secondary data analysis showed that despite the declaration of the sustainable tourism development in rural and remote regions in Russia’s tourism policy documents, this industry is poorly developed, and the governmental programs are lacking the understanding how to achieve this goal. Both the national park managers and local administration representatives emphasised that ecotourism is at the very beginning level of development. Ecotourism is sporadic and is promoted mainly by specially protected natural areas managers and activists of non-profit organisations. Sustainable tourism development in Russia lacks the academic basis, research and expert discussion of the problems.
Ecotourism and other sustainable forms of tourism development in the region are facing several problems. One of the main problems is the undeveloped of tourism infrastructure, which lacks governmental financing support. Another issue is the insufficient development and outdatedness of legislative framework in tourism at the national and local levels. Specially protected natural areas face bureaucratic problems in land use legislation, for example the absence of laws on the disposal and processing of household waste, and land usage. Finally, residents and communities are practically not involved in the ecotourism activities of the region.
Another problem is low level of environmental education of local communities’ members. There is still no centralized national policy for ecotourism development support and promotion. Document analysis showed an almost complete absence of any legislative acts regulating this area at the federal and local levels. That is also confirmed by the interview results. Moreover, the national park managers showed more in-depth knowledge in this area than the representatives of the local administration and the Tourism Agency.
The national park managers showed more profound knowledge of ecotourism stakeholders' issues and their role in the development of this sphere. Representatives of specially protected areas understand their role as one of the main stakeholders in developing ecotourism in their region and are actively working in this direction within their competence. While agreeing that they are also important stakeholders, local government and tourism agency officials showed less understanding of their roles and responsibilities.
Future research perspectives
This research has been primarily concerned with the role of government in sustainable tourism development in Russia based on interviews with national park managers and regional government officials. Therefore, the generalizability of the results may be limited because other areas and sustainable tourism stakeholders may have different opinions. Thus, further research may focus on the rest of the sustainable tourism stakeholders' involvement (ex., local communities, tourism businesses, etc.) and include other regions of Russia.