The majestic Russian city of St Petersburg is a magnet for business and cultural tourism. Olga Rendino, deputy general director of the St Petersburg Convention Bureau, here shares the city’s pragmatic solutions to tackling the challenges set by Covid-19, and its roadmap to recovery, including staging UEFA Euro Cup matches this summer.
Breaking Travel News: What is the status of business travel to St Petersburg? And what changes did you implement in order to continue operating during the Covid-19 pandemic?
Olga Rendino: The start of 2020, like the start of any new year, was full of ambitious plans and projects.
St Petersburg’s MICE industry was gearing up for what would undoubtedly be a thriving year with major events, key exhibitions and trade shows.
However, business travel came to a halt during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Due to the closure of borders quarantine measures and the cancellation of events in 2020, the flow of business tourists to St Petersburg went down significantly.
As a result, stay-at-home restrictions have required many of us to adopt new ways and formats of communication.
As well as millions around the globe, we began to hold virtual meetings using hybrid and digital solutions to host conferences and make sure that St Petersburg remains a leading destination for tourists after the pandemic.
Currently the city is getting the coronavirus outbreak under control and our hospitality industry is slowly getting back onto its feet.
With that major events gradually begin to start up again: the 24th St Petersburg International Economic Forum is set to take place on June 2nd–5th; the UEFA Euro Cup matches to be held between June 11th and July 11th; the Global Space Exploration Conference (GLEX), brought to the city by a member of unique ‘Ambassadors’ programme led by the bureau, is to take place from June 14th–18th.
BTN: Describe how the lockdown experience was in St. Petersburg, and how did this compare to the bustle of normal times.
OR: When the pandemic came along, nobody expected to see cities locked down longer than a few weeks, or people told to stay home for months at a time.
Despite the coronavirus outbreak St Petersburg did not become a less popular tourist destination and managed to consolidate its positions as an influential tourist market player and a leading tourist attraction throughout 2020.
The city started to expand its support of the tourism market and launched several innovative projects to help the sector reopen tourism-related businesses and manage their recovery in a way that is safe, attractive for tourists, and economically viable.
The measures drafted to support the industry – the total amount of financial support provided by the city government equals to four billion roubles, which indicate the importance of tourism and the potential it has in helping the economy in the post-pandemic times.
Additionally, St Petersburg became the first city in Russia to join Safe Travels, the international WTTC programme for safe tourism.
As part of this initiative key players of the city tourism industry receive a special Safe Travels SPB sign as a recognition of health and hygiene protocols implemented by these organisations and aligned with WTTC’s Global Safe Travels Protocols.
For tourists, this sign is a guarantee that the services provided by the city tourism organisations meet the necessary sanitary and safety standards.