Russia-gate, hackers, nerve gas hitmen in London, low budget Russian cyber mind-control forcing Americans to vote for Trump, global warming, global cooling, the expanding federal budget deficit, guilty until proven innocent, and the list goes on… and on… and then some. According to popular media, we can all rest assured that these evils can be laid squarely at the feet of Russia’s President Putin.
Seems that Vladimir Putin can not only pull Russia upwards socio-economically during sanctions, yet still has the leisure time and interest to get involved in fomenting just about every misery known, and unknown on this planet. That would certainly qualify him as a being able to walk and chew gum simultaneously, an amazingly competent multi-tasker!
This must be one of the reasons why U.S. tourism to Russia has surged 25% in 2017. American tourists are headed to Moscow, St. Petersburg, and several other cities to experience for themselves what the nation has to offer. Could it be that the new “Chill-out” war and reality show diplomacy in the west has triggered this undeniable spike of interest in Russia by Americans?
It is true that American tourism fell a bit during the Ukraine crisis of 2014 and immediately following, but since then the numbers have picked up and have even surpassed the years before. Today, the numbers have broken all records.
According to some travel experts it could be that anti-Russian propaganda has served nicely to pique the interest of American citizens to see Russia for themselves – to look ‘em in the eye so to speak.
The numbers show that in 2017 about 6,700 new hotel rooms were built in Russia, which is double those built in 2016.
As for hotel operators, in 2017 saw the opening of two Hyatt hotels in Moscow and Vladivostok, Lotte in St. Petersburg and Golden Tulip in the Moscow region. In Sochi, the Courtyard by Marriott will add 345 rooms on the Russian Black Sea coast. Saransk, the smallest of the cities of the World Cup in 2018, will get a Sheraton. If it were not for sanctions there would probably be more.
Whatever the reasons, political, cultural or just simple human interest, it is a welcome trend not only economically but as a very effective way to see what is actually going on in the largest (territorially) country on the planet. There is nothing better that seeing for yourself the huge gulf between what is reported and what truly is. For many who I have spoken with, this aspect has been a shock as preconceptions, prejudgement and popularized spin gives way to truth.
One shocker for some Americans who go by the “Big Mac Index” is that dining in Russia on that famous burger, along with fries and a soft drink will run you about half of what it costs stateside. Must be the Russian cows, or a Putin conspiracy, and all of it evilly 100% GMO-free.
For those concerned with internet access and all things digital, Moscow is one place to feel right at home.
The Moscow Metro has had free Wi-Fi for several years, and is now integrated into the wider Moscow transport system, including buses and trams. This is convenient as commuters spend about an hour a day traveling in the Metro on working days. Most cafes and restaurants are also Wi-Fi active, not to mention all hotels.
In short, as they say in the market, “the trend is your friend” is true in many ways, travelling to Russia is not just an eye opening experience, but also might enable seeing and understanding your own world and its values in a new, maybe different way.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.