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Russian Tourist Destinations: “Chechen Switzerland” – But Will Tourists Go There?
July 13, 2007 15:27

In the Soviet times Chechnya attracted tourists from the entire country, but after the armed conflict with Russia the republic got the reputation of a crisis spot. Despite the current post-war conditions, Chechnya intends to develop its travel infrastructure and to become a “Chechen Switzerland”.

In a recent official speech, and not for the first time, the Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov noted the unique opportunities the republic has for travel industry development. There are 5 neighbouring climatic zones, from deserts to a 4000-metre mountain topped with snow, and many architectural monuments: stone towers in the mountains and beautiful natural landscapes.

“I am absolutely sure that mountains in the Chechen Republic are as much attractive as mountains in other regions of Russia and Europe. If we create a relevant infrastructure, travel industry may considerably supplement the Chechen budget”, that was what Ramzan Kadyrov said in 2006.

The idea of the Chechen president looks optimistic, but it surprises many ordinary people and causes a lot of raised eyebrows in representatives of travel industry. Up to the moment the news still report about deaths of soldiers and even civilians, although not as often as before. It especially concerns the mountains – a place where the president of the republic intends to develop travel infrastructure most intensively.

Of course, there are some rare travellers who find it extremely inspiring to go to crisis spots, such as Iraq or Afghanistan, but the majority of tourists are sure that the idea of going to a post-war country is at least dangerous. Even if gradually all the evidences of the war are eliminated, it will take some time for the republic to gain reputation of a safe place.

The last year’s position of the Russian Travel Industry on tourism development in Chechnya was rather sceptic: they simply did not believe that it was possible to attract any tourists to the region at the moment. Members of the governmental commission of the mountain areas` development agree that travellers are not expected to appear in the republic soon, but they think that the first tourists that could come to Chechnya are students of biological, historical, and geological faculties.

One of the main and primary things on the way of turning into a place appropriate for travel is to make the locals return to the republic – many people left Chechnya during the war. Besides, there is also a problem with dislocation of the frontier guards: several frontier stations are situated near the populated areas while according to the regulations they must be 5-7 kilometres distant from any villages and towns. The current entry system works in such a way that if a person wants to travel to Chechnya, they must submit the documents 6 months prior to the trip.


Natalya Lavrentyeva

Tags: Russian tourism Chechen Republic (Chechnya) Caucasus travel   

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