Hotels Program Gets New Push

MTWith the demolition of the Rossiya, the city is losing thousands of beds.
One hundred new hotels will be built in central Moscow by 2010, said Sergei Baidakov, prefect of the Central Administrative District, Interfax reported.

The hotels, boasting 30,000 beds, aim to address what Baidakov called a "sharp deficit" of tourist beds in the city.

With affordable accommodations in especially short supply, a spokesman for Baidakov said 70 to 80 percent of the hotels would have three-star ratings.

"The main task is to promote tourism," spokesman Mikhail Berkovich said by telephone.

The city has about 180 hotels, with a total of 70,000 beds, Interfax cited Mayor Yury Luzhkov as saying earlier this year. Spokespeople for the Russian Tourism Union have said that domestic tour operators turn down some 30 to 50 percent of potential clients because there are not enough hotels to house them.

Baidakov's remarks on Tuesday confirmed City Hall was still following plans drawn up in 2004 to develop the city's hotel infrastructure. Alexander Konygin, a spokesman for Deputy Mayor Iosif Orzhonikidze, said that, under the plan, 248 hotels would be completed across Moscow by 2010, more than doubling the existing number.

Investors have not yet been found for all the planned hotels, Konygin said, adding that he could not say how many projects had secured financial backing.

"That's a question for construction companies," he said.

The closing of the hotels Rossiya, Moskva and Intourist in recent years has meant a loss of 5,000 beds in the immediate vicinity of Red Square, noted Stephane Meyrat, a hotels analyst at the consultancy Colliers. The 30,000 announced beds in the city center would more than double the 18,000 to 20,000 that Meyrat estimated were now available.

Meyrat said the city's hotel plans are "a little on the optimistic side."

"It's not the government, but foreign money or large corporations that would influence this," he said.

With 10 hotels now under construction in the city and another 30 plots set aside for hotels, it would be more realistic to hope for 20 to 25 hotels in the center, and 60 across the city, by 2010.

Recent history also suggests that the bold proposal may be a bit too bold: In September 2003, City Hall announced plans to double the number of hotel rooms in Moscow from 62,500 to 130,000 by 2005.

But Konygin, the deputy mayor's spokesman, said that this time things were "getting built, getting done."

In July, he noted, City Hall passed an order cutting in half the price of land for hotels; establishing a 1 percent rate for long-term leases; and slashing long-term lease rates to 0.01 percent during the design and construction stages of any hotel built beyond the Third Ring Road.

Also, Konygin noted there was legislation in the works that should facilitate things. "It will establish responsibility for bureaucrats," he said, "simplifying paperwork for building permits and ensuring people don't run around getting signatures for three years."

As for the effect 100 new hotels could have on the face of the historic city center, Konygin added: "It'll look fine. There are a lot of architects and people involved in culture and art. These hotels won't look like the old Hotel Minsk -- like boxes with glass."