Biggest Hotels Opening Too Late for Jubilee Bash

MTThe $18 million Dostoevsky Hotel will only open 70 of 214 planned rooms in time for the city's 300th anniversary celebrations.
ST. PETERSBURG -- A series of major new hotel construction projects in the city will not be completed in time for St. Petersburg's 300th anniversary celebrations, with market analysts estimating that the firms involved will lose revenue of around $5 million as a result of the delays.

There are about 200 new hotel projects under way, and the three projects that have now moved back their opening dates -- the Dostoevsky Hotel, the Grand Hotel Emerald and a hotel-cottage project on Kamenny Island -- were among the largest, with investments totaling about $40 million.

Grand Hotel Emerald deputy director Yelena Globa said that despite the five-star hotel's planned May opening, the Emerald will now be opening in July.

"We've been waiting to be connected to the water supplies for six months, and we still haven't been hooked up to the electricity lines," Globa said.

"And even when you get connected to the electricity and water supplies, you can't just open up and start working the next day -- you need at least 1 1/2 months to test everything: the fire alarm system, the air conditioning and so on," she said.

Globa said local bureaucracy has been a main obstacle holding back the construction of the $18 million hotel on Suvorovsky Prospekt, being built by Neval. The hotel will have 92 rooms, a restaurant and bars.

Igor Sazonov, sales director for the Dostoevsky Hotel, said only 70 of the planned 214 rooms at the hotel, as well as its restaurant, reception and conference halls, will be opened as planned on May 25.

"We planned to open all the rooms in May, but we've had certain delays with supplies and construction," Sazonov said.

The third major hotel project intended to be completed in time for the city's 300th anniversary celebrations -- four apartment hotels being built on Kamenny Island by Europe-Hotel at a total cost of $3 million -- has been postponed for a year.

"The construction process has been delayed because the engineering facilities [on the island] are very undeveloped, and as a result of the Monument Preservation Committee," Europe-Hotel general director Andrei Mikeshin told Vedomosti newspaper in late April.

Natalya Sheludko, spokeswoman for the city construction committee, said only one hotel project will be able to keep its planned opening date -- the hotel being built on Pochtamtskaya Ulitsa by Baltic Construction Co. The firm is reconstructing a three-story apartment house into a seven-story, three-star hotel with 80 rooms at a cost of $5 million.

The 106-room Baltic Star, near the Konstantinovsky Palace in Strelna, will be receiving official delegations during the anniversary celebrations and will not open to the general public until later.

Sheludko said the city's anniversary has provided a significant catalyst for hotel-development projects, despite the fact that the deadline for the celebrations themselves at the end of May is being missed.

"In 2002, we drew up the tourist infrastructure plan for development through 2010, and 115 permits for hotel construction have been issued along the guidelines of that plan," Sheludko said. "Those hotels should provide as many as 27,000 beds."

According to the city construction committee, St. Petersburg has 37,000 hotel beds at present, with 2.8 million tourists expected to visit the city in 2003.

The city administration has predicted that the city's anniversary celebrations in May and June could attract as many as 15,000 official visitors and 2 million tourists.

"The hotels that postponed their opening dates will miss out on as much as $5 million in takings," said Sergei Kovalyov, an executive director with the Inter-Consult consulting firm.

Others, however, said the missed completion dates are not a serious problem.

"The mass onslaught of tourists isn't expected until 2004," said Sergei Korneyev, vice president and director of the northwest department of the Russian Association of Travel Agencies. "The anniversary itself is aimed at officials and VIP guests for the most part, rather than tourists, while its impact on the travel business will only really be felt next year, or in July and August at the earliest," Korneyev said.

"For that reason, the issue of completing hotel construction isn't of primary importance -- if they manage it by the end of the year, that will be good enough."

Korneyev also said the hotels might not be opening in time for the anniversary celebrations mainly in order to save money.

With a significant increase in the number of tourists only expected later in the year, the hotels may not want to open now and then have to maintain a complete staff and high fixed costs, Korneyev said.